Earlier this week it was reported that Steve Cohen would likely bring former GM Sandy Alderson back to the Mets if approved by 23 of the league’s owners. At the time an advisory role was suggested, but MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports that Cohen will instead name Alderson the team president, placing him in charge of both business and baseball operations (Twitter link). Cohen has confirmed the report, issuing a statement to several reporters (link via Joel Sherman of the New York Post).
If I am fortunate enough to be approved by Major League Baseball as the next owner of this iconic franchise, Sandy Alderson will become president of the New York Mets and will oversee all Mets baseball and business operations. Sandy is an accomplished and respected baseball executive who shares my philosophy of building an organization and a team the right way. I am excited to have Sandy in a key leadership role with the Mets if my purchase of the team is approved. Lets’ Go Mets!
The 72-year-old Alderson was the Mets’ general manager from 2010-18 before stepping away following a cancer recurrence that pulled him away for health reasons. There’d already been speculation about his job security leading up to that point, however, and Alderson himself acknowledged upon departing that he wasn’t sure his return as GM would even be merited based on the team’s recent results. The Mets eventually went outside the box to hire high-profile CAA agent Brodie Van Wagenen to head up baseball operations, and Alderson took a role as a senior advisor with the Athletics in January 2019.
Today’s announcement would represent a major front office shakeup and quite possibly result in the departure of Van Wagenen. Cohen’s statement doesn’t mention Van Wagenen, and while it’s possible that he could hold onto his GM post but still report to Alderson, that type of transition would be awkward, to say the least. SNY’s Andy Martino pointed out earlier this week that Alderson and Van Wagenen do have a positive relationship from the latter’s days as an agent with CAA and that Van Wagenen made sure to thank Alderson for all the work he did prior to stepping down.
Elsewhere throughout the league, prior situations of a president being installed above a sitting GM have resulted in the prior GM opting to depart. That was the case when Mark Shapiro was named Blue Jays president while Alex Anthopoulos was GM, and Ben Cherington stepped down in Boston after the Red Sox named Dave Dombrowski president. Adding to the awkwardness in this instance would be the fact that the incoming team president would be the man that Van Wagenen effectively replaced.
Beyond the front office dynamic, both Sherman and Martino observe that hitching his ownership candidacy to Alderson could help Cohen to ensure approval from the league’s other owners. Alderson is as respected an executive as there is throughout the industry, whereas Cohen comes to the MLB ownership table with a history of insider trading penalties and gender discrimination lawsuits at his hedge funds. Any peers who have trepidation about Cohen’s still-pending ownership approval could see those concerns eased to an extent knowing that Alderson will play a prominent role in the organization.
The widespread expectation is that payroll will increase substantially under Cohen. That would make for some layered intrigue in the offseason. Not only are teams throughout the league expected to scale back their spending on free agents given the sweeping revenue losses that have hit the sport during the Covid-19 pandemic, but Alderson has never exactly been at the head of a baseball ops department that allows him to spend in the top tier of teams throughout the league. His days as GM in Oakland were obviously dictated by spending limitations, and even the outgoing Wilpon ownership group in New York never spent to levels commensurate with their market size.
Specifics of the arrangement are still yet to fully unfold. Just as it’s possible that Alderson could retain Van Wagenen in his current role — or a different post within the organization — it’s also possible that he could hire a younger general manager to work underneath him and carry significant sway in baseball operations. What the return of Alderson would mean for the field staff, including rookie skipper Luis Rojas, is also unclear at this point. And, of course, Cohen has yet to be formally approved by the league’s other owners. It’s expected that he will indeed garner the requisite votes, but until that vote is held late nothing can be considered final. The exact timing of a vote remains murky, but it’s expected to occur by early November.