Mets could regret not making run at Giants’ new top executive
CARLSBAD, Calif. — Late Wednesday night, not so much “fashionably late” as “it might not have been worth coming at all,” new Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi arrived at the general managers’ meetings. The former Dodgers GM had just been introduced at a news conference hours earlier at AT&T Park.
Nevertheless, Zaidi’s presence here reverberated, symbolically, all the way to Flushing:
The Mets just fell into second place this winter. More to the point, the heat turned up on them and their new general manager, Brodie Van Wagenen.
Maybe Zaidi, who earned a graduate degree at Cal-Berkeley and grew up in the A’s organization, would’ve told the Mets, “Thanks but no thanks,” if they had inquired about his interest in their GM opening. We’ll never know because, according to multiple industry sources, the Mets never asked the Dodgers for permission to do so.
Why not? The Mets declined comment on the matter. Yet it reflects poorly on their process that they didn’t even engage a candidate who checked an impressive number of boxes:
- He worked as the general manager — second in command to Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman — for a club that won four straight National League West titles and two straight NL pennants on his watch.
- While the Dodgers spent considerably more than the Mets during that span, Friedman and Zaidi nevertheless cut the team’s payroll significantly and stayed successful thanks to under-the-radar acquisitions such as Brandon Morrow, Max Muncy, Chris Taylor and … wait for it … Justin Turner.
- With the A’s and 2018 Major League Baseball Executive of the Year Billy Beane, Zaidi helped put together three straight playoff clubs — on very low payrolls — from 2012 through 2014.
- Zaidi received plenty of media reps with the big-market Dodgers, as he often spoke on behalf of the organization.
- For those in favor of enhancing the game’s diversity, Zaidi, a Muslim, was born in Canada to parents of Pakistani lineage and grew up in the Philippines.
If the Mets get points for boldness in hiring Van Wagenen, they lose them back for thoroughness concerning Zaidi.
On Thursday, as executives dispersed upon the conclusion of the meetings, I asked Van Wagenen, who described himself in last week’s introductory news conference as “not the path of least resistance,” if he appreciated the extra spotlight that would shine on him because of his unorthodox journey to the job.
“I don’t necessarily look at it as a spotlight on my actions, but I do recognize that it was a bold choice,” Van Wagenen said. “And from my seat, I view that as one of the most compelling parts of this job is that they seem to be willing to look outside the box. They seem to be willing to explore creative solutions to the club, both the short term and the long term.
“If someone is confident enough to make a move that is perceived as extraordinary and out of the norm, then that’s a group that is also willing to be progressive in terms of how we view the roster. I viewed it as very much a compliment and it gave me confidence that these could be very exciting times for the organization going forward.”
Maybe Van Wagenen can turn his words into reality and solve his new bosses, his biggest challenge. In this first real week on the job, Van Wagenen left a mostly positive impression on folks, commanding the room and emitting high energy in meetings with agents and other teams. Baseball is all about probabilities, though. Wouldn’t you like your chances better with someone who has been there and done that? Wouldn’t you at least take a shot at such a person?
Zaidi would’ve represented an in-the-box hire with an out-of-the-box approach that has led to undisputed success. And if the Orioles, the lone team left with a front-office void, hire former Red Sox GM Ben Cherington, who passed on a formal interview with the Mets? That would drop the Mets to third place.
Van Wagenen and the Mets kicked off these meetings with plenty of pressure on them already. After Zaidi’s hiring by the Giants? They face even more.
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