By Ernie Palladino
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The Wilpons gave Sandy Alderson a pretty good Christmas gift the other day when they brought Omar Minaya back into the fold as his special assistant.
The 59-year-old was recruited to replace, but to restock.
They had already extended Alderson, so bringing back the former GM, who guided the Mets’ front office from 2004-10, certainly didn’t endanger the current executive’s standing. And, truth be told, ownership would be crazy to jeopardize Alderson’s place with the Mets simply because no other GM in his right mind would put up for long with the Wilpons’ endless demands to cut payroll, cut payroll, cut payroll.
As good a soldier as there has ever been, Alderson is reportedly working under a mandate to cut last year’s number by some $20 million. And the $159 million wasn’t so great to begin with, as the Mets ranked 12th in the league. They couldn’t begin to think about getting Giancarlo Stanton. They haven’t signed a top-notch reliever, unless one considers Anthony Swarzak some sort of savior.
But that’s Alderson’s problem. As special assistant to the GM, Minaya will have one main job. He has to help refill a destitute minor league system.
It makes sense. If the Wilpons aren’t going to open the pocketbook for Alderson, then they might as well get him some decent prospects that will help him engineer future trades.
Minaya is a wiz at that.
It’s worth it to recall that Minaya was indirectly responsible for that World Series run in 2015.
Daniel Murphy, whose power sent the Mets on a magical playoff run, came in the 13th round of the 2006 draft.
Jeurys Familia, eventually to become the franchise’s all-time save leader, came in 2007, as did multi-positional starter Wilmer Flores.
And Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom arrived in the system as part of the 2010 draft. Though injuries and attitude have left Harvey a far different pitcher today, no one can take away his outstanding work from 2012-15. And there’s no denying deGrom’s steady performance since his big-league arrival two years after Harvey got there.
Obviously, Minaya knows young talent. The more advanced minds around major league front offices have long acknowledged as much. And since the Mets expended all of theirs when they brought up Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith last year, even Alderson had to admit the system has taken on a threadbare look.
That’s not conducive to trading for veteran talent. Nor does it help when injuries and underachievement threaten the roster.
The best thing about this from Minaya’s end is that he’ll work behind the scenes. The responsibility for whatever moves happen still fall squarely on Alderson’s shoulders. The task of managing the ever-shrinking budget still rests with the GM.
Minaya becomes an astute scout and advisor, a guy who scouts nationally and internationally for young talent that can make an impact two, three years down the road in a relatively pressure-free environment.
He gets to bring in the chips Alderson needs as a buy-in to the big poker game of the offseason.
Aside from opening the wallet for Yoenis Cespedes after 2015, the Wilpons have done Alderson few favors. Bringing back Minaya may eventually go down as their biggest.
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