On the Mets’ official website, under the page called "Front Office Directory," the only text remaining says it all: "Check back soon for updated information."
No kidding. Steve Cohen owns the Mets, Sandy Alderson runs the Mets, and on Friday — the day that became official — they took down the for-sale sign and put up a hiring one.
It is up to Alderson, the team president, to find replacements for now-former general manager Brodie Van Wagenen and other upper-level front-office members. If the pace of change on Friday is any indication, don’t expect him to lollygag. He has had more than a month to think about whom he wants, and we live in a Zoom world now, erasing most of the logistical hurdles involved in this process.
First, a quick rundown on the most senior members of the front office who are staying: John Ricco, the assistant GM under Alderson and others who in recent years had a more business-side senior vice president role; longtime draft bosses Tommy Tanous and Marc Tramuta, who have strong track records; senior director of baseball operations Ian Levin, and director of pro scouting Bryn Alderson, Sandy’s son.
Alderson’s most likely path to building a new front office is to hire a president of baseball operations and let that person help pick a GM and the rest of his staff. The president title also makes it easier to hire someone who already is a GM. So the Mets could end up with more than one of those listed below.
Here are a few names Alderson could consider.
1. David Stearns (Brewers president of baseball operations): A Manhattan native and once-upon-a-time Mets intern — and a Mets fan as a kid — Stearns, 35, is widely considered one of the best executives in baseball. He received a promotion and contract extension less than two years ago, but perhaps the chance of a homecoming and working with a much bigger budget than Milwaukee’s would be alluring.
2. Erik Neander (Rays GM): If the Mets want to be the East Coast Dodgers, why not use their front-office model? When Los Angeles’ new owners opted for change in 2014, they hired Andrew Friedman away from the Rays. His successor, Neander, has continued to do a lot (of winning) with a little (money). Because he is only a GM, it might be easier to hire him with a promotion than it would be to snag Stearns.
The Rays, who made it to the World Series this year, are a popular target for teams looking for baseball bosses. Aside from Friedman, Chaim Bloom — a finalist for the Mets' job when Van Wagenen was hired two years ago — is the Red Sox’s chief baseball officer and James Click is the Astros’ GM.
3. Bobby Heck (Rays special assistant to the GM): Sticking with the Rays, Heck is one of the names that have gotten some reported buzz for a Mets gig. Among his top accomplishments: As scouting director for the Astros from 2007-12, he laid the foundation for two World Series teams (one championship), though Houston didn’t enjoy the fruits of his labor until years after he was gone. He drafted George Springer, Carlos Correa, Dallas Keuchel, J.D. Martinez, Lance McCullers Jr., Enrique Hernandez and other major-leaguers.
4. Billy Owens (Athletics assistant GM): He has been with the A’s for 22 years and has been the assistant GM for five, but it was the past two that might be the most relevant. Alderson, between Mets stints, was a senior adviser for Oakland and worked with Owens to some extent.
Being with Oakland, which helped push data-based decision-making into the baseball mainstream early this century, you can be sure Owens would blend in well with what is expected to be a stronger analytic bent for the Cohen Mets. But he came up as a player and amateur scout, so he could be a good balance for an analytics-heavy president of baseball ops.
5. Scott Sharp (Royals assistant GM): After steadily following a player-development track up Kansas City’s front-office ranks, Sharp ascended to assistant GM in 2015. That was the same year — look away, Mets fans — the Royals won the World Series with a foundation of homegrown players who came through the farm system he ran.
Now he is a top lieutenant for GM Dayton Moore, having added the vice president title a few years ago, and is heavily involved in contract negotiations, arbitration hearings and the like. He was linked to GM openings in San Francisco and Baltimore.
6. Michael Hill (free agent): If there is anyone who understands Alderson’s plight — as the baseball head under, let’s say, particularly involved owners — and would appreciate the chance to do good work under better conditions, it would be Hill. What Alderson went through with the micromanaging and limited-budget Wilpons has lots of parallels to Hill’s experience with the Jeffrey Loria Marlins.
When Miami was sold to Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter in 2017, Hill stayed on as president of baseball ops, helping to run a rebuild that got the Marlins to the playoffs this year. But they parted ways last month, ending Hill’s nearly two decades with the team.
A bonus: Hill, 49, has a background as a player but went to Harvard before that was the cool thing for baseball execs to do.