A Mets person noted the other day that a “hot name” in the Mets’ GM search is Indians GM Mike Chernoff. But apparently there’s a distance between “hot name,” and an actual interview.
If the Mets could somehow land Chernoff, who’s been part of the Indians’ recent success story, that would be a coup. But at this point, there would seem to be more complications than certainty to that story.
It isn’t known if there’s a holdup, or if there is, whether that’s because the Indians aren’t certain to grant approval for the interview, or whether Chernoff hasn’t decided whether he’d come. They could possibly offer a president's title, as the Mets currently have no president, but it remains to be seen whether they'd do that. While he’s from New Jersey, he is said to love his current job and the people he works with; another side issue is that his father Mark Chernoff runs the top sports station in the city, WFAN, which can be tough on the city’s baseball decision makers (disclaimer: I have a small role at the station.)
If Chernoff turns ultimately down the Mets, he wouldn’t be unique in that call. Likewise, the Mets aren’t unique in having been turned down by a few GM candidates; the Giants, seen in some places as having one of the most desirable GM jobs available in the game and more desirable a job than the Mets, are said to be somewhat frustrated by their own spate of turndowns.
But in the case of the Mets, it’s also fair to wonder whether the job description may be affecting the perceived desirability of the job. Some who have spoken to potential candidates suggest the impression they’ve gotten is that the new GM won’t necessarily have full GM duties, at least not in the traditional sense, and that would be a deterrent for anyone established, like Chernoff or others. (Mets people deny this.)
Word is, Mets people are telling candidates the new GM will be in charge of the 40-man roster and the big-league team but that player development will fall under the purview of one or more of the trio of accomplished interim GM holdovers, likely Omar Minaya, the former and one-third interim GM who at present has the most say with team owner Fred Wilpon (he has “Svengali like” influence with the elder Wilpon at the moment, one person said) and spent the summer flying on the owners plane to see all their current organizational players. (Mets people deny this, saying the GM will have control over player development as well as the 40-man roster.)
Minaya did a much better job than credited for when he was let go as GM, and much of the top talent was procured during his regime, as often pointed out during the Mets’ run to the World Series in 2015, with Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz and others all drafted while Minaya was in charge. However, the seeming new set-up could be seen as a positive, or perhaps a negative, by prospective candidates, depending on their own areas of interest or strength. (Again, the Mets deny that this is the case, or that it is in issue.)
None of the candidates who are known to have dropped out, declined the
Mets’ overtures or otherwise won’t be taking it — who now include at
least Ben Cherington, Thad Levine and apparently Josh Byrnes — has
publicly said why they are no longer a candidate, and it’s possible that
some may have done so for geographic reasons or a general contentment
with their current jobs (Levine, for instance, just got the Twins GM job
two years ago, and doesn’t mind being the No. 2 baseball person, as he
is there under Derek Falvey).
Cherington, who only said positive things about the Mets and the process when contacted, reasonably wouldn’t fit the apparent job description, if it's true that the Mets plan to split duties (and they do have three holdover interim GMs, who are all accomplished in their own right, and would need something to do. Anyway, Cherington's greatest strength while Red Sox GM was in the draft and development of young players; that strength is one of the reasons the Red Sox had a 108-win season this year, as Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Andrew Benintendi all were drafted in the Cherington era.
Cherington, who also showed an ability to sign cost-efficient free agents when he signed seven such players who contributed to the Red Sox’s 2013 World Series title, including Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino and others, had first been recommended for a Mets job by Sandy Alderson before Minaya was hired instead.
He is a loss in this process, and someone most figured would have interest, as he lives in a northern suburb of New York and presumably would be interested in a GM job. Byrnes, who was part of an earlier championship in Boston, is thought not to be a candidate for the Mets due to the timing. Byrnes, who finished second when Sandy Alderson was hired eight years ago, has twice been a GM and is close to Minaya (he hired Minaya with the Padres), is thought very comfortable in his current Dodgers job at the moment.
As for those actually in play, Ex-Brewers GM Doug Melvin, current Nats exec DeJon Watson, MLB exec Kim Ng, Rays executive Chaim Bloom (as reported by Mike Puma of the New York Post) and Cardinals exec Gary Larocque are the five known to be due in for interviews as the initial round got underway this week. There may be several more under consideration, though one thing the Mets have done well is keep secret some names.
Judging by the known names, the Mets either have an excellent cross-section of people, or are all over the map, depending on one’s perspective. It’s been well documented in this space that Fred Wilpon much prefers someone from the old-time scouting mold while COO Jeff Wilpon prefers more of a blend of scouting and analytics. The younger Wilpon and interim GM John Ricco are handling the first round of interviews, but ultimately Fred makes many of the calls.
Melvin did a fine job building the Rangers and Brewers organizations and
was known as an adept trader (the deal to get Josh Hader and three
others for Mike Fiers and Carlos Gomez was a home run), and he is
receptive to analytics but his age – he’s 66, the same as ex-GM Sandy
Alderson – could be seen as an impediment, assuming he wants the job.
Ng is respected exec who’s had many GM interviews. Watson has held a variety of roles with many successful teams, and the analytically savvy, 30-something Bloom gets accolades for being part of a Rays operation that won on a shoestring this year, which should appeal to the Mets.
Larocque is a former Mets exec who fits the older scouting genre favored by Fred Wilpon, but his real connection is relationship with Sandy Koufax from his Dodgers days; to Fred Wilpon, Koufax is not only his Lafayette High teammate and one of the greatest pitchers of alltime but a guru.
They are also said to have “outside the box” candidates such as prominent agent Casey Close, though it’s hard to imagine him taking the pay cut.
So you can see the candidates run the gamut in their interests and ages. They are hoping to have a GM before the GM meetings in early November.
Jon Heyman is Fancred's baseball insider. He publishes his weekly Inside Baseball column each Thursday on the App and FancredSports.com. You can download the App here and interact with Jon by following him right here.