Every team in baseball has a slew of future Hall of Fame or All-Star players that they drafted, but failed to sign. Below are six players the New York Mets drafted, but for one reason or another, were unable to secure.
Ron Cey: Before Cey’s name was synonymous with the successful Los Angeles Dodgers’ teams of the 1970’s and early-1980’s, the New York Mets attempted to draft the future stud in the 19th round (361st pick) of the 1966 draft. As the Dodgers starting third baseman from 1973 through 1982, Cey boasted a cumulative .264/.359/.446 line with 227 HR, 839 RBI, 712 R, and 20 SB. The right-handed hitter also made six trips to the All-Star game, won the 1973 Rookie of the Year Award, and placed in the top-25 of the MVP voting four times. His trade to the Chicago Cubs in 1983 was extremely unpopular, as Cey still had four more productive seasons in the bigs. He would retire in 1987 at age 39, having logged 17 seasons in the Major Leagues. His career statistics include a .261/.354/.445 line, 316 HR, 1139 RBI, and 977 R.
Roger Clemens: It’s fun to imagine what it would have been like to see one of the best pitchers in history hurl every fifth day for the New York Mets. The team tried to make that happen in the 1981 draft, when they selected him in the 12th round (289th overall pick), but the “Rocket” waited until the following season when the Boston Red Sox rightfully snagged him in the first round (19th overall pick). The rest is history. Clemens owned 354 career wins with a 3.12 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, and 4672 strikeouts. The pitcher also won 7 Cy Young awards, a MVP and Rookie of the Year award, and took 11 All-Star game trips. Granted, his involvement in steroids (and then perjury) might prevents him from making the Hall of Fame, but there is no doubt he deserves to be enshrined.
Rafael Palmeiro: Similar to Clemens, Rafael Palmeiro’s use of steroids has tarnished his accomplishments–yet they’re still hard to ignore. The Mets selected the first baseman in the 8th round (189th overall pick) of the 1982 draft, but he did not sign. Palmeiro would again be drafted, but three years later in 1985 by the Chicago Cubs with the 22nd overall pick. It didn’t take long for Palmeiro to prove he was Major League ready, as he saw his first trip to the show in 1986, just one season after he was drafted. Despite his quick promotion, it wasn’t until 1991–and with the Texas Rangers–that Palmeiro started hitting big-time dingers. As a 26 year-old, Palmeiro smacked a .322/.389/.532 line with 26 HR, 88 RBI, and 115 R. It was just the start of one of the most fruitful careers in baseball history, as the slugger would go on to own a career .288/.371/.515 line with 569 HR, 1835 RBI, and 1663 R. Palmeiro also garnered four All-Star appearances, three Gold Glove awards, and placed in the top-25 MVP voting a whopping ten times in twenty seasons.
Matt Williams: Despite all his injures–mostly later in his career–Matt Williams was still one of the best power-hitters in the 1990’s. The Mets plucked the future stud in the 27th round (664th overall pick) in the 1983 draft, but he wisely waited until he had a few college seasons under his belt before being drafted again by the Giants in 1986–except with the third overall pick. Williams enjoyed his first slugger season in 1990 (at age 24), when he swatted a .277/.319/.488 line with 33 HR, 122 RBI (league-leading), and 87 R. He would make the All-Star team, placed 6th in the MVP voting, and take home a Silver Slugger award. Williams didn’t stop slugging there, as he would go on to have five 30-plus and one 40-plus homerun seasons–not to mention fourteen total double-digit homerun seasons. Williams played his last season in 2003 for the Arizona Diamondbacks–a team he helped win a World Series with in 2001–would retire with a career .268/.317/.489 line with 378 HR, 1218 RBI, and 997 R in 17 seasons.
John Wetteland: Well before he was mentoring a young Mariano Rivera during the mid-1990’s, John Wetteland was a draft day hopeful for the New York Mets. The Mets drafted the future closer in the 12th round (289th overall pick) in the 1984 draft, but he decided to take his changes a year later. It was a good wager, as the Los Angeles Dodgers snagged the right-hander in the second round. But success didn’t come easy to Wetteland. The pitcher toiled in the Minors with the Dodgers, and was then shuttled around between three franchises (Detroit Tigers, Cincinnati Reds, and Montreal Expos) before settling-in as a consistent Major League reliever. In 1992, the Expos handed the 9th inning keys to the 25 year-old Wetteland, and he performed well–posting a 2.92 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and 2.75 K/BB with 37 Saves. From that point on, Wetteland become one of the most consistent and prolific closers in baseball history. As a closer, Wetteland owned a career 2.70 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, and 3.35 K/BB with 329 Saves (he has 330 total)–which ranks him number eleven on the all-time saves list.
John Olerud: Arguably the most interesting name on this list is John Olerud, as the first baseman would eventually play for the Mets eleven years after the team tried to draft him (682nd pick of the 27th round in the 1986 draft). Olerud was one of the best college baseball players of all-time, but suffered a brain aneurysm in 1989–forcing him to miss most of the season, and putting his Major League career in doubt. But the Toronto Blue Jays took a chance on the Seattle-native in the third round of the 1989 draft. Olerud became one of the few modern-day players to go straight from the draft to the Major Leagues. In 1993, the left-hander began climbing the elite ranks when he posted a sensational .363/.473/.599 line with 24 HR, 107 RBI, and 109 R. But with Carlos Delgado waiting in the wings, the Blue Jays decided to trade the 27 year-old Olerud to the New York Mets (in exchange for Robert Person) on December 20, 1996. The slick-fielding first baseman instantly won over Mets fans hearts with his defense and sweet swing, and owned a career .315/.425/.501 line in three seasons with the Mets. The Mets granted Olerud free agency after the 1999 season, and he signed with his hometown squad, the Seattle Mariners, where he enjoyed about three more extremely productive seasons. Olerud would play his last Major League game for the Boston Red Sox in 2005 (at age 36), and own a career .295/.398/.465 line with 255 HR, 1230 RBI, and 1139 R in seventeen seasons.