Throughout all the chaos of the Mets' 2011 season, the Madoff mess, the Einhorn confusion (about to be resolved, by the way), the $70 million in losses, the massive injuries, all of it, Sandy Alderson has stayed above the fray, in large part because he hasn't really done anything. Alderson, one of baseball's more respected figures for three decades now, said from the beginning that he would evaluate the Mets' situation in 2011, wait for all that payroll to drop off at the end of the season, and figure out what needs to be fixed going forward. Fans were willing to be patient, because they knew it was a big job and, besides, the Mets have been entertaining enough to watch as is. But the trade deadline, and the Braves' control of the wild-card, forced his hand: He'd have to make some major decisions. Two, in fact. They were the first two tests for Alderson, tests the Mets desperately needed him to pass.
The two questions were basic, fundamental ones:
*** Do you trade Jose Reyes?
*** How much can you get for Carlos Beltran?
Alderson's answer to the first question was a definitive "no." (Barring something insane happening in the next 72 hours.) We won't know if he passed that first test until we see if Reyes indeed re-signs with the Mets in the offseason. Surely, not trading Reyes now has given the Mets an advantage in those negotiations, but if Reyes somehow leaves, Mets fans will rue not getting something for the MVP candidate when he was hottest. But Alderson has at least put the Mets in prime position to keep Reyes: Now it's all about whether the team has the cash.
As for the second question, Alderson clearly passed yesterday. We can't imagine he could have possibly done any better.
Just three days ago, ESPN's Jayson Stark, a smart guy who's pretty tapped in on this business, wrote that the Mets were "increasingly likely [to] be coming away with an A-plus prospect for America's most talked about rent-a-player." His argument made sense. Because of Scott Boras's predictable mastery of negotiations over Omar Minaya years ago, any team that traded for Beltran wouldn't even get draft-pick compensation when he left, a carrot that's often as enticing for contending teams as the player himself. Beltran was a rental player and solely a rental player: To give up a top prospect, you had to be 100 percent convinced he made it more likely you'd win a World Series this year, and only this year. There was no other upside. Alderson -- once again -- was in a tough spot because of Minaya's past blunderings. It certainly would have looked bad if Alderson, in his first major move, ended up trading a Carlos Beltran at the peak of his value for organizational flotsam.
And he didn't. Alderson, holding the primary asset, even a somewhat damaged one, waited for the other side to blink. Here's another line from Stark's column:
They asked the Giants for Zack Wheeler, the best pitcher in their system, or Gary Brown, their most highly rated outfield prospect. "Not happening," the Giants told them.
Well, lookee here: The newest Mets prospect is Zach Wheeler. Alderson won. Before yesterday, the Mets had one player in Keith Law's top 100 prospects, double-A pitcher Matt Harvey (No. 26). Now they have two. (Wheeler's No. 31.) The Mets' farm system still needs a ton of work. But it got a lot better, with just one move, trading one player, in which Alderson had little leverage.
The Mets still have a long way to go, and many questions left to answer. But yesterday, Mets fans had to be ecstatic to have Sandy Alderson in charge. This is what happens when you hire professionals, adults, to run your team. Sandy Alderson is going to change the structure of the Mets franchise. Yesterday showed the first glimpse of how. Get excited.