When most fans think of the MLB offseason, they think of big free agents signings and trades that can change the course of a franchise. While those events grab the headlines, two of the most important aspects of the offseason often go under the radar: 40-man roster additions and the Rule 5 draft. This past week, the New York Mets had some decisions to make involving those two vital aspects of the game.
Minor Leaguers on the 40-man roster are protected from the Rule 5 draft. The Rule 5 draft happens at the Winter Meetings each year. In the Major League phase, teams can select unprotected players from other organizations, with the caveat that they have to stay on their new team’s Major League roster for the entire season. If the player stays the full season, the team gets control of that player. If they don’t, the player gets offered back to their old team with some cash. There’s also a minor league phase, which is usually more active since there aren’t tied to roster restrictions.
The deadline to protect players from the Rule 5 draft was on Friday, November 19th. The Mets chose to protect four players: Ronny Maruicio, Mark Vientos, Jose Butto, and Adam Oller. Mauricio and Vientos were locks, but Butto and Oller are interesting selections.
While those are some good players to add to the 40-man roster, there are a few other players that the Mets should’ve protected. Namely, Carlos Cortes, Carlos Rincon, and Colin Holderman.
Why the Mets should’ve protected Carlos Cortes:
The short answer: because utility players who can hit are valued highly in today’s game.
Cortes has seen time at first, second, left, and right. He is a rare player in that he can switch-throw as well as switch hit. Due to his left arm being stronger than his right, he was mainly used as an outfielder in 2021, primarily in left field. He is rated as a 45 fielder on MLB Pipeline, which is slightly below average.
His bat is what could define him. He had a breakout season this year, slashing .257/.332/.487/.819 with 26 doubles, 14 homers, 50 runs scored, and 57 RBI’s. If he can put up an .800+ OPS with some pop each year, that is very valuable as a utility guy…
… which is why I don’t think he’ll be on the Mets following the Rule 5 draft.
Utility players are very valuable. When you have players that can move around the field, it gives the team a lot of flexibility in their lineup as well as their defensive alignment. With Cortes being a switch hitter, his value is higher because opponents can’t play matchups against him. Worst case scenario, he doesn’t hit and becomes a versatile fielder off the bench. Best case scenario, you’re looking at a Kike-Hernandez-like player.
If you look at recent winning teams, they have at least one utility guy, some have even more. The Dodgers had Chris Taylor and Max Muncy. They had Kike Hernandez too until he signed with Boston. The Rays have several players who move around. Look for the Dodgers, Red Sox, Rays, and Giants to be interested in Cortes.
Why the Mets should’ve protected Carlos Rincon:
The short answer: power hitting outfielders never go out of style, and the Mets don’t have a lot of outfield depth.
Rincon has a lofty swing and makes the type of consistent, hard contact to launch home runs. He hit 22 of them in AA this year, slugging .496 and driving in 77 runs. This guy is capable of being a big-time run producer. Check out the sound in the video below, and do yourself a favor by turning the volume up.
Defensively, Rincon spends his time in the corner outfield spots. His arm is more suited for right than left, so that’s where he plays the most.
He’s only 24 years old, and with his power potential, why wouldn’t a rebuilding team take a chance on him? Imagine the prodigious homers he could hit in Colorado. Maybe a rebuilding team like the Indians, A’s, or Rangers see a future starter in him. With the universal DH likely coming next season, any team in baseball could be in on a young kid with light tower power.
Why the Mets should’ve protected Colin Holderman:
The short answer: he has great potential as a relief pitcher.
He spent most of this season in AA, pitching 24 innings and giving up 16 hits, nine earned runs, eight walks, and striking out 27 batters. The righty averaged less than one walk per nine and more than 10 K’s per nine. That’s a recipe for success, which he had with a 3.38 ERA and 1.00 WHIP.
The big reliever - 6’7” and 240lbs - has electric stuff. His fastball sits in the high 90’s and can touch triple digits, and he has swing-and-miss off speed pitches. In the Arizona Fall League, he threw 21 off speed pitches and got whiffs on 17 of them, a staggering 81%. While his overall Fall League numbers aren’t good, he certainly flashed his potential.
So what teams might take a chance on him? Well, everyone needs relievers. He is also entering his 26-year-old season, so he is starting his physical prime. When you have a young guy who can touch triple digits and has wipeout stuff, there could be many suitors.
There are a couple of factors that make these three omissions puzzling to me:
- The Mets current 40-man roster stands at 36.
- I count five players on the Mets’ current 40 man roster who the Mets could DFA without hesitation (Mark Payton, Travis Blankenhorn, Stephen Nogosek, Jake Reed, and Yennsy Diaz).
The only reason I can think of that the Mets didn’t select these three guys is because they plan on going ham on free agents. Between the four open spots on the 40-man and the five expendables, they can sign up to nine free agents without making any big roster moves. We know they need two starters, an outfielder, a second or third baseman, and maybe a reliever or two.
But Mike, that’s only six players. If they DFA’d the five expendables, the 40-man roster would be at 31 spots. If they then sign six free agents, it would be at 37 spots. Wouldn’t that mean they’d still have three spots available on the 40-man roster?
Why yes, keen observer and astute mathematician, they would still have room to add these three guys. I don’t understand why they’re keeping soon-to-be 30-year-old Mark Payton over the powerful, younger Carlos Rincon. Or why they’re keeping Travis Blankenhorn’s .174 career batting average over the versatile Carlos Cortes. Or why they’re keeping Reed’s humdrum stuff over Holderman’s cackling electricity.
It’s possible that all three of these guys get chosen. Or none. Or somewhere in between. Just like any other draft, there are no guarantees. I guess we’ll find out soon enough.