Should the Mets relinquish the #11 pick in the 2013 MLB First Year Player Draft in order to sign free-agent outfielder Michael Bourn? That question is the most hotly debated topic on Twitter among Mets fans and on the assortment of Mets blogs out there. There is two sides to the argument that are both perfectly understandable. I see a lot of fans who are minor league enthusiasts who rip into anyone who wants to get rid of the pick because you want to keep the farm system developing while the major league team develops. Then you have the other side that doesn’t mind giving up the pick because Michael Bourn is an All Star Gold Glove caliber center fielder who may not lead them to a World Series in 2013 but could be a big piece for them to make a run in 2014 or 2015.
Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson made a point to Jim Bowden on Sirius XM that with the trades of Carlos Beltran and RA Dickey in addition to the last two drafts, that the farm has bolstered to the point where they can at least consider giving up the #11 pick for a player like Bourn. He is right the farm system has made some serious strides since Paul DePodesta took over when Alderson came aboard. Before this new regime the Mets typically would have among the 3 worst farms in the game. Now you are talking about a team that could be ranked as high as top 15 depending on who you ask.
As they mentioned on the MLB Network Top 50 Prospect show last night, you have to go back to the 1980’s for the last time the Mets had two top 10 prospects in the game. This year they had two with pitcher Zack Wheeler coming in at #8 and catcher Travis d’Arnaud coming in at #6 and even getting a comparison to Buster Posey from former Rangers GM Jon Hart. Pitcher Noah Syndergaard also made the list at #29. There are definitely some exciting times ahead with some of the excellent talent the Mets have.
The question now is when? When do you start making the plunge into free agency or trades to acquire the necessary veteran pieces to put around your talented youngsters to make this team into a perennial contender? Let’s not even get into the argument about whether the #11 pick should be protected. (As you know the Mets had the #10 pick, but since the Pirates failed to sign their first round pick Mark Appel last year the Mets got shifted to pick #11) Discussing that is an piece for maybe another day.
The new Collective Bargaining Agreement has a slot value for each pick. This means based on all your picks that your team possesses in the top 10 rounds there is a dollar amount that MLB recommends you spend on each of those selections. You may play around with the money in the sense of giving less to a 1st rounder to pay more for a 2nd etc. Going over your allotted bonus money will get you a big fine in dollars, and depending how much you go over, in draft picks. The downside to losing the pick for Bourn is the money that was allotted for that pick goes away. The Mets would not be able to spend that elsewhere so it really lowers their odds of getting high quality talent throughout the draft, not just round one.
If the Mets do decide to forfeit the pick and the draft bonus allotment in order to add Bourn it shows a clear commitment to winning in the very near future. As a Mets fan I obviously want to see them win so there is some level of desire to see a winner sooner than later, but I try to be as logical as possible. I want them to win but I do not want them to fall into what happened a lot during Omar Minaya’s tenure as GM, which was forfeit the first-round pick to buy players. Of course Minaya arranged the selections of Matt Harvey and Ike Davis, both of whom are building blocks for this team. But let’s go back a little bit and assess the loss of 1st round picks for players signed and what players were selected with that pick and in that area.
2009: Surrendered #24 overall pick to sign RHP Francisco Rodriguez. The Angels selected outfielder Randal Grichuk with that pick. Grichuk obviously hasn’t panned out, but the #25 pick was current superstar Mike Trout, #27 was top Mariners shortstop prospect Nick Franklin and #28 was the toolsy and talented outfielder Reymond Fuentes. The Mets first pick came in the 2nd round and they took Long Island high school left hander Steven Matz who is talented but has yet to reach full season ball.
2007: Surrendered #29 overall pick to sign OF Moises Alou. The Giants selected outfielder Wendell Fairley with that pick. Again the specific pick didn’t work out, but there’s no saying that is the guy the Mets would have selected. Within a few picks of #29 guys like Reds shortstop Todd Frazier, Rangers outfielder Julio Borbon and current Met Travis d’Arnaud were selected. The Mets first selection that year was in the supplemental first round where they took Eddie Kunz who had a cup of coffee with the Mets and has sort of fallen off since.
2006: Surrendered #18 pick to sign LHP Billy Wagner. The Phillies selected pitcher Kyle Drabek with that pick. Drabek has fallen off some but he has made the bigs and was considered a top prospect in the league for some time. A couple picks later Ian Kennedy was selected. Wouldn’t he look nice in the Mets rotation? The Mets first pick that year was in the 2nd round when they selected pitcher Kevin Mulvey who is now retired.
The point really is if you give up the pick this year for Bourn you are sacrificing the chance of adding a potential impact talent in the 1st round while also hindering what you can do in rounds after that. If you sign Bourn that solves one outfield spot and next off season comes around and the Mets are expected to have quite a bit of financial flexibility to be able to add players to the roster. Hunter Pence is an example of a free agent outfielder who could fit and would surely get a qualifying offer from the Phillies. If you sign Bourn he has the chance to make an impact to the level of making the Mets have a unprotected pick in the 2014 draft.
While you have added two quality players which obviously would help the Mets win, you have basically tarnished the next two drafts due to losing the picks themselves and the money that goes with them. Ideally you want the Mets to become similar to the Texas Rangers as an organization. The Rangers are competitive every year but always manage to have a top farm system to go with it. In order to sustain success for a long period of time you have to have the ability to keep churning talent from your farm system and turning them into quality big league players. If the Mets start relinquishing their 1st round pick year after year it will severely hamper the farm system and lead to in my opinion a short lived period of time of being a major contender.
To sum up my point I cannot say I would have any interest in the Mets surrendering the #11 draft pick to sign Bourn. It isn’t even all because of the player the Mets could take at that spot, but the players they can take at other spots thanks to the budget allotment available from having the #11 pick. I want the Mets to be a long term success, and to do so you need have a farm system that keeps feeding the major league team and feeding other teams in trade for their quality veteran players.