Part of the Mets’ message when they hired Brodie Van Wagenen as their general manager last month was that they wanted to beef up the front office around him. The analytics and player development staffs were among the areas highlighted for improvement.
The Mets have kept their word.
This week, the team hired Adam Guttridge and Allard Baird as assistant general managers under Van Wagenen to help oversee those two areas.
Guttridge, 33, who helped found a company called Neifi (Normalized Empirical Individual Forecasting Index) that developed analytical models and consulted with major league teams, will be in charge of what the Mets call systematic development. After having worked for the Milwaukee Brewers and Colorado Rockies, Guttridge now will help build more of those analytical models throughout the Mets organization.
Baird, 57, was lured away from the Boston Red Sox, fresh off their World Series title, to be the Mets’ vice president and assistant general manager for scouting and player development. Baird will be based in New York and will have a hand in the Mets’ scouting in the United States and internationally, as well as in the minor leagues.
“I’m going to be all over the map, but I’ve told Brodie not to be afraid to call an audible and make an adjustment on me,” Baird said in a conference call with reporters on Thursday afternoon. “I’m here to be part of something special.”
Baird, a respected executive who was part of three World Series championships in Boston, adds expertise to a front office that now has four executives with experience as major league general managers. That will help Van Wagenen, who had never worked in a front office, in his transition from his former job as an agent.
Baird was the Kansas City Royals’ general manager from 2000 to 2006 before spending 12 years with the Red Sox, most recently as the team’s senior vice president for player personnel.
Omar Minaya, now a Mets special assistant, was the team’s general manager before Sandy Alderson, who was replaced by Van Wagenen. Ruben Amaro Jr., a former Philadelphia Phillies general manager who was the Mets’ first-base coach last season, moved to a front-office adviser role this winter.
John Ricco, the Mets’ longtime assistant general manager, has served as interim general manager twice during transition periods, including the second half of last season when he led the team with J. P. Ricciardi and Minaya after Alderson stepped down. Van Wagenen and Ricco have been vague about Ricco’s future beyond saying that he remains with the team now. Ricciardi, a special assistant hired when Alderson was in charge, left the Mets this month.
Baird said he was puzzled when the Mets made the unorthodox choice of Van Wagenen as their new leader in October. He said he knew that Van Wagenen was a good communicator, had good relationships with players and understood the intricacies of the sport from his time as an agent. But once he spoke to Van Wagenen about the possibility of joining the Mets, including one conversation on Thanksgiving Day, Baird was sold.
“The leadership and the vision that Brodie has for the organization as a whole really played into this,” Baird said, adding, “I felt I could be a good resource for him.”
Baird said the Mets, who want to contend for the playoffs next season after a disappointing 2018, have strong starting pitching but holes to patch on offense and defense and in the bullpen. He called Van Wagenen a “very aggressive and creative thinker” in how he would address those needs.
Baird spoke as trade rumors swirled about the Mets’ interest in two Seattle Mariners: second baseman Robinson Cano and the All-Star closer Edwin Diaz. Adding both would be a difficult trade to pull off: Although the Mariners are rebuilding, Cano, 36, is owed $120 million over five years, has a no-trade clause and is coming off a season in which he played only 80 games because of a fractured hand and a suspension related to a positive test for a banned substance. (As an agent, Van Wagenen helped negotiate Cano’s current contract.)
Baird’s skills might be needed most elsewhere. The Mets brought back Minaya last December partly to bolster their efforts in signing international amateur talent, and Baird now will aid in that effort. Continuing to improve the team’s minor league system will also be a part of Baird’s duties.
Entering last season, Baseball America ranked the Mets’ minor leagues 27th out of baseball’s 30 teams. Team officials, including the principal owner Fred Wilpon, were frustrated with the development of prospects. But after more talent was injected through last summer’s draft and as younger prospects took steps forward, the ranking of the Mets’ system jumped to No. 19 by August.
In only two days on the job, Baird said one area to strengthen was an emphasis on teaching, such as helping players better understand and use all the data available to them in the modern game.
Guttridge will be asked to provide even more of that data: He has been asked to help improve a Mets analytics group that had only three full-time employees last season, which was among the smallest staffs of its kind in baseball. Alderson, one of baseball’s early adopters of analytics, had wanted to hire more near the end of his tenure but was blocked from doing so; instead, he filled out the group by hiring more interns.
Jeff Wilpon, the Mets’ chief operating officer and part of the family that owns the team, said in September that the reluctance to invest in the team’s lean analytics staff had been a recommendation of the previous regime.