The Mets are embracing their 2018 fate as trade-deadline sellers.
Assistant general manager John Ricco, one-third of the Mets’ baseball-operations leadership alongside special assistants to the GM J.P. Ricciardi and Omar Minaya, in effect said Wednesday that the Mets are open for business. In meeting with reporters a day after Sandy Alderson took a leave of absence because of a recurrence of his cancer, Ricco said in the most concrete terms from a Mets person this year that the team will be sellers for the second summer in a row.
The directive from chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon and the rest of ownership: Take a fresh look at the organization to find ways to make the Mets better, both short-term and — perhaps more painfully — long-term.
Put another way, trades are coming.
“Not only do we have the ability, but that’s what we’ve been charged with — improving this club,” Ricco said Wednesday at Citi Field. “Obviously the trade deadline is coming up [July 31]. And that’s a big pressure point in which to better your club. Certainly, we’re going to take advantage of that and look to be active.”
Certain Mets, most notably free-agents-to-be Jeurys Familia and Asdrubal Cabrera, are obvious trade candidates. Among the larger questions facing Ricco and Co. pertain to Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, both controllable, high-end starting pitchers who would fetch a haul of prospects but whose departure could signal a larger organizational reset.
The Mets are open to offers for the righthanders.
“We’ll have to consider [it],” Ricco said. “For me, everything has to be on the table. But you have to look long and hard before you move a game-changing, top-of-the-rotation pitcher.”
Ricco doesn’t anticipate a full rebuild, reiterating a sentiment Alderson expressed before stepping away from his GM duties Tuesday.
“I really don’t see that as a strategy,” Ricco said. “It’s not something we’ve really discussed, a complete teardown. I think we have young players that we think are out on the field playing right now and pitching as well.”
Ricco, Ricciardi and Minaya are wading together into unfamiliar waters. Nobody in particular is in charge or has the ultimate decision-making authority, other than Wilpon. It’ll be up to the Mets’ big three to come to a consensus. Alderson indicated Tuesday this will be the setup through the end of the season, when it’ll be up to ownership to decide on a leader, be it an internal candidate such as Ricco (endorsed by Alderson during spring training) and an external one.
To hear Ricco tell it, this arrangement isn’t too big of a difference from when Alderson was still in charge.
“If you know the way Sandy worked, a lot of [the work] was being divvied up to begin with,” Ricco said. “He delegates a lot, especially with that group. So that won’t really change. We just won’t have that point person we’re reporting back to. We’ll just have conversations among ourselves and we’ll make decisions that way.”
If another team wants to engage in trade talks, who do they call? Depends on the team.
“We have the teams split up. We each have relationships with various teams at different levels,” Ricco said. “In the past, we did the same thing. Sandy didn’t sit back and make all those calls.”
Ricco (assistant GM since 2004), Ricciardi (former Blue Jays GM, special assistant for the Mets since 2010) and Minaya (former Mets GM, special assistant since the winter) all have an extensive familiarity with the team. But that doesn’t pose an issue when trying to re-evaluate to take a “fresh look” where the club stands, Ricco said. “You can always step back and think of, ‘OK, we’ve been trying it this way, how about we try another approach?’” Nor is he worried about communication or their ability to come to an agreement while wheeling and dealing.
“You’re talking about two GMs,” Ricco said. “They’ve both been through it. If anything, I’m the least experienced at it.”