The first three weeks of the Mets’ offseason has yielded more questions than answers, particularly regarding their search for a head of baseball operations, the top item on their to-do list and the piece of the puzzle that will shape all of the others.
After whiffing on their Dream Tier of candidates — Theo Epstein, David Stearns and Billy Beane — owner Steve Cohen and team president Sandy Alderson are filtering through other possibilities. Here are five, in no particular order.
Josh Byrnes, Dodgers senior vice president of baseball operations: As the former general manager of the Diamondbacks (2005-10) and Padres (2011-14), Byrnes would check the box of having been a team’s No. 1 baseball executive before. But perhaps more appealing to Cohen in his quest to build the East Coast Dodgers is Byrnes’ job the past seven seasons, overseeing Los Angeles’ player development and amateur scouting, areas in which the Dodgers have excelled.
Byrnes is open to a third try running a team’s baseball operations department, according to a source familiar with his goals, but he is content to wait for the right opportunity, if and when it presents itself, as opposed to being desperate for a promotion. Last year, for example, he talked to the Phillies about their opening but removed himself from consideration after deciding it wasn’t a good fit.
Brian Sabean, Giants executive vice president: This is a name that has been getting more public buzz in recent days, and he certainly would bring a certain pedigree and respectability to the Mets’ front office. He is enough of a heavyweight that he could take on the president of baseball operations title if the Mets still want to go that route.
Sabean, 65, was San Francisco’s top baseball executive from 1997-2018, a stretch that included World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014. The Giants phased him out via a more senior adviser-type role after the 2018 season, when they hired the analytics-heavy Farhan Zaidi from the Dodgers.
Because of Sabean’s more traditional background — including as a scouting and player development executive for the Yankees from 1986-92, helping to lay the foundation for their dynasty — it would be wise of the Mets to pair him with a younger, analytically savvy GM underling.
Peter Bendix, Rays vice president of baseball development: This completely serious and valid suggestion is almost a joke, too.
Q: Who should a team hire as GM?
A: Uh, well, who hasn’t been hired away from the Rays yet?
Three of the final four teams playing this year are led by former Rays execs: Andrew Friedman (Dodgers), Chaim Bloom (Red Sox; almost the Mets, but they picked Brodie Van Wagenen instead) and James Click (Astros).
Bendix has risen through the Rays’ ranks, from intern in 2009 to his current role as of October 2019, assisting in all aspects of baseball operations under Erik Neander (himself someone the Mets had eyed until he was promoted to president of baseball operations last month). He came up on an analytics track and now oversees those departments "while working closely with other departments to help facilitate learning and development," according to his bio on the Rays’ website.
Matt Arnold, Brewers GM: The Mets wanted Stearns, but for a second year in a row, Brewers owner Mark Attanasio declined to let them talk to him, which was his right because Stearns is under contract. So maybe Arnold is the next- best thing (though permission to interview him would be no sure thing either).
Arnold has a hand in all parts of the Brewers’ highly successful and modernized baseball operation, from major-league roster to contract negotiation to player development to medical to foreign and domestic scouting. And it probably helps from a resume perspective that he also is a branch on the Rays’ executive tree, having spent nine seasons with Tampa Bay.
Zack Scott, Mets acting GM: The biggest issue here would be the PR aspect. Scott, on paid administrative leave since early September when he pleaded not guilty to drunk driving, is scheduled to have a trial on Dec. 8.
Think about it this way: Last offseason, the Mets went through this exact process, searching for a highly experienced president of baseball operations before failing to find and/or convince any candidates they liked, then shifted gears to settle on a younger general manager. After filtering through all of those names in the non-top tier, Cohen and Alderson decided the cream of the crop were their two finalists: Jared Porter and Scott.
Porter was hired as GM, Scott as the assistant GM. When Porter was fired a month later for having previously sent inappropriate texts to a female reporter, Scott got the acting GM title — then ran the Mets’ baseball operations, and did a pretty good job, until he got in trouble.
Almost a year after his hiring, Scott is a better candidate now than he was then, with experience running the show and specific insight on what the Mets need and how they operate. It would be up to Cohen, though, to decide whether his pending DWI charge is a deal-breaker.