Thursday, May 17, 2018

Draft Idea for the New York Mets

I’m an unabashed supporter of the Mets, and I’ve been itching for a perfect year where they could execute the strategy I’m about to describe. Sandy, this is the year!

First, some facts:

-The Mets own the sixth, 48th, 83rd, and 110th picks in the draft. They cannot, by league rule, trade those picks away. 
-The Mets have a bonus pool of approximately $9.6m (ninth most). 
-Teams that eclipse their bonus pool spending amount are subject to penalties. The most extreme penalty - incurred when a team spends between 15% and 100% over their allotment - results in the loss of that team’s first round draft picks for the next two seasons in addition to paying a dollar for dollar penalty on the overage. So, if a team has a draft pool of $100, and they spend $200, they would lose their 2019 and 2020 first rounders and pay a penalty of $100.
-Picks 36-through-43 and 69-through-74 – Competitive Balance picks - are eligible to be traded. 
-The Mets farm system is relatively barren as evidenced by rankings from reputable sources:
John Sickels ranks the Mets’ system 28th in baseball; ranks them 26th; Baseball America has them 25th, and Keith Law at 21. Outlook: bleak.
-Casey Mize, a RHP from Auburn, is the consensus #1 prospect in the draft by a wide margin.
-The Mets at the time of publishing this article have a 20-19 record (15th best) with playoff aspirations this season. 

Ok, now the idea:

The Mets should go 100% over their draft bonus pool allotment at the cost of future draft picks and penalty money to jumpstart the farm system immediately and obtain the best player in the draft class.

How would this happen?

1. Trade for at least two Competitive Balance picks, the higher the better. For the sake of this argument, let’s assume the Mets were able to acquire picks 40 and 72. This would increase their pool to over $12.2m. It would also give them six of the top 110 picks.
2. Tell Casey Mize that if he falls to #6, you would pay him a $13m bonus. (And actually mean it). $13m is significant because this is larger than any team’s total bonus pool.
3. Have Mize publicly say that he wants at least $13m to sign and hope that scares off the five teams picking ahead of you, the Tigers, White Sox, Phillies, White Sox, and Reds. 
4. Identify five* top talents that are considered “tough” signs because of strong college commitments or because they are two-sport guys. Every single year these players exist. This year, think of Kumar Rocker (Vandy commit), Jordyn Adams (football), Kyler Murray (football).
5. Confirm that $2m would get these guys to actually sign (and give up football if necessary).
6. Draft these players with picks 40, 48, 72, 83, and 110. 
7. Take some cheap to sign college seniors with your 5th through 10th round picks.

*An easy pivot here if you felt so inclined would be to find 10 “$1m players” instead of five $2m guys.

We need this guy in Flushing

Total cost: ~$36m ($24m in signing bonuses + $12m in penalties) and two future first rounders.

Other Thoughts:

-The Mets would be spending $24m more than expected this season; however, future first round picks would each cost about $4m each (assuming a pick in the middle of the round) so the “excess” cost here is not actually $24m but closer to $16m over a three year period.

-If you think of these five “other” $2m as late first round picks, this makes a ton of sense.

-This jumpstarts the farm system right now. Getting actual players into your system gives you more assets. There’s value to that since you cannot trade future first rounders.

-A key component here is that the Mets would get the best player in the class. Having a top prospect can represent tens of millions of dollars in surplus value down the line. The concept still works if you can’t get Mize (split his money more ways among more players), but it looks much better if you can.

-This is not a dip-your-toe-in-the-water strategy. You lose your next two first rounders whether you go 15% over or 100% over your budget. You might as well take full “advantage” of the benefit you get in exchange for the penalty being incurred. 

-I’m not minimizing the importance of first rounders, but it’s obviously harder to find top end talent once you are out of the top 10. It’s possible but unlikely the Mets will have a top-10 pick again in the next two years. 

-If the Mets signed a top-tier free agent (Manny Machado?) they would lose their first rounder anyway so the penalty would only be the loss of their second rounder in 2019.

There are dozens of permutations of this concept that I could go into much further detail on but the point of this article is to shift the mindset. 

This certainly pushes the envelope and, to me, is worth the risk. Let’s try it, Sandy.