With their self-imposed soft deadline fast approaching, the Mets took a significant step in their search for a new general manager this week, completing first-round interviews with a field of at least six candidates, a source said Friday.
Starting next week, principal owner Fred Wilpon and his son, Jeff Wilpon, the Mets’ chief operating officer, will interview a publicly unknown number of finalists. The Mets also plan to make the finalists available to reporters after their interviews.
Among those who have interviewed: Chaim Bloom, Kim Ng, Gary LaRocque, Doug Melvin, De Jon Watson and Dave Littlefield. It’s unclear if there are additional names on that list, though Jeff Wilpon said last month that the club would consider “untraditional” candidates, and none of those longtime executives/scouts fits that description. MLB.com reported that Watson, a special assistant for the Nationals, no longer is under consideration.
Littlefield, who interviewed this week, is the Tigers’ vice president of player development. He did not have a strong track record or reputation when it came to player development as the Pirates’ GM from 2001-07. Pittsburgh had a losing record and finished no better than fourth in the NL Central during each of Littlefield’s seasons in charge. The Maine native played three seasons in the minors for the Phillies and Yankees from 1978-80.
Despite speculation to the contrary, the Mets are looking to hire one person to oversee all of baseball operations, sources with knowledge of the team’s thinking said. That’s as opposed to splitting up duties between, say, two people, one working on major-league personnel and the other focusing on player development.
It’s also worth noting that despite a new-school-versus-old-school narrative, the Mets view the scouting/analytics schools of thought as a spectrum, not a black-and-white choice, and are seeking a candidate who can blend the two.
The Mets have interviewed a range of candidates who seem to cover most of that spectrum.
For example, Bloom, 35, a Yale graduate, is senior vice president of baseball operations for the analytics-focused Rays and is among the growing group of Ivy League-educated fast-risers in major-league front offices. Much of his early executive experience came on the player-development side.
Melvin, 66, a former minor-leaguer, has 21 seasons of experience running the Rangers and Brewers but has served as a senior adviser in Milwaukee for the past three years while the Brewers bloomed as a contender with a more sabermetrics-driven front office.
As one major-league source put it: “There’s no old guy or young guy who doesn’t want to use a combination.”
Jeff Wilpon said last month that the Mets would like to have a new GM in place for the GM meetings, which begin Nov. 5 in Carlsbad, California.