Steve Cohen moved closer to owning the Mets this week. The eight-member Ownership Committee blessed a sale to him. That leaves the eight-member Executive Committee and the full ownership body as the last hurdles within baseball.
These are not formalities. There is opposition to Cohen’s purchase. But the 7-1 vote by those on the Ownership Committee indicates that it will be hard to form the bloc of eight owners necessary to prevent Cohen from succeeding Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz atop the Mets’ hierarchy.
For Mets fans, that will start the engine on just how Cohen will divvy up his billions with attractive free agents such as J.T. Realmuto and George Springer sitting in a market in which many organizations are likely to abstain, claiming COVID-caused financial distress. Inside the industry — think, what is in it for me — there is wonder what Cohen will be doing with baseball operations and the managerial chair.
Cohen’s announcement that Sandy Alderson will be the team president signals a diminishment or, more likely, end to Brodie Van Wagenen’s general manager reign, and probably that of a few of his key subordinates as well.
Also, Alderson was named team president in charge of not just baseball, but the business operations as well. And the business of the Mets is going to need a lot of attention. Thus, there is an expectation that Alderson will be hiring not just a GM to lead the baseball department. A few executives spoken to anticipate that Cohen will follow the path established when Andrew Friedman took over the Dodgers baseball operations after the 2014 campaign.
Friedman flooded the front office with talent with big pedigree from elsewhere, including Josh Byrnes and Farhan Zaidi — and at a later date Alex Anthopoulos. This is another area in which Cohen’s money could allow a zig while much of the industry zags in reacting to lost revenue by trimming front office personnel, among other items.
As for manager, Luis Rojas is viewed as having a better chance of surviving than Van Wagenen. Multiple sources have pointed out that Rojas worked within the Mets organization for all eight years of Alderson’s GM term and was viewed positively.
But whether it is the position of GM or manager, the Mets jobs would become the most desirable in the industry. That’s because the Mets have a solid foundation of players, would have Cohen’s infusion of cash moving forward and, as one former team executive said, “There will be a sense [with the Wilpons out] of a breath of fresh air.”
For now, though, there are a combined five openings for GMs or managers. Before anything is determined with the Mets, these are how I would rank them in order of most to least desirable:
1. White Sox manager
This is a roster, even more so than that of the Mets, that is ready to win, since Chicago just went to the playoffs for the first time since 2008. There are oodles of young and prime-age talent, highlighted by Tim Anderson, Lucas Giolito, Eloy Jimenez, Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert. Plus, the financial splash last offseason to retain Jose Abreu and sign Yasmani Grandal and Dallas Keuchel signaled that owner Jerry Reinsdorf hungers for another title.
But early indicators are he also yearns for Tony La Russa, who managed the White Sox from 1979-86. Reinsdorf has said letting La Russa go is one of his most regrettable decisions. Will he feel the same way about bringing back someone who, yes, is a Hall of Famer, but also is 76 and hasn’t managed in a decade? If not La Russa, keep an eye on A.J. Hinch, whose suspension for ties to the Astros cheating scandal is up after this season.
2. Red Sox manager
Boston is looking at a bit of rebuilding at a time when the Rays and Yankees are powerful, the Blue Jays are rising and even the Orioles are stirring a bit. But these are the Red Sox, which means there will be talent and money here when necessary, and a great fan base and history.
There is strong buzz that Alex Cora, after a year suspension for his ties to the Astros’ cheating scandal, will return. If not, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom — from the Rays’ family tree — could be leaning toward a type that would grow with the roster, such as Tampa Bay bench coach Mike Qutraro or Sam Fuld, the Phillies’ director of integrative baseball performance.
3. Phillies GM
About those Phillies … They just had a historically bad year from the bullpen, which finally doomed Matt Klentak. That pen needs to be rebuilt. Realmuto either has to be re-signed or replaced. The NL East is probably the majors’ most competitive division — perhaps about to become more challenging with Cohen’s money injected. But whoever takes over will begin with a legit rotation 1-2 of Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler, a proven manager in Joe Giardi and owner John Middleton’s financial commitment to pursue a title.
4. Tigers manager
Hinch and Cora are in play here as well — Hinch’s closeness to assistant GM Scott Bream adds an extra tie. There is young talent, headed by pitcher Casey Mize and slugger Spencer Torkelson, ready or nearly ready. There is an AL Central in which no team is going to join the financial super heavyweight category. So there is an avenue for steady growth and contention soon.
5. Angels GM
Whoever takes over has to run out the last year of Albert Pujols’ deal, the last two of Justin Upton’s, figure out exactly what Shohei Ohtani is and find roughly 6-8 pitchers for a team that wants to win now to stop wasting Mike Trout’s prime — and that of Anthony Rendon, too. But if that takes another two years, suddenly Trout and Rendon will be ebbing out of their primes. Do you want to be the GM, for example, who has to help transition Trout out of center?
There is money and opportunity here, especially in an AL West that is very winnable the next few years. But there also is an owner, Arte Moreno, who is going to be involved. So there is wide variance here — the potential that this could be a wonderful job or a terrible one. Dave Dombrowski, who has titles on his résumé with the Marlins and Red Sox, is viewed as a frontrunner. But he bought a house in Nashville and could stick with the group trying to bring a major league team to that city.
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