CARLSBAD, Calif. — The Mets play in a vibrant city, in the largest market in Major League Baseball. They have passionate fans all over the region, country and world. Their stadium is only 12 years old. They have arguably the best pitcher in baseball in Jacob deGrom. And under their owner, Steven A. Cohen, the richest in baseball, the franchise has ample resources.
So why are the Mets, for a second straight off-season, struggling to lure someone to lead their baseball operations department?
“We’ve talked to a lot of people, probably half the people that are going to be here today,” Sandy Alderson, the president of the Mets, said on Tuesday morning with a chuckle while standing outside the hotel where M.L.B.’s general managers meetings were being held this week.
“In some cases, we haven’t gotten permission,” he continued. “In some cases, I think people are comfortable where they are, whether it be a family situation or something. And in other cases, there’s a reluctance to come to New York. But I think it’s mostly about New York, not about Steve or the organization. It’s a big stage and some people prefer to be elsewhere.”
Last winter, after Cohen bought the Mets and installed Alderson, the team’s former G.M., as its new president, the Mets wanted to hire both a president of baseball operations to work under Alderson and a general manager. But after striking out with several candidates, the Mets settled on hiring Jared Porter, from the Arizona Diamondbacks, as general manager and Zack Scott, from the Boston Red Sox, as an assistant general manager.
After a month on the job, Porter was fired following allegations that he had sexually harassed a female reporter in a previous position. Scott became the acting general manager but was then placed on administrative leave in August following his arrest on a drunken-driving charge in White Plains, N.Y. He was fired earlier this month. (Scott has pleaded not guilty and his next hearing is scheduled for Dec. 8.)
This winter, the Mets had hopes, again, of hiring a president of baseball operations, with such a position indicating the team’s desire to lure an experienced executive, rather than a first time head of baseball operations. But after casting a wide net for accomplished figures, like Billy Beane of the Oakland Athletics, the former Red Sox and Cubs executive Theo Epstein, and David Stearns of the Milwaukee Brewers, the Mets struck out — again.
Alderson admitted on Tuesday that the team is now focused on hiring a G.M., which meant it was looking at a lower tier of experience levels. He didn’t rule out that the Mets may next year hire a president of baseball operations, which could make some candidates skittish.
“There’s a certain amount of risk associated with it,” he said of the Mets’ general manager job. “And you can talk about the risk in terms of the organization. You can talk about the risk, I guess, in terms of me. You talk about the risk in terms of Steve. You can talk about the risk of New York. If you’re looking to be comfortable, the Mets are probably not the place to come. If you’re looking to be challenged and rewarded, because I don’t think there’s any doubt that this team is going to be successful over the next number of years, then go for it.”
The Mets, though, have not been successful lately. They last reached the playoffs in 2016, went 77-85 in 2021 and last month parted ways with Manager Luis Rojas, the fourth person to hold the position in five years.
On Tuesday, Alderson tried to dispel any concerns about the Mets’ general manager job. Regarding his own involvement in baseball operations, he said he would be an adviser. (He said he provided more oversight to Scott, for example, early on but less as the season progressed.) Regarding the presence of his son (Bryn was promoted to assistant general manager in July), he said there was a firewall between the two regarding the candidates.
And given Alderson’s misfires in hiring Porter, Scott and former manager Mickey Callaway (who was fired by the Mets after two years and then later suspended by M.L.B. and fired by the Angels after a sexual harassment investigation), he was asked if he was the right person to be leading the hiring. He said yes. As he has in the past, he said the Mets should have vetted Callaway more beforehand and noted that they have expanded their vetting process.
Because of the repeated failed bids to fill their top baseball opening, the Mets — a franchise frequently plagued by scandals, large and small, on and off the field — seemed like a punchline again. But Alderson insisted that the picture wasn’t so bleak. He said he wasn’t surprised it has been a challenge to find the right executive, but he did admit some surprise in terms of how many rejections they have received.
“I’m not happy about the narrative,” he added later about the franchise. “On the other hand, looking at the organization from within, as opposed to without, I’m very pleased with where we’re going. The baseball operations department has been built out over the last year significantly. The same has been true on the business side. There’s a lot that’s very positive that’s going on. But what we have to do is make sure that that reality becomes perception. That’s a matter of putting your head down and keep moving forward.”
Alderson said there are “several” general manager candidates under consideration and they would have a better idea by the end of the week after more interviews with him and Cohen. Once a general manager is in place, Alderson said the team would then hire a manager and fill out its coaching staff.
Until then, Alderson said the Mets’ baseball affairs continued on under him. They offered $18.4 million qualifying offers to pitcher Noah Syndergaard and outfielder Michael Conforto on Saturday. He said the hot stove was typically slow in early November and noted that the only thing that could stop the baseball calendar was a lack of a new collective bargaining agreement between M.L.B. team owners and players. (The current deal expires on Dec. 1 and, if a new one is not struck in time, a lockout — a freeze on transactions — is expected.)
“I’m confident that we’re going to find somebody that is very capable and is right for the job,” he said.