Goods available on the free agent market are dwindling quickly. And, the Mets have several holes to fill before spring training begins in February. However, at least four of the most competent free agents still available absolutely, positively, will not be signed by the New York Mets this winter.
That quartet consists of Kyle Lohse, Michael Bourn, Adam LaRoche, and Rafael Soriano. Right off the bat (pardon the pun), you’re probably thinking “no big deal on LaRoche, because the Mets have Ike Davis at 1B.” Fair enough. But the other three certainly could help the Mets in 2013 — and possibly beyond. Lohse is no Cy Young candidate but he’d certainly be a welcome addition to the suddenly Dickeyless Mets rotation. Anyone who watched the 2012 Mets bullpen (a.k.a., “Fahrenheit 451 Firemen”) knows Soriano would improve the relief corps. As for Bourn, he fills the two most glaring needs in the Mets lineup: center field and leadoff batter. Unfortunately, you can forget about any of them wearing orange in blue on Opening Day — they won’t be signed by the Mets.
That’s because these four players are “compensation free agents,” meaning, the team that signs them has to forfeit their #1 pick in the June 2013 draft. However, if the signing team has one of the top ten picks then they don’t lose their first round pick, but their second-round pick.
You might be ready to point out that the Mets had the tenth-worst record in MLB, therefore, their #1 pick is protected, ergo, it might make sense to sign a guy like Soriano or Bourn, because they’re worth more than a second-round draft pick. Not so fast.
First, I’m not sure a team in rebuilding mode — as the Mets are — should be giving away ANY picks. They’re building for the distant future, and there is still plenty of great raw talent available in the first half of the second round.
Second, and more importantly: the Mets had the tenth-worst record in 2012, but they do not hold the tenth pick in the draft. Rather, they own #11, because the Pittsburgh Pirates barged into the top ten by not signing their first-round pick of 2012 (Mark Appel), and therefore own pick number nine. With the Bucs at nine, that pushes the Blue Jays to ten, and the Mets drop to eleven — just out of the protected pool. So, if the Mets sign Rafael Soriano, Kyle Lohse, or Michael Bourn, they will forfeit their first-round pick — and a high one at that. Again, as a rebuilding team, they’d be insane to give up such a high pick, as it goes against one of the most basic tenets of building a long-term strategy for success.
That said, stop thinking about Soriano, Lohse, Bourn, and LaRoche — they’re off-limits.
Curious though — if the Mets were in that protected top ten, do you think it would have been worth it to sign a compensation free agent, even if it meant losing a second-round pick? If so, which player would have been worth it? (The other compensation free agents were David Ortiz, Josh Hamilton, B.J. Upton, Hiroki Kuroda, and Nick Swisher.) Finally, do you think the Mets would have gone after any of these compensation free agents if their pick was protected? Answer in the comments.
About the Author
Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers.