Mets Drop Scouting Director Rudy Terrasas

At 4:11 on Saturday afternoon, Jon Heyman of SI.com broke the news that the Mets would reassign scouting director Rudy Terrasas.  Ever since the team hired Paul DePodesta as the Vice President, Player Development and Amateur Scouting, this move has been all but inevitable.

Heyman’s story claims the Mets have “fired” Terrasas, but according to Andy Martino of the New York Daily News, Paul DePodesta texted him that, “there is a good chance that Rudy will remain with organization.”  This sentiment, that the Mets might retain Terrasas in another role, was echoed by multiple other beat writers.

The Mets recent drafts have simply not been very productive.  Part of the problem is the team has adhered closely to the commissioner’s recommended slot.  However, that is at best an incomplete explanation.   Andy McCullough in the Star-Ledger quotes Baseball America’s Jim Callis as saying, “I don’t think they’ve done a great job – if you look at their picks – drafting guys for slot, either…I don’t think they’ve drafted as well as other teams, dollar-for-dollar.”

It’s hard to argue Callis’ point.  The Mets have drafted one league average position player in the last five years: Ike Davis, who gets there when one includes his defense.  The most valuable pitcher?  Joe Smith has collected 0.8 WAR (fangraphs) as a capable middle-reliever for the Mets and Indians.

Peter Gammons instantly tweeted:

There’s more than some truth to that. The Mets ownership group handcuffed Terrasas and Minaya by insisting that the team stay with slot.  However, both men must share the blame for failing to convince the guys signing their paychecks that it was in the team’s long-term interest to spend more in the draft.  Moreover, Callis’ point is well-taken, the Mets just have not produced very much with their picks in the last five years.

So, lets hop in the way-back machine.

2006
Without a first rounder in 2006, the Mets drafted Kevin Mulvey in the second round, Joe Smith in the third and John Holdzkom in the fourth, Stephen A Holmes in the fifth, and Scott Schafer in the sixth.  Mulvey was part of the package the Mets sent to Minnesota for Johan Santana, which could well end up as the most impressive thing on his baseball resume.  The Twins traded him to the Diamondbacks for Jon Rauch in August of 2009.  Joe Smith was part of the three-way trade the Mets made with the Indians and Mariners at the Winter Meetings in Vegas in 2008 which netted the team JJ Putz.  Holdzkom never made it past the SAL.   Holmes signed, but appears never to have played in a minor league game.  Shafer’s career was infinitely longer: he appeared in one game for the GCL Mets in 2006.

2007
The 2007 draft will be remembered (among obsessives) for its focus on college relievers including Eddie Kunz, who was recently outrighted off the 40-man roster, Brant Rustich, who’s never been healthy and Eric Niesen, who’s never thrown enough strikes and Stephen Clyne. The team picked 3B Zach Lutz in the fifth round, Lucas Duda in the seventh and Dillon Gee in the 21st.  Duda and Gee both made their big league debuts late in 2010.  Gee’s 2.18 ERA in 2010 was fluky, but Bill James projects him for a 4.11 FIP in 2011 which would make him useful at the back end of the rotation.  After a breakout season in which hit for power for the first time in 2010, Duda hit .202/.261/.417 in 92 plate appearances with the Mets, numbers that were held down by a .220 BABIP.  He crushes righties, but could use a platoon partner.

2008
For a change, instead of operating without their first round pick, the Mets had three picks from 18-33 overall which they turned into Ike Davis (18), Reese Havens (22) and Brad Holt (33). Davis, after a .264/.351/.440 rookie season with plus defense will be a useful piece moving forward.  Havens has hit when he’s been healthy, but that’s been rare as he’s played in 43% of his teams’ games since being drafted.  Holt, as we’ve discussed many times around here, has regressed from the electric stuff he showed in 2008.  After the first round, the Mets went with three straight outfielders.  The team reached for Javier Rodriguez, who just hit .319/.353/.513 as a 20-year old in the Appalachian League this year, in the second round.  The next two selections look better: Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who should have some kind of big league future, was a third round pick and Sean Ratliff who finished 2010 with a strong .317/.371/.562 performance in 73 games in AA.   This was the rare draft where the Mets kept adding interesting pieces in the second half of the top-10 rounds.  While Dock Doyle (5th) flopped (.230/.338/.253) in the SAL this year, Josh Satin (6th) has hit at every level he’s played including a .308/.395/.472 line in 79 games in AA, Michael Hebert (7th) showed some life, and control, this year and Eric Campbell hit well (.306/.369/.467 between A+ and AA) before injuries ended his 2010 early after marring his 2009 season.
LHP Mark Cohoon, who was lights out in August for AA, was a 12th round find.

