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August 19, 2009
  
Draft Clarifications
by: Alex Nelson on Aug 19, 2009 8:53 AM | Filed under: Articles

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
------------------------------------------
    2,146,400           1,864,300

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.)


19 Responses to “Draft Clarifications”

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  1. Comment posted by Lunkwill Fook on August 19, 2009 at 9:19 am (#1061895)

    I generally agree. I don’t care how much money the Mets spent. I cared that they signed the guys that were really worth signing, like Matz. The amateur draft is such an amazing crapshoot to begin with. How about we look at this at another angle? Every million dollars we save in the draft can go towards signing that #2 starter or that corner outfielder that we do not have coming up readily in our system.

  2. Comment posted by Danny on August 19, 2009 at 9:29 am (#1061911)

    Every million dollars we save in the draft can go towards signing that #2 starter or that corner outfielder that we do not have coming up readily in our system.

    Ehhh, doesn’t Alex’s article dispel the notion that there is a mix-and-match philosophy in regards to budgets? I don’t know if the cash flows so freely from bucket to bucket.

    Just because the draft is a crapshoot doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t invest in it. The Mets didn’t have a first round pick and didn’t have to invest in that, shouldn’t they have gotten at least a few extra overslot guys to compensate for that? Or drafted more intelligently in the first 10 rounds to make sure they got some potential impact guys who wanted reasonable prives? Since it IS a crapshoot, you need to acquire as much crap as you can to throw against the wall. The Mets only signed one person significantly overslot after the 10th round, which means that I am pretty sure they spent in the bottom 5 in baseball on the domestic draft. That is ridiculously unacceptable for a team that generates the second-most revenue in baseball. Look at what Alex did, he signed EVERY single one of his top 10 shadow picks and only paid $300K more than the Mets. Or half of Cory Sullivan’s guaranteed salary to spend most of this year in AAA when we have a million OFs.

    It’s not just the amount spent, it’s the manner in which they spend the money. And the Mets dicked away two draft picks in the top 10 by being stupid/cheap. There’s no way around that. And that is ESPECIALLY damaging when you don’t have a first round pick.

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  4. Comment posted by Joe Sokolowski on August 19, 2009 at 9:32 am (#1061920)

    I’m guilty of having the knee jerk reaction of being disappointed the Mets didn’t just sign Magnifico and Buchanan but the more I thought about it the more I realized that they just shouldn’t have drafted them in the first as you stated. The other points are also excellent, great work Alex.

  5. Comment posted by Danny on August 19, 2009 at 9:35 am (#1061927)

    Stealing this from Michkin at AA:

    First 10 rounds
    Teams that signed all picks = 15
    Teams that failed to sign 1 pick = 10
    Teams that failed to sign 2 picks = 2 (Mets 7/9, White Sox 10/12 +1 for 2010)
    Teams that failed to sign 3 picks= 2 (Rays 7/10 +2 for 2010, Blue Jays 9/12 +3 for 2010)
    Teams that failed to sign 4 picks= 1 (Rangers 7/11 +2 for 2010)

    Potential compensation choices for 2010 (fail to sign first 3 rounds):
    Royals
    Rangers x2
    Rays x2
    Blue Jays x3
    White Sox
    Angels

    Those who didn’t have a 1st round pick:
    Dodgers (#36 suplemental) = 11/11
    Phillies (#75 2nd round) = 9/9
    Mets (#72 2nd round) = 7/9

    Those who had less than 10 picks:
    Athletics = 8/9
    Yankees = 8/9
    Royals = 8/9
    Braves = 8/9
    Phillies = 9/9
    Mets = 7/9

    We’re the only team without a first round pick who didn’t sign everyone in their top 10.
    We’re the only team with under 10 picks in the first 10 rounds who didn’t sign 2 of their players.
    We’re the only team that didn’t sign 2 of their picks who will not receive compensation for not signing those players, because both of the players we didn’t sign were after the 3rd round, when compensation ends.

    Awesome draft strategy. It’s really ridiculous for Mets fans to be up in arms.

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  7. Comment posted by Dep on August 19, 2009 at 9:39 am (#1061943)

    here’s what i dont get

    the mets talked to dotson in the 3rd/4th round, then decided to draft him much later.

    why not do this with magnifico and buchanan? why take guys in the 5th/6th rounds that you may not sign?

    i dont know, i think they messed up cuz they simply wasted their 5th n 6th picks. I’m not upset, per se, about not signing Magnifico or Buchanan specifically, i’m upset we wasted the resource of those 5th n 6th round picks.

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  9. Comment posted by Lunkwill Fook on August 19, 2009 at 9:48 am (#1061948)

    Ehhh, doesn’t Alex’s article dispel the notion that there is a mix-and-match philosophy in regards to budgets? I don’t know if the cash flows so freely from bucket to bucket.

    My point was that if you are going to argue it one way, you can just as easily argue it the other way.

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  11. Comment posted by Lunkwill Fook on August 19, 2009 at 9:49 am (#1061949)

    i’m upset we wasted the resource of those 5th n 6th round picks.

    I’d be more upset about that. Not the signing strategy.

  12. Comment posted by Danny on August 19, 2009 at 9:55 am (#1061957)

    I’d be more upset about that. Not the signing strategy.

    Huh? They go hand-in-hand. They are directly related.

