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Jeff Wilpon: Mets to start looking for head of baseball operations

Mets COO Jeff Wilpon speaks to the media

Mets COO Jeff Wilpon speaks to the media Sunday prior to the team's season finale at Citi Field.  Credit: Getty Images/Adam Hunger

With the offseason upon them, chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon and the Mets are ready to begin in earnest their search for a head of baseball operations, a role they have known since June that they needed to fill.

Wilpon revealed Sunday the first public details of that search, which will begin this week as the Mets ask other organizations for permission to speak with their executives about the job, be it general manager or another title with the same general duties.

Assistant GM John Ricco and Wilpon will conduct the first-round interviews. The Mets are not considering any internal choices, have a wide field of candidates and are looking at scouting- and analytics-inclined options, plus wild cards. Wilpon’s hope is to have somebody in place in time for the GM meetings (mid-November). If not, the winter meetings (mid-December) work, too.

“I’ve got a lot of opinions from a lot of people, so it’s going to be very broad,” Wilpon said during a rare 16-minute news conference before the Mets’ season finale. “Some untraditional candidates will be put into the mix.

“I have faith in the people we have here with John, J.P. [Ricciardi] and Omar [Minaya] that we can keep working and moving forward. It would be much better to have somebody in place, though, by that time frame if we can.”

Wilpon insisted that the new GM will have autonomy when it comes to baseball and personnel decisions, both on the field and in the front office. That means the fate of the interim GM triumvirate — Ricco, Minaya and Ricciardi — as well as manager Mickey Callaway and the coaching staff will be determined by the new boss.

But Wilpon knows his preference. And he’s the boss’ boss, acknowledging that the new GM’s “final recommendation will go through me.”

“They’re part of the failure we had this year, same as I am and the rest of the front office. It’s only fair to give somebody coming in an open book to bring in who they want,” Wilpon said. “Would I like them to stay? Yes. From an ownership standpoint, I’d like them to stay. I’d like Mickey to stay. That’s from ownership, though. And we’re going to rely on a new GM to give us that direction and guidance.”

Wilpon blamed GM Sandy Alderson, who technically still holds that title but stepped away from the organization in June because of a recurrence of cancer, for many of the Mets’ failings this season and in previous ones.

The 2018 Mets’ fourth-place finish in the NL East?

“Even though the effort was there, the talent wasn’t,” Wilpon said. “That’s something that the new GM is going to have to work on.”

What about investing more in analytics — the Mets’ department is very small — and other sections of baseball operations?

“The people that are in place are what was asked for by the administration that was here,” Wilpon said.

And the Mets’ apparent allergy to the best, highest-priced free agents?

“That was a total recommendation” from the Alderson regime, Wilpon said.

It’s not clear why the Mets waited three months to start looking seriously for Alderson’s replacement. Wilpon offered one reason: The Mets didn’t want to be denied permission when it came to requesting midseason interviews with candidates, particularly current GMs — who, if they were hired by the Mets, likely would require a title of “president of baseball operations,” or something to that effect.

Multiple rival executives confirmed that the industry norm is for permission to be granted for a would-be promotion no matter the time of year.

Wilpon hesitated when approaching questions about the club’s offseason agenda and 2019 aspirations, noting that the new GM will heavily influence many of the eventual answers.

The Mets have $92.5 million committed to seven players for next season. How far beyond that — plus arbitration raises for Jacob deGrom, Michael Conforto, Noah Syndergaard and others — Wilpon isn’t sure.

“I can’t give you an exact answer on that,” he said. “But what I can tell you is we will have a plan that we will come back to you with and lay that out.”

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