2009
It’s too early to fully judge the 2009 draft, but the returns a year and a half out are not promising.  The Mets’ first pick, second-rounder Steven Matz did not appear in a game after signing at the deadline in 2009, and missed all of 2010 after Tommy John Surgery.  Robbie Shields (3rd) was hampered by injuries at Brooklyn a year ago, before he succumbed to the Tommy John bug in the fall.  He recovered to hit .290/.331/.457 in 39 games with Savannah as a 22-year old.  I’m not sure he has the range or arm to play short, although I’ll cut him some slack on the arm since he was moving quickly in his recovery from surgery.  Fourth-rounder Darrell Ceciliani had a tremendous summer for Brooklyn this year drawing rave reviews for his play in the field, and his work at the plate (.351/.410/.531).  The Mets did not sign their fifth or sixth rounders, and few others in this class stood out in 2010.

2010
The Mets clearly focused on pitching in their 2010 draft, using 12 of their first 18 picks on arms.  The team scooped up a premium talent in hard-throwing Matt Harvey who instantly becomes one of the organization’s top pitching prospects alongside Jenrry Mejia. In Erik Goeddel (24th) and Akeel Morris (10th), the Mets found early-round type talent both in tenth round and in the 20s.  The Mets can point to Greg Peavey, Josh Edgin or even 16th rounder Ryan Fraser who spent the summer closing for Brooklyn, as adding depth. The cost of to focusing on arms: the position player haul was simply very, very thin. Outside of Cory Vaughn (4th) there isn’t a single other player who has an upside as an above average regular.  At least Vaughn’s power looks legit after a .307/.396/.557 summer with 14 homers for Brooklyn.

So, is Grady Fuson, who has ties to Sandy Alderson and crew, next up?

Rick Waits Catches on in Seattle and more…

  • The Seattle Mariners have named Rick Waits, their Minor League Pitching Coordinator.  Waits held the same job with the New York Mets, but the team decided not to renew his contract for the 2011 season after a disappointing season for Mets pitching prospects.  Now you can add, “hire a new pitching coordinator” to the to-do list for the new front office alongside: find a manager, add another starter, find relief help, and devise an answer at second base all without increasing payroll.
  • This is a talk Paul DePodesta gave at the Credit Suisse/First Boston “Thought Leader Forum” in 2003.  He talks, in mostly general terms, about changing systems, and creating an objective framework for decision-making in baseball.  It made me almost giddy.
  • At Amazin’ Avenue Rob Castellano went around the Winter Leagues and found… not many Mets excelling.
  • Mike Newman at Scoutingthesally.com revisits his earlier Cesar Puello scouting report and finds a lot more to like the second time around.  Ummm, yeah.  He was a dramatically better player in the season’s second half for Savannah and is one of the Mets’ top outfield prospects, if not the best.

Sandy Alderson on Going Over-Slot in the Draft and Defensive Metrics

The draft stuff begins at 1:46.

Going over slot, “can give you a competitive advantage…. We have gotten to the point where not only big market clubs are going over slot, but small market clubs are going over slot and they see it as a competitive advantage. I don’t think we can be left behind in that regard…”

Paul DePodesta Meets the Press

Ted Berg was liveblogging new VP of Player Development and Amateur Scouting Paul DePodesta’s conference call.  I wasn’t.  The headings and italics are mine.  The quotes are his.

NY State of Mind
DePodesta explains that it was difficult to leave San Diego, but that a call from Alderson is “almost like a call to service.” The allure of New York also impacted his decision.

A Day in the Life

Paul DePodesta called the day of the draft, “the best day of the calendar year in baseball operations.”

So, I guess he likes it.

Things Done Changed
Since Moneyball came out, the entire industry has become a lot more savvy. DePodesta says that in today’s game, an untapped area of opportunity is how teams develop players, physically and mentally. He says they’ll continue to explore techniques like biomechanics to improve the club for the future.

I agree.  There’s no one answer, but all teams, including the Mets, are leaving value on the field as it were by failing to maximize the potential of the players in their minor league system.

Three MC’s and One DJ
DePodesta will oversee both player development and amateur scouting, Ricciardi will oversee professional scouting, but Alderson expects there to be a lot of communication between the two. Ricco will be directly involved in the decision-making, as well as maintain responsibilities involving support staff, the clubhouse, and the medical staff.

Sandy Alderson, professional DJ.

Yup. Paul DePodesta. It was a Good Monday.

Not quite a week ago, I expressed some reservation about J.P. Ricciardi’s record when he was hired.  I have no similar ambivalence about Paul DePodesta. None.  This is a tremendous hire.    He’s smart.  He’s run his own team.  He’s worked with Alderson and many of baseball’s best minds.

