The Draft Pick Issue

By Danny Abriano

A week or so ago, it appeared to be a safe bet that the Mets would receive one of the top 10 (protected) draft picks in next June’s Amateur Draft.  They were playing poorly, the teams in front of them were winning, and the games were dwindling down.  Now, the Mets are in a precarious spot.

Jun 14, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson (left) talks with chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon before the start of a game against the Chicago Cubs at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

After going 7-3 over their last 10 games, the Mets find themselves just a half game up on San Francisco, who currently has the 11th (unprotected) pick in next year’s draft.  There are seven games left in the season, and there’s a decent chance that the Mets will find themselves with an unprotected pick.

If the Mets were to finish outside of the bottom 10 and receive an unprotected pick, they would have to forfeit that pick (and the associated draft pool money) in the event they signed a free agent who was made a qualifying offer by the team he departed.

Players like Shin-Soo Choo and Jacoby Ellsbury, who are seeking lengthy free agent deals, will almost certainly get qualifying offers.  Since free agents like Choo and Ellsbury  are very likely to turn down any qualifying offer they get, their team would be securing a compensatory draft pick without having to risk much.

Last year, the Mets’ refusal to part with their draft pick and the associated pool money was understandable.  The team wasn’t in the mix for the free agents who received mega deals (Josh Hamilton, etc), and there was really no reason to put a band aid on a wound that required stitches.

The Mets pondered signing Michael Bourn, but only would have done so if they were allowed to keep their pick.  The Mets were knocked down to the 11th slot last year because the Pirates failed to sign their top pick the year prior.  This was unfair, the Mets appealed it, and Major League Baseball upheld its foolish ruling.

This offseason is different.

Regardless of what happens with the rehabbing Matt Harvey, the Mets should be looking to contend heading into 2014.  They’ll be coming off their fifth consecutive losing season, there’s tons of money coming off the books, and both the front office and ownership has made assurances that they’re ready to spend.  In order to contend, they’ll need to address their remaining deficiencies.

A number of key players who weren’t on the team at the beginning of 2013 should be with the team from the outset in 2014 – Zack Wheeler, Travis d’Arnaud, Juan Lagares, and Jenrry Mejia to name a few.  The pitching prospects who were a year away are now knocking on the door – Rafael Montero, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, and others.

If the Mets find themselves with an unprotected pick and are able to address their needs via trade, great.  However, going that route – and doing it successfully – is highly unlikely.  The Mets would have to decimate their farm system in order to address all the needs they have.  The smarter route will likely be addressing their needs via both the trade market and free agency.  If that means forfeiting their top draft pick, so be it.

If I didn’t think the Mets could contend next year, I wouldn’t be in favor of them potentially forfeiting their top draft pick.  However, with the combination of talent the team has already assembled, the talent that’s on the way, and the large amount of money the team will be free to spend on players outside the organization, contending in 2014 is both realistic and necessary.

This will all be rendered moot if the Mets cool off over these last seven games and wind up with a protected pick.  If it isn’t rendered moot, and the Mets find themselves with a pick that’s unprotected, it’ll be decision time.  Adding a free agent while sacrificing their top draft pick before the 2013 season would’ve been window dressing.  Doing it before the 2014 season would be part of a serious effort to contend.

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