Twenty-three votes from MLB owners are all that stand between billionaire Steve Cohen and a 95 percent stake in the Mets franchise. So long as he’s approved by the league’s other owners, he’ll step in and assume control of the club from the Wilpon family for a reported sale price of $2.475 billion. But while the Wilpons may be on their way out the door, another familiar name could return to the fold. SNY’s Andy Martino reports that Cohen is likely to bring former GM Sandy Alderson back to the organization — though not as general manager. Joel Sherman of the New York Post adds that Cohen is mulling an advisory position for the 72-year-old Alderson.
Alderson was the Mets’ general manager from 2010-18 and only stepped away from the position when a cancer recurrence prompted him to take a medical leave in July 2018. Alderson would not return to the role, candidly acknowledging even while stepping away that, “on the merits, I’m not sure coming back is warranted.” The Mets went through an exhaustive search and ultimately went way outside the box when they hired high-profile agent Brodie Van Wagenen, who represented Jacob deGrom (among other Mets players), as their new GM. Months later, Alderson was hired by the Athletics as a senior advisor. Alderson was Oakland’s general manager from 1983-97.
Sherman adds that Cohen could make a push to bring former vice president of player development Paul DePodesta back to the organization. DePodesta departed in 2016, two years before Alderson, when he made the bold move to jump not only to another club but to another sport entirely. He’s spent the past four years serving as the chief strategy officer for the NFL’s Cleveland Browns. As with Alderson, a potential role for DePodesta is unclear, but Cohen is plenty familiar with both veteran executives, having long served as a minority stakeholder.
Questions abound with any ownership change, and that is particularly true in this instance. Beyond the potential returns of some high-profile names, the most immediate question is: what would this mean for Van Wagenen? He was hired due in part to a strong existing relationship with Fred Wilpon, and it’s common for new owners to install their own appointees in the baseball operations department. The Mets, meanwhile, missed the postseason in Van Wagenen’s first year on the job and are all but certain to miss in 2020 as well.
Van Wagenen can’t be saddled with the blame for Noah Syndergaard’s Tommy John surgery or Marcus Stroman’s decision to opt out of the season. He can, however, be held accountable for the regrettable trade that sent Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn to the Mariners in exchange for Edwin Diaz and half of Robinson Cano’s remaining contract. The Jed Lowrie signing has been a circus. Wilson Ramos and Jeurys Familia haven’t been as impactful as hoped.
As with virtually any GM, there are highlights, too. The Kelenic/Cano/Diaz swap often overshadows the team’s trade for J.D. Davis, but Davis was acquired for a relative pittance and has emerged as a quality bat. DeGrom would be in position to make far more than $130MM in free agency this winter had the two sides not worked out an extension during Van Wagenen’s first spring on the job. We don’t know the exact financial limitations placed on Van Wagenen & Co., but we know that despite playing in New York, the Wilpons have spent more like the Cardinals than the Yankees or Dodgers.
Van Wagenen is under control for another two years beyond the current season, but there’s no guarantee he’d get the opportunity to see that play out under Cohen. The fate of manager Luis Rojas is similarly uncertain. It’s tough to evaluate Rojas based on this of all seasons — particularly when he spent much of the offseason expecting to open the year as the quality control coach under manager-that-never-was Carlos Beltran. As with Van Wagenen, there are low points and high points in Rojas’ brief time on the job, and it’s possible that Cohen would prefer more input on who is running the day-to-day in the clubhouse.
Sherman raises the possibility of former MLB agent Arn Tellem, now the vice chairman of the NBA’s Detroit Pistons, also having a role with the Mets, but Martino tweets such a move is unlikely. If nothing else, the fact that it’s been considered or speculated upon only further underscores the organizational turnover that’s likely to come to the Mets in the event that Cohen is approved by his potential ownership peers.