As the GM, he helped build a playoff team in LA in 2004 before he was run out of town in 2005.  In part, the press never forgave him for trading Paul LoDuca for Brad Penny at the trading deadline in 2004, a move that looks even better in hindsight.

There’s so much DePodesta material out there on these crazy interwebs it’s almost hard to know where to start.

Everyone (NYP, NYT, NJ.com) has the Sandy Alderson quote on DePodesta’s role:

“Paul has one of the top analytical minds in the game and also has a strong background in more traditional aspects of player development and amateur scouting.  He will help establish direction, standards and continuity in all areas of our player development domestically and internationally. Paul — working together with J.P. Ricciardi and John Ricco — also will advise me generally on other matters related to baseball operations.”

Notice the phrase continuity.  Just this weekend, Mike Newman of scoutingthesally and I were talking baseball, and specifically Mets minor league baseball.  I asked him if he could identify a Mets philosophy.  We couldn’t beyond the obvious.  Sure, the Mets have gone pitching heavy in drafts and largely adhered to slot with the exception of a pick (usually their first) or two per year.  Yes, the team has drafted a lot of small college arms.  Can that be considered a full philosophy?  Not here.  So count me excited about the the idea that the draft and international signings and player development will now be part of the same structure and that there will be “continuity” all the way through.

A few links I liked:
DePodesta’s own blog from his time in San Diego: It Might Be Dangerous … You go First is pretty much required reading.

Gaslampball isn’t surprised DePo left San Diego where he was being shut out of the baseball operations and focusing more on pricing tickets and beer after Sandy Alderson left.  The monster interview Gaslampball did with Depo is here.  One more highlight that goes on both Depodesta and Alderson’s resume: “Over the past 4-5 years the Padres are in the top 5 in amateur player spending.”

Rich Lederer picks Paul DePodesta’s brain from June 2009 at the Baseball Analysts.  Check out these two answers:

Rich: How much of your time do you spend on scouting?

Paul: I start entering draft mode around the end of February/beginning of March. Once the ML season begins, though, I spend probably 90% of my time on the draft until we announce that last pick.

Rich: Do you think the standard five tools (hitting for average, power, arm strength, fielding, and speed) are still the most important attributes of a player? Or would you insert plate discipline/pitch recognition skills into the mix?

Paul: Both tools and skills are important, as they often depend on one another in order to play. For instance, the combination of all tools and no skills is usually a promise unfulfilled, and all skills with no tools often results in a short career. We’d all prefer a plethora of both, but in the absence of that it’s a constant effort to figure out if the shortcomings in one area will inhibit the positives in the other.

In 2007, Jacob Jackson at the Hardball Times called DePodesta the best unemployed GM in baseball.

Given the fact that he was fired at the end of the 2005 season, this positive piece from John Donovan at Sports Illustrated 11 games into the season is pretty funny.

Paul DePodesta Joins Mets

According to SNY Senior VP of News Programming, Brad Como, the Mets have named Paul DePodesta the team’s new VP Player Development and Scouting.

Note that DePodesta assumes control of both sides of the player development apparatus, including both the acquisition and teaching of young players.

Love it.  More later.

—-

3:05 Apparently, Depodesta will be a Special Assistant to the GM and not a VP.  Per the Mets’ official twitter feed:

The Minor-League Flavor of the Managerial Search

I was going to skip the details of the Mets’ manager search, but Sandy Alderson seem to be talking to half the minor league managers in the system, which, as they say, is nice.

Set aside for a moment the qualifications of the internal candidates, some of which are quite strong, but meeting with Terry Collins, Ken Oberkfell, Tim Teufel and Wally Backman from the minor league side in addition to Bob Melvin and Chip Hale, is a shrewd piece of organizational politics.  If you’re keeping score at home, that’s the minor league Field Coordinator (Collins), AAA manager (Oberkfell), AA manager (Teufel), and short-season manager (Backman).
As Matt put it yesterday, it would be “disrespectful” not to meet with Oberkfell, who’s served as the team’s triple-A manager for six seasons now and has been with the Mets since 2001.  Now the minor league guys have a chance to sit down with the new boss, and in turn, Alderson will have a chance to get to know some of his minor league skippers better, or at least as well as an interview will allow.
I think the impact of managers is wildly overstated, but I’m still happy to see all of these guys get a look as Alderson does his due diligence and gets to know his own minor league staff better.

So, J.P. Ricciardi, huh?

