Mets’ latest hires bolster scouting, player development efforts

The front office of New York Mets president of baseball operations David Stearns has begun to take shape with two more prominent additions in a couple of areas intimately tied to owner Steve Cohen’s vision of consistent success.

The Mets are hiring longtime Houston Astros scouting director Kris Gross to oversee their amateur scouting department, league sources to The Athletic on Saturday morning.

Additionally, the Mets are adding Andy Green, formerly the Cubs’ bench coach, as a senior executive running player development, league sources said.

Gross’ exact title with the Mets is unknown, but a person with knowledge of the move said he would be a vice president — a promotion from his job as the Astros’ director of amateur scouting. Gross attended a news conference on Monday to announce Joe Espada as the Astros’ new manager.

Stearns worked with Gross in Houston from 2013-15. Green reportedly interviewed for the Mets’ managerial opening before New York hired Carlos Mendoza.

Gross spent 11 seasons in the Astros organization and oversaw its last five amateur drafts. Houston did not have a first or second-round pick in two of them, part of its punishment for electronically stealing signs at Minute Maid Park in 2017 and 2018.

Gross joined the team’s scouting staff in 2012. The Astros have since drafted and signed a major-league high 64 players who appeared in the big leagues either with Houston or another club.

Gross oversaw the first-round selection of catcher Korey Lee in 2019 and outfielder Drew Gilbert in 2022, both of whom were traded away at the Aug. 1 deadline.

Gilbert and another Gross draftee — high school outfielder Ryan Clifford — went to the Mets in a blockbuster deal that brought Justin Verlander back to Houston. General manager Dana Brown shipped Lee to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for reliever Kendall Graveman.

Though Gross ran the draft in July, Brown had a far heavier influence than his two predecessors.

Brown, the former vice president of scouting with the Atlanta Braves who also ran drafts for the Montreal Expos and Washington Nationals, did not hide how involved he planned to be in the Astros’ draft process. Brown said he took 18 in-person scouting trips before the draft in preparation for Houston’s first pick at No 28. The team selected Nebraska shortstop Brice Matthews.

“I told (Gross) when I first came in, don’t feel that I’m looking to replace you,” Brown said before the draft. “The Astros have done a good job and we’re going to do what we do with everyone else — just evaluate you. Don’t be nervous about your job, just go get it, get it done.”

By all accounts, Brown and Gross developed a good working relationship, shared ideas and delivered a good blend of by-the-gut scouting and analytical viewpoints for which the Astros have been long renowned.

“The level of detail he puts into the little things as far as how they warm up, how they interact with teammates, I think we’ve been able to learn from each other and in that aspect,” Gross said before the draft. “We’ve always had it very important in our process, but I think getting an extra source here and there, making sure we’re thorough with everything we do and really try to focus on their background, where they come (from), (whether) they’ve played other sports. Just how he weighs some of that stuff has been an interesting thing.”

In theory, Gross’ presence and history with the draft should help the Mets, who have done well in the amateur space over the last few years. In recent years, New York drafted well under Marc Tramuta, Tommy Tanous and Drew Toussaint. While Tanous and Toussaint remain with the Mets, Tramuta recently left the organization for a job with the Toronto Blue Jays. At the beginning of this year, the Mets promoted Toussaint to director of amateur scouting. Presumably, Toussaint would report to Gross.

Meanwhile, Tanous, a longtime fixture in Mets’ front offices, seems in line for a move into a large advisory role as a lead evaluator, a person familiar with the club’s thinking said.

The Mets’ amateur scouting group — including Tanous, Toussaint and crosscheckers — carry strong reputations in the scouting industry and have survived a string of leadership changes within the front office. It will be imperative for the Mets to further establish some stability while also improving the collaboration process between scouting and player development. The best organizations feature information sharing between player development and scouting to address needs and/or solidify strengths.

The hires of Gross and Green should help in that direction of getting better aligned. Many in the industry suggest Green would be a great fit for the new role with the Mets. Green, who also served as the San Diego Padres manager, has a history from his days in the minor leagues — he was twice named Double-A manager of the year — of developing good defensive infielders. Prior to joining the Padres, the former major-league infielder served as the Arizona Diamondbacks’ third base coach.

For Stearns and the Mets, the hirings are the second and third public additions to the front office. A couple of weeks ago, The Athletic reported that New York had hired Eduardo Brizuela as a VP/special assistant to Stearns. Brizuela spent 16 years with the Brewers, working his way up to vice president. He has experience in international scouting, minor-league operations and player acquisition. In the World Baseball Classic, he served as Venezuela’s assistant general manager.

Whereas the Brewers didn’t have a lot of success under Stearns’ run in the amateur draft — another reason the hiring of Gross stands out as important — they have done well in recent years within the international space, and some of the credit for that should go to Brizuela.

“He’s phenomenal, such a great connector of people,” Brewers GM Matt Arnold during the GM meetings earlier this month. “I have nothing but praise for him. He’s wonderful. He’s a great, great evaluator. He’s a great guy in player development. He’s got a chance to be a future general manager.”

Others say the same thing about Gross, Tanous and Green. Stearns has built a reputation for making sound hires and putting the right people to lead specific areas. That was part of what made his run with the Brewers chug along. The Mets hope things work out even better for them.

(Photo of Andy Green: Darren Yamashita/USA Today)

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