Wilpon: Mets' fortunes are steadily improving
Club COO sits down with MLB.com to address the state of the franchise
As the nation celebrates Presidents Day on Monday, MLB.com took time to interview the presidents or high-ranking cabinet members of all 30 Major League clubs. Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon spoke on behalf of his team:
MLB.com: This is a Mets club that has not seriously competed for a playoff spot in six years, but that has a strong farm system and signed several big league free agents this winter. What's your take on the current state of the Mets?
Jeff Wilpon: I think we're in a better state than we've been, and we're ready to move forward with the plan that [general manager] Sandy [Alderson] put in place three years ago. This is going into the fourth season of his plan, and we're primed to take advantage of that.
MLB.com: Was this the year that you and the front office pointed to all along for a return to competitiveness?
Wilpon: We try to be competitive each of the years we go out on the field. I don't think any player would ever tell you they don't try to be competitive. But because of some of the expiring contracts and some of that freedom, just by virtue of this being the year all that was going to happen, you hoped this would also be the year some of our young talent would come into its own.
MLB.com: What is this team's greatest strength?
Wilpon: I think the depth of our pitching -- just the number of quality arms that we have not only in camp, but down in the Minor Leagues as well that weren't invited to camp. We feel really good about the depth of our pitching.
MLB.com: Biggest weakness?
Wilpon: I don't think we have enough position-player prospects that are ready to compete for jobs at the Major League level right now. We'd like to have more, like we have with the pitchers. We'd like to have that same stable of young guys competing for position player jobs. The guys we have are a couple years away.
MLB.com: How would you grade Sandy Alderson's first three years as general manager?
Wilpon: I think he's put the plan in place, and we're ready to see the fruits of that labor now.
MLB.com: How about manager Terry Collins?
Wilpon: We extended Terry's contract, so we're very happy with him -- with his energy and his relationships with the players and making guys get better, which is always a good thing. There have been a bunch of guys Sandy's brought in on Minor League contracts and put them out there, and they've performed. You can go through a pretty long list the last couple years, and not only do Sandy and his staff get credit, but Terry and his staff get credit for making them really usable pieces. Some of them we've traded and gotten back fruit from those trades as well.
MLB.com: What is your response to fans who wished you had done one or two more things this winter, such as sign free agent shortstop Stephen Drew?
Wilpon: If those one or two things were there, we would have expanded the budget for them. Just to get a guy because the fans think that's the right thing to do, that's not part of the plan. Sandy's not going to overspend for something he doesn't see value in. The value that we see in those guys versus what their agents were asking for does not meet.
MLB.com: There's a perception out there that your payroll is well below what a big-market team should spend.
Wilpon: I would point to the fact that you don't have to have that kind of payroll to win.
MLB.com: Did you give Sandy the green light to increase payroll this winter if he wanted to?
Wilpon: Yeah, we talked about it all along. There's always a conversation on it. It's not something that Sandy can just go out and do whatever he wants, but yes we've had multiple conversations, and we've had the ability to go after some guys that I don't think anybody knew we were going after. They didn't all hit, but we did try, and those all would have expanded the payroll above where we are now.
MLB.com: Did any banks ever prevent you from spending freely on your payroll?
Wilpon: No. The bank has never mandated that we can't do something.
MLB.com: Knowing David Wright for as long as you have, how much would you like to see him win a World Series while he's still in his prime and able to contribute heavily to the team?
Wilpon: I think it's important for both of us -- for the franchise, as well as for him personally to do that. That's what the plan is. I think David would tell you this, too: it's not about him as a person. It's about him as a member of the team. David has always played for the front of the jersey, not the back. Obviously the team wants to win, and we want to bring a championship back to New York, and he very much wants to be the face of that. That's exactly what we'd like to do.
MLB.com: How difficult has it been for you and ownership to go through the past half-decade without winning nearly as much as you'd like?
Wilpon: We've all hoped to do better, but as I think I've explained in the past, hope isn't a good business plan. Hope hasn't gone as far as we've liked, but I think we have more certainties this year than we've had in the past, so there are fewer things to hope on. But any team that goes out there hopes for a good season, hopes to stay healthy and hopes some of the young kids can contribute. We're in the same position.
MLB.com: Are the playoffs realistic this year, or are the Mets still building?
Wilpon: We played .500 ball over our last 100 games of last season. If we can do that for the first 100 games of this year instead of the last 100 games, we'll be in a good spot. So I'd like to see us get to that same spot, if not better.