Four Free Agents the Mets Won’t Sign

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.

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. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. argonbunnies December 25, 2012 at 8:33 pm
    Joe, are you sure that protected picks only apply to the final top 10, and not to the initial top 10 based on previous season’s record? I mean, are you sure that the Pirates situation doesn’t simply mean there are now 11 protected picks?

    Late 1st rounders and supplemental round picks are iffy enough — I wouldn’t get too worried about losing a 2nd rounder. Didn’t we once spend a 2nd round pick on Robbie Shields? I’m trying to come up with Mets 2nd rounders who made the majors, and I’m drawing a blank.

    I have no interest in giving Bourn/Lohse/Soriano the megadeals Boras wants, but if and when any of them hit that “try again next year” phase and can be had for just 2013… Well, I think it would be a VERY important goodwill gesture for ownership to pony up the cash and give us something more watchable in 2013.

    Plus, it might give Alderson some credibility back, so he’s not staring into a camera saying “we’re not punting 2013!” while in mid-drop-kick.

    Of the 3 options, Bourn would probably add the most wins, while Soriano would add the most emotional relief. Lohse depends on his defense, so he’s probably not a good fit. In a season without real playoff hopes, I’d pick Soriano.

    • Izzy December 26, 2012 at 9:02 am
      Joe has it right. 9 plus the Pirates extra pick.
    • Izzy December 26, 2012 at 9:23 am
      Regardless of compensation or not, the Mets would go after any of the names listed if they would sign for 2 mil or less.
  2. argonbunnies December 25, 2012 at 8:56 pm
    If we pass on Lohse, thinking of other rotation options… I wonder how much the Reds would want for Mike Leake? If Chapman looks good in the rotation in spring training, Leake will be out of a job. He doesn’t strike out many, but he also doesn’t walk many, he just turned 25, and his career ERA outside of Cincinnati is 3.74.

    If I were the Reds I’d keep him, but who knows, maybe they’re turned off by 2012′s 4.58 ERA, his lack of improvement thus far, and/or his shoplifting incident…

  3. Mike B December 25, 2012 at 9:55 pm
    I guess I have two questions, one would be do the mets always sign their first round picks, I have to admit I don’t really follow drafts too closely and two how long would it take that pick to play a significant role on ML roster?

    My thoughts are a first round pick would be pricey and take at least to 15 or 16 to play a role with the mets ML club. So wouldn’t it be worth signing Bourne to a 