Yesterday, the Mets announced that they hired J.P Ricciardi as a Special Assistant to GM Sandy Alderson.  It’s a reunion.  Ricciardi held the same post under Alderson in Oakland before becoming the Director of Player Personnel for Billy Beane and then later the GM of the Blue Jays in November 2001.

Ricciardi is one of Alderson’s guys.  He suggested to the media that he was leaning towards taking a job with Boston, until Alderson called him.  As quoted by Adam Rubin at ESPNNY, Ricciardi said of the Boston gig, “I was going to head that direction until Sandy got the job.”

Ricciardi lasted eight years with the Toronto Blue Jays when Rogers Communications owned the team.  The GM of the Blue Jays from the years 2001-2009 had to be one of the most toughest in sports because he was competing first with the Yankee Dynasty and then the mini Evil Empire Red Sox with a fraction of the budget.  Ricciardi did not have much success in the role.  However, he made his own life difficult with a string of bad contracts.

Something to like:
Ricciardi comes from a player development and scouting background.  Here’s his mini-bio from Wikipedia:

After the conclusion of his playing career, Ricciardi became a coach in the New York Yankees farm system in the early 1980s before joining the Oakland Athletics organization in 1986 as a minor league instructor and scout. By the early 1990s he had risen to the rank of East Coast Scouting Supervisor and later National Crosschecker. Ricciardi made his break into the front office in 1996, when he became special assistant to Athletics general manager Sandy Alderson. Under new general manager Billy Beane, who was hired in 1997 and had been Ricciardi’s former teammate with the Little Falls Mets,[2] his role became Director of Player Personnel.

Scary Things:
- Ricciardi gave out some terrible contracts in Toronto:

  • Alex Rios: 7 years, $69.835 million (with a $13.5 M club option in 2015 with a 1 M buyout)
    • Coming off consecutive All-Star appearances in 2006 and 2007, the team saved almost $3 M in 2008, in exchange for albatross payments of $12 M beginning in 2011.  Rios, a career .284/.334/.457 hitter, has never appeared in another All-Star game.  The Blue Jays simply put him on waivers in 2009.  I’m sure the White Sox, who claimed him, are stoked about the $50 million they owe him over the next four years for his age 30-33 seasons.
  • BJ Ryan – 5 years, $47 million
    • Ryan was tremendous in 2004 and 2005 in his age 28 and 29 seasons for Baltimore, so the Jays overpaid him in the winter of 2005.  He rewarded them with a dominant 2006 with a 1.37 ERA and 86 strikeouts in 72.1 innings.  Then his elbow fell apart.  He needed Tommy John surgery after five games in 2007.  He was solid in 2008 (2.95 ERA, 28 BB, 58 K in 58 IP) but terrible enough in 2009 to earn his release.  This time, no one rushed in to claim his contract, and the Jays were left paying him $10 million in 2010 to sit on the couch.
  • Vernon Wells – 7 years, $126 million
    • The worst contract in baseball?  Or does that insult Brian Sabean and Barry Zito?
    • That’s $23 mil in 2011, $21 mil in 2012, 13, and 2014 all for a guy who hit .273/.331/.515 this year with 31 homers, matching his age in 2010.  So, he’ll earn at least $21 mil in as a 32-35 year old.
  • AJ Burnett – 5 years, $55 million
    • The good news for Toronto was that Burnett opted out of this goofiness after 2008 to sign an even goofier 5 year/$82.5 million contract with the Yankees.
  • Lyle Overbay – 4 years, $24 million
    • Signed in January ’07 when Overbay was coming off a career year at .312/.372/.508 in his age 29 season.  It was the only time in his career his slugging percentage reached .500
  • Frank Thomas – 2 years, $18 million with a $10 million option for 2009
    • I love Frank Thomas.  I loved that he hit .270/.381/.545 for Oakland while earning $500K in 2006 at age 38.  I have no idea how committing $18 million to a player in his age 39 and 40 seasons, could have been construed as a good idea in the winter of 2006.  It wasn’t.  Thomas was released in the spring of 2008 so the Jays wouldn’t be tempted to play him and see his option, which was based on plate appearances vest.

Mets fans rightly were critical of Omar Minaya for the Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo contracts.  But Ricciardi’s record of overpayments is really amazin’.  Paying this much money for guys who were past their prime is really a spectacular misread of player value and the market.

The Lies
When you don’t tell the truth, it’s called lying.