  13. Comment posted by Dan Lewis on August 19, 2009 at 10:00 am (#1061959)

    My first reaction to Eric’s article was similar to yours: Had we not wasted money on Corey Sullivan, that would not “excuse” wasting money on draft picks.

    However, the more I think about it, the more I realize how incomplete that is. It’s still correct (and Eric is still kind of wrong), just incomplete. Here are two salient “facts” which I believe to be true, and hopefully are not:

    1) The Mets are very budget conscious this year — the reasons why aren’t really important, but it’s pretty clear that they’re watching every dime.

    2) Management does not really have any sort of wed-to directional strategy. At the July 31 deadline, they were neither buyers nor sellers, and except for a small mostly lateral move in the Church/Francoeur deal, did nothing to improve the team for 2010. Maybe there was just nothing to be done, but to this outsider, it seems like the team was paralyzed by fear and opted for the status quo.

    Combined, these two problems are HUGE — that is, if I’m right. Why? Because the combination means that we see the Mets sticking with an offense which involves Murphy at first, Francoeur in right, Sheffield/F-Mart/??? in left, Santos/??? platooning at catcher. It means seeing Pelfrey/Maine/Perez being the default 2-3-4 guys and Niese/Parnell/Garbage fighting for the fifth spot. It means us having a bench which mandates a sub-.500 finish if we lose any two of Wright, Reyes, Beltran, Johan, or K-Rod. And that’s being optimistic.

    But again, that assumes that my “facts” are, indeed, facts. That’s why the Mets draft results are so depressing. It’s a signal that (a) the Mets are being very cost conscious — even if correctly so in this case *and* (b) that they have basically no plan in place to improve the team.

    That’s a long way of saying that I don’t think anyone is particularly upset that we failed to sign our 5th round pick. Rather, we’re upset because we see what that inaction portends for the immediate future.

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  15. Comment posted by Squadron Nye on August 19, 2009 at 10:16 am (#1061967)

    Ehhh, doesn’t Alex’s article dispel the notion that there is a mix-and-match philosophy in regards to budgets? I don’t know if the cash flows so freely from bucket to bucket.

    With regards to internal budget this is right, but it’s really a semantic argument instead of a reality based one. It’s true the Mets have a budget for player payroll and another for the amateur draft, but it all comes from the general revenue fund.

    The payroll budget is set this year; so is the draft budget. However they’ll use the numbers and other information Alex talked about from this draft and payroll to determine next year’s budget. The cash from an under-budget draft gets thrown back into general revenue and will be included in next years budget process. Payroll certainly does have an affect on draft spending as draft spending has an affect on the office supply or facilities budget. All are interrelated because they all are funded from the same revenue stream.

  16. Comment posted by Danny on August 19, 2009 at 10:44 am (#1061987)

    The money saved from this year’s draft should go toward next year’s domestic draft and international free agent singing. And it won’t. We will be cheap again because that is how we roll. In fact, we were probably cheap this year because OMG we have to sign an early first round pick next year!!!!

    Wilpon is dangerously close to the luxury tax threshold. We’re not going past it. In fact, we’re going to cut payroll. Whatever money we “saved” on this year’s draft will not go towards payroll, believe that.

  17. Comment posted by Dan Lewis on August 19, 2009 at 11:10 am (#1062007)

    With regards to internal budget this is right, but it’s really a semantic argument instead of a reality based one. It’s true the Mets have a budget for player payroll and another for the amateur draft, but it all comes from the general revenue fund.

    It really isn’t a semantic argument, at least not necessarily so. Budgets exist in all organizations and allow for efficiency of spending and also make for easier decision-making. I do not think it would be a good idea for Omar to have to go to the Wilpons and say, hey, F&J, give me another $300k and cut back on parking attendants.

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  19. Comment posted by Alex Nelson on August 19, 2009 at 2:17 pm (#1062138)

    From a column about MGL by Ken Davidoff:

    In Buchanan’s case, the Mets knew before drafting him that the young man wanted a $200,000 signing bonus, not outrageous (albeit over slot). Yet by the time they bid $185,000 this past week, Buchanan already had moved into his residence at Georgia State, secured loans and grants and taken a team photo. At that point, he wasn’t going to accept an offer he probably would have taken in July.

    In other words, the Mets’ own ineptitude — and nothing else — cost themselves another pitching prospect.

    Wow.

  20. Comment posted by Danny on August 19, 2009 at 2:34 pm (#1062154)

    Wow indeed.

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  22. Comment posted by Squadron Nye on August 19, 2009 at 2:39 pm (#1062159)

    Oofa

  23. Comment posted by Athena on August 19, 2009 at 2:43 pm (#1062164)

    Lovely. What a waste.

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  25. Comment posted by Dep on August 19, 2009 at 2:53 pm (#1062175)

    unbelievable

    maybe that relates to why matz came off like such a douche

    i’m telling you, i’ve heard the mets were MIA the entire process with A LOT of kids.

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  27. Comment posted by Future on August 19, 2009 at 5:52 pm (#1062450)

    So over 15K, we lost a prospect.

    Huzzah.

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  29. Comment posted by Alex Nelson on August 19, 2009 at 7:05 pm (#1062456)

    So over 15K, we lost a prospect.

    Huzzah.

    Had nothing to do with 15k. If it was over 15K, I’d shoot both the Mets and Buchanan on principle.

    It had to do with not talking to the kid for two months, and when they finally made an offer a couple days before the draft, he had already committed to Georgia State.

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