Yesterday's post praising the Mets for going beyond slot recommendations for Steven Matz may have been premature. It turns out that the Mets spent the least money on draft picks in the first ten rounds of any team in baseball - a sure sign that they are still not flexing their financial muscles nearly enough.
The Mets spent nearly $1.9 million to sign seven of the nine players they drafted between rounds 1 and 10. Their total spending came in just under the Texas Rangers to clinch the bottom spot in the table and represents more than $9 million less than what the Washington Nationals spent.
Now, simply looking at the overall amount of money spent somewhat skews the picture against the Mets. They signed only seven players which, along with the Rays and the Rangers, were the lowest total of any team. The Baseball America article also notes that overall draft spending won't be available for several weeks, so that list may present a different picture.
For me, though, the money quote was this:
"Jim Callis, Baseball America’s executive editor and an expert on the draft, says the Mets have been less than bold in the draft ever since they signed Mike Pelfrey for $5.3 million with a $3.5 million signing bonus in 2005.
'To say they are not aggressive in the draft isn’t adequate,' Callis said. 'They are nothing close to aggressive.' ”
What has sapped the Mets' aggression since drafting Pelfrey? That pick culminated a four-year period where the Mets drafted Scott Kazmir, Lastings Milledge and Philip Humber. Kazmir and Milledge both fell to the Mets because of signability concerns (although dubious concerns about Milledge's make-up played a role as well). Humber was generally considered the best player available at the spot, although I'm sure the Mets would draft Jered Weaver, Billy Butler or Philip Hughes if they could do it over again.
Kazmir, Milledge and Humber have all since been traded by the Mets - the first two for pennies on the dollar and Humber as part of the Johan Santana deal. They have all played in the major leagues; Kazmir and Milledge have been successful at the MLB level, although both are struggling badly this year. Pelfrey is still with the Mets, although 2009 has brought concerns that his ceiling is that of a #4 starter, not the #2 starter fans thought they were seeing emerge last summer.
Nevertheless, drafting aggressively in the first round yielded four major leaguers in four years for the Mets. This is important, considering those drafts produced only five other major leaguers (Matt Lindstrom, Brian Bannister, Carlos Muniz, Jon Niese and Bobby Parnell).
The Mets have drafted terribly even when they were being "aggressive" between 2002 and 2005. If, as Callis asserts, there has been a shift in thinking since then, take a look at the results:
Buffalo Bisons (AAA): 48-72, worst record in the International League
Binghamton Mets (AA): 46-73, worst record in the Eastern League
The Bisons and the B-Mets play at the two highest levels of minor-league baseball and a case can be made that each are the worst team at their respective levels. It is a direct result of poor drafting and, more recently, a reluctance to use natural financial advantages to the benefit of the minor league system.
Would pursuing a more aggressive draft strategy in the last four years have yielded better results? Let's put it this way - could it have made things any worse?