Mets’ front-office search is starting to heat up

Sandy Alderson’s return to the Mets as team president officially began Friday, but he also had a six-week head start to formulate plans for a new front office.

That suggests a short turnaround as he implements his plan for a president of baseball operations and general manager to thrust the Mets into an offseason that could include free-agent pursuits such as Trevor Bauer, J.T. Realmuto and George Springer. A club source half-jokingly suggested the front-office hires could happen faster than it took the United States to elect a new president.

Alderson’s first act in his new role was to announce the departures of GM Brodie Van Wagenen and assistants Allard Baird and Adam Guttridge, along with director of player development Jared Banner and special assistant Omar Minaya.

If a winning pedigree is a necessary criterion for Alderson’s new hires, there might not be a better starting place than Cleveland’s front office, which features a pair of highly regarded executives: Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff.

Under Antonetti’s front-office leadership, the Indians have reached the postseason five times, and they came within a victory in 2016 of ending a franchise World Series title drought that dates to 1948.

Chernoff, who carries the GM title with the Indians, was considered when the Mets’ job opened following the 2018 season, but declined to interview with the club. Chernoff, whose father, Mark, is a longtime programming executive with WFAN, could find the job more appealing with new owner Steve Cohen’s deep pockets in play.

The 64-year-old Cohen completed his purchase of the club on Friday, and with an estimated net worth of $14 billion is by far MLB’s wealthiest owner.

After initial indications that the Rays’ Bobby Heck was in play for the top position, an industry source on Saturday indicated he likely won’t be the Mets’ choice. It’s unclear if Heck is a possibility to assume another role within the Mets’ new front office

The 54-year-old Heck has spent the past eight seasons as a special assistant with the Rays, contributing to a front office that is perennially considered among baseball’s best and brightest.

Heck previously served as scouting director with the Astros, overseeing drafts that netted Springer, Carlos Correa and J.D. Martinez, among others.

A bigger fish would be Rays GM Erik Neander, the architect of the team that lost to the Dodgers in the World Series. But there are questions regarding whether Rays owner Stu Sternberg would allow Cohen (of whom he isn’t particularly fond, according to a source) to poach Neander.

Other names that could gain traction include Athletics assistant GM Billy Owens, Diamondbacks assistant GM Amiel Sawdaye, Royals assistant GM Scott Sharp and J.P. Ricciardi, who has twice worked Alderson. Another potential candidate is John Ricco, who served as the interim GM following Alderson’s departure in 2018.

Friday’s purge wasn’t unexpected to many in the Mets’ organization, given that Van Wagenen, Baird, Guttridge and Banner were all imported following Alderson’s resignation as GM in 2018. The toughest call for Alderson might have been Minaya, a former Mets GM who returned after the 2016 season to help bolster the organization’s international scouting. But Minaya’s hiring was forced upon Alderson by the Wilpons, a mark against him during the regime change.

For those who survived the purge, there is a sense of relief that Alderson, who served as the team’s GM for 7 ½ seasons, has returned to oversee the organization.

“Of all the people I have been around, I don’t respect any more than Sandy,” one team official said. “He’s just that type of person.”

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