The Mets took an awful lot of flak for their draft, especially the fact that they only spent $1,864,300 over the first 10 rounds. Some of those criticisms are totally justified, others less so. I just wanted to offer some clarifications about the financial end of the draft:
The draft budget is almost entirely independent from the money spent on major league talent.
Over at Amazin’ Avenue, Eric Simon wrote the following:
The Mets are paying Cory Sullivan $600k this year; Tim Redding is making $2.25m; Alex Cora is making $2 million. You’ll forgive me if I don’t fall all over myself congratulating them for paying one player $400k over slot when half of that would have nabbed two other players.
Typical Mets BS.
Eric and I virtually never disagree, but we do here. I certainly understand the frustration Eric feels, but this is not typical Mets BS. This is typical Major League Baseball BS. No team thinks to itself, “Hey, if we just don’t spend x dollars on Mediocre Player Y, I can go hog wild in the draft and sign Prep Prospect Z.” If the Mets didn’t sign Tim Redding, they would have given that $2.5 million to another major leaguer, not spent it on Damien Magnifico.
Example: if the Red Sox didn’t have to pay Julio Lugo in 2009, instead acquiring Orlando Cabrera for $4 million before the season, does that mean the team would have spent an extra $5 million on the draft, going totally nuts? Or even $2 million? $1 million? No. The team would have held onto the money in case they needed it to add salary in-season, and if they didn’t, hey, Christmas came early. Money saved in one area just doesn’t get added to another.
Now, it would certainly be logical if teams thought this way. But logic has never been teams’ strong suit, and there’s PR to think of. It doesn’t sound good when you tell the media you’re skimping on the major league roster to sign a bunch of nobodies who might help you out years down the road. Just looks bad. Draft budgets are determined by several factors, including how many picks an organization has, resources at hand, the types of prospects they figure on taking, and the internal value they place on the draft.
The Mets certainly handed out a stupid contract to Cory Sullivan—I maintain that Tim Redding was defensible at the time, as was Alex Cora—and they certainly don’t spend enough money on the draft. But the two aren’t that intertwined.
Some guys just aren’t worth paying the price they want.
Some people approach the draft like the team should go a perfect 50-for-50 in signing players. No team does. Teams will often draft guys in the draft’s later rounds they strongly believe they can’t sign. Why? For one, sometimes miracles happen, kids change their minds, or they come in for private workouts and teams change their evaluations of that player and up the offer. But the biggest reason for that is this: not getting a 39th round draft pick is no biggie. If you draft safely, what will you find? A kid who wasn’t the fourth best player on his college team? The opportunity costs are low enough to make it worth taking a flier on a kid and hoping for the best.
Teams routinely do this. Look at the AL East. The Orioles only signed four guys after their 30th pick. The Red Sox, who signed fewer players than the Mets, signed four of 20. The Yankees, big spenders, signed six. The Rays signed 10, every single one of them a low-impact college player. The Blue Jays signed seven guys, all college players. The Mets signed 10, nine of them collegiate types.
Some were upset the Mets didn’t sign guys like Ryan Gunhouse, Bobby Rinard, and Mitch Haniger. Gunhouse has power but poor contact skills and no approach at the plate. His catching skills are raw. Rinard and Haniger are athletes before baseball players. All three are going to good baseball programs. In three years, they could be elite baseball prospects. Or they could be total disasters at the plate, killing their prospect status. As such, their value to teams is dwarfed by the money they stand to make after a college career, especially at top programs.
Furthermore, it’s a good idea not to sign everyone. If you did set out to sign every player you selected—that is, committing yourself to sign every player no matter the cost—two things would happen. One, players would start asking for more, recognizing you as an easy mark whose threats have no teeth. And, two, costs would spiral out of control, turning baseball’s most cost-effective solution into one decidedly less so.
The Mets’ problem wasn’t who they didn’t sign, it was who they drafted.
The problem with the Mets’ draft wasn’t that they failed to sign Damien Magnifico and David Buchanan—it was that they were stupid enough to draft them in the first place. In his draft chat yesterday, Law was asked whether Magnifico was any “great loss.” Here’s how he replied:
He needed to go to college. Not a fan of that pick (5th round) – too high for someone so raw.
These were my feelings exactly. Magnifico was someone more in the class of Gunhouse, Rinard, and Haniger—guys so raw and unpredictable that it’s difficult justifying spending premium money on them. He’d have been fine as a mid- or late-round pick. Not a fifth when you don’t have a first.
As for Buchanan, I have no idea what he was asking, so I can only speak generally. I took him in my shadow draft because I liked his upside and figured the Mets wouldn’t have taken him if they didn’t think they had a good chance at signing him. Apparently the Mets haven’t learned that lesson yet.
It almost seemed like the Mets resolved to spend money, but drafted two guys who didn’t really warrant anything near the bonuses they were demanding. If you’re going to draft a guy like Magnifico, why not go all out and draft, say, Madison Younginer, a much greater talent. I wasn’t Younginer’s biggest fan, but if you’re going to draft a raw arm with bonus demands, why not draft the more talented one?
While money may help, you can run a successful draft without spending a ton.
Too bad the Mets couldn’t do that. I assumed the Mets weren’t going to be big spenders in this year’s draft. I felt my shadow draft last year, while not totally unrealistic, took more high-cost players than it reasonably should have, given the Mets’ tendencies. So this year, I kept an eye on costs.
And you know what? My shadow draft blows the Mets’ real one out of the water while barely outspending it.
Rd Alex Mets
2 Alex Wilson Steven Matz
3 Robbie Shields Robbie Shields
4 Jeremy Hazelbaker Darrell Ceciliani
5 Jeff Malm Damien Magnifico
6 David Buchanan David Buchanan
7 Rob Gilliam Darin Gorski
8 Brock Holt Taylor Freeman
9 Jake Cowan Jeff Glenn
10 Nick Santomauro Nick Santomauro
I spent less than $300,000 more than the Mets, and I got to keep an extra player (Malm signed for a pretty reasonable $680,000). Teams were going hard after high school arms the whole draft—which makes sense; it was the only real strength in this year’s draft—but mostly ignoring the college class, which had almost no value at the top, but did offer some intriguing opportunities in later rounds. I feel Wilson, Malm, and Cowan are fantastic value picks.
(If I had drafted the way I wanted, my draft would look very similar to the Red Sox’: Wilson with the second, David Renfroe with the third, Hazelbaker at four, Malm at five, maybe Dean Weaver at six and Ryan Buch at seven (though I would’ve been tempted by Brooks Raley or Colton Cain with one of those two picks), Holt at eight, Cowan at nine.)