Quietly sitting in the corner of the conference room at Citi Field on Tuesday as Jeff Wilpon and Sandy Alderson defended their payroll and business plan was Omar Minaya; the Mets are clearly not going to change their approach to payroll significantly or free agent acquisition, so they had to try to make the plan more effective.
The Mets are doubling down on the idea that investment in the medical department and shaking up the way they evaluate, acquire and prepare young players will result in enough change to make fans forget about the payroll.
Minaya and Jim Cavallini, who is to be the Mets Director of Performance and Sports Science, are the offseason signings the Mets are hoping make the most impact.
First, the Mets believe strongly that the changes in the way they handle the health of their players will result in more wins. They lost Yoenis Cespedes for half of a season and Noah Syndergaard for four months because of injuries that were directly related to training in the offseason.
So, the Mets invested in reorganizing the medical department, hiring a director to oversee the whole operation, and adding personnel throughout the organization to monitor and help the players stay healthy; that includes the offseason, when new manager Mickey Callaway and pitching coach Dave Eiland have been actively monitoring players’ winter training.
“I think the fact we’ve had some injuries with pitchers in the past, something a little more scripted was in order,” Alderson said of the monitoring system that has been implemented this winter. “I am pleased about that. With a first-year manager and a pitching coach coming into a new situation, they are going to want to have a little more, not control, but awareness with what’s going on in the offseason.
“That’s being mirrored through our performance group,” Alderson added. “Monitoring not just the throwing program but everything else that is going on with our players with conditioning and rehabilitation.”
To find better, cheap young players, they brought back Minaya.
Alderson himself was critical of the Mets player development system this fall, admitting that minor league players arriving in the big leagues were not well prepared. Other teams who have engaged in talks with the Mets have said that the team does not have the prospects in their system to get deals done.
Alderson defended the minor-league system Tuesday, going back to his first draft in 2011, the Mets have had 15 players come to the majors leagues. Michael Conforto, however, is the lone player drafted by this front office that has made any significant impact at that level. Internationally, Alderson’s group signed Amed Rosario, who showed last year he can be an adequate everyday player.
Minaya, who drafted or signed the majority of the players on the Mets’ 2015 World Series team, could make a bigger impact with the younger cheap players available internationally.
“Last year’s No. 1 prospect in the system was from Latin America, this year’s No. 1 prospect is from Latin America too. I’m very happy with how we are approaching that,” Alderson said. “Omar will be helpful in that regard also. Domestically, we are, farm systems often goes in cycles. You trade players, you move back in the draft because you are successful, you give up a No. 1 draft pick.
“We’re going to continue to have a lot of confidence in our staff and what we need to do is get some of our minor league players healthy,” Alderson said. “We’ve got guys like Anthony Kay, who was a supplemental pick who hasn’t pitched, who is going to start pitching this season; David Peterson from last year pitching like one or two innings because of a bad toe.”
Alderson added: “Our system is not as strong as it’s been and needs to get stronger. I’m confident it will.”
If the Mets are not going to change their plans with payroll, they have to hope that their gamble to invest in the medical department and amateur player acquisition pays off. If they are going to move the conversation off of their payroll, that payoff will have to be soon.