  • Ricciardi initially told the media that B.J. Ryan was suffering from a back problem.  Instead, Ryan had an elbow problem that eventually needed Tommy John Surgery.  Busted, he dropped his infamous, “They’re not lies if we know the truth,” line that surely made George Orwell proud.
  • He ripped Adam Dunn for not liking baseball, and then claimed to apologize to Dunn, while Dunn claimed he’d never heard from Ricciardi.  Huh?
    • Here’s his quote about Dunn:

Do you know the guy doesn’t really like baseball that much? Do you know the guy doesn’t have a passion to play the game that much? How much do you know about the player? There’s a reason why you’re attracted to some players and there’s a reason why you’re not attracted to some players. I don’t think you’d be very happy if we brought Adam Dunn here …

Joe Posnanski wrote a great piece about Ricciardi last August.

There are parts of his record that are really scary.  On the other hand, now, Ricciardi won’t be running the show, just advising.

Maybe Ricciardi is better suited for whatever reason to be someone’s sidekick rather than the top guy.  Maybe this is the right situation for him as Alderson’s helper.  Maybe he’s learned from his big-budget mistakes.  Maybe now he’ll be honest with the media.
Maybe, maybe, maybe.

Sandy Alderson Quotes from his Introductory Press Conference

In response to Kevin Burkhardt about his First Steps as GM:

What’s really going to be important for me… is how we structure the front office… and the process by which we make decisions.  I think process is important.  It’s about probabilities… Our goal is to constantly improve the probability of success…

Manager

I do believe that a manager needs to reflect the philosophy of the organization…The manager is a very critical part of the overall leadership structure… I think a fiery manager is desirable.  I think it’s important for a manager to be somewhat analytical, and occasionally, if not often, intuitive.  We’re looking for someone that fits intellectual requirements and emotional ones.

Freedom

This situation is very similar to others where I’ve worked whether it’s with a club or MLB.  In some instances, I will make decisions, in some, I will make recommendations.  And that’s how it should be.  My goal is that every one of my recommendations is accepted. …

On his Philosophy

I think we want to be thoughtful about everything we do…

Many aspects of what you might call a Oak or SD philosophy, pertain.  The great franchises in big markets are very good at player development.  Things like on-base percentage, slugging and power are important.  The mathematics don’t lie.  Speed matters too.

(emphasis added)

In response to evaluating the system

A big plus is the fact that the system has started to produce players at the MLB level… If you think about teams and how they involve, home grown players are really important, not just from a financial … As far as the system is concerned right now, I think it’s probably middle of the pack.  We should never be in the middle of the pack.

Re: MLB roster

Eventually, we’d like to have some flexibility.

The fun part of the game is the game itself.

In response to Marty Noble’s question about how Alderson would get his information about past Mets teams:

I’m focused on 2011 primarily and not things that are historical in nature.

Alderson on his style:

  • Friendly but professional
  • Positive work environment
  • I like to be collaborative … I don’t care what level
  • Analytical but innovative… I like information
  • Bold but alert to risk and probabilities…
  • Humor … It’s gotta be fun

Short-term vs. Long-term goals

I by no means am looking beyond 2011.  Our job here is to put the best possible team on the field in 2011.  If we work at it, we should be competitive.  … There was a drop off based on injury and some underachievement.  I’m very optimistic about 2011.  At the same time, we need to begin to think about how we approach it on an intermediate and long-term basis.

Re: Free Agency

What I mean by that is setting up a situation where we could be aggressive every year.  We want to be in the market every year. Will we be in the market aggressively this year?  Unlikely.

(emphasis added)

These are just the highlights, from my perspective.    I love it, love it, love it.  When have you heard Mets people talking about on-base percentage?  When have you heard such honesty?

Some More Stuff to Like About Alderson

Two great things  from this morning’s Joel Sherman columns in the Post, both of which relate to Sandy Alderson player development.  First, in his column about Alderson’s search for a new manager:

According to several sources, he already has reached out to Paul DePodesta, whom he hired in San Diego, to help strengthen the Mets’ statistical department and J.P. Ricciardi, whom he worked with in Oakland, to assist on player personnel.

Bringing in smart people with a reputation for advanced statistical analysis.  Sign me up!

That’s cool.  This endorsement from Grady Fuson, who has worked with Alderson for years is even better:

“He’s very engaged,” Fuson said. “He’ll read every game report from the minors every night. He’ll know every prospect by name, height and birthday. He’ll know the top 50 guys in the draft. He’ll have his hands on everything and won’t be blindsided by anything.”

I have argued that one of the hallmarks of Omar Minaya’s years in charge, particularly with regards to the farm system was a very hands-off policy.  Alderson will bring a different kind of leadership.

By the way, Fuson is absolutely one of my favorite people I’ve met in baseball.  In 2004, in my first year doing the radio for the Stockton Ports, then a Rangers affiliate, he was kind enough to explain the game’s nuances at length and talk baseball and player development.