NEW YORK (AP) — The new-look Mets are playing more moneyball.

General manager Sandy Alderson added an old friend from Oakland to his front office Tuesday, hiring J.P. Ricciardi as a special assistant in New York.

Ricciardi was GM of the Toronto Blue Jays from 2001-09 before spending last season as a baseball analyst with ESPN. He worked for the Oakland Athletics from 1986-2001, including 12 years when Alderson was the club’s general manager.

During that time, Alderson played a pivotal role in implementing a philosophy focused on probability and modern statistical analysis in Oakland, where protege Billy Beane became the subject of the best-selling book “Moneyball.”

Alderson outlined some of those ideas Friday while talking about his plans for the Mets after he was introduced as general manager. He said Tuesday he spent much of the weekend visiting with Ricciardi and his wife in New England, recruiting him to join the New York staff.

“We’re fortunate to have him,” Alderson said on a conference call. “He’s going to be invaluable in connection to a lot of things that we do.”

The 51-year-old Ricciardi said that since he was let go by Toronto, he had a standing offer from Boston GM Theo Epstein to join the Red Sox front office.

Ricciardi said he chose instead to spend more time with his family this year, but is looking forward to the challenge of helping the Mets ascend to perennial contenders, which the Red Sox already are.

Despite a hefty payroll, New York has missed the playoffs each of the past four years. General manager Omar Minaya and manager Jerry Manuel were fired last month following the club’s second consecutive losing season.

“I’m really confident that we can get the Mets going in the right direction,” Ricciardi said. “I’ve never had the luxury of working with an organization that had resources like this.”

Ricciardi, who played minor league ball in the Mets’ system from 1980-81, will assist Alderson with scouting, player development and other key tasks in the baseball operations department.

“I couldn’t be more excited about being reunited with Sandy,” Ricciardi said. “We enjoyed tremendous success together in Oakland and it’s my goal to help duplicate that here with the Mets. As a former Met farmhand, it’s a double homecoming for me.”

Alderson said Ricciardi is a “superb talent evaluator” who brings “a wealth of knowledge and a breadth of experience.”

“I think at this stage in your life you want to work with people that you’re comfortable with,” Ricciardi said.

Alderson said he’s still talking with other potential additions to the front office, but Ricciardi could end up being the only one.

Alderson also said the club has already spoken to several managerial candidates within the organization and expects interviews will begin this week. Bob Melvin, Chip Hale and Wally Backman could be on that list, but Alderson wouldn’t mention any names.

New York has yet to receive permission to speak with any external candidates but those interviews could start next week, Alderson said.

Most of the team’s coaches from last season will have to wait until the managerial search is finished before their Mets future is addressed, the GM said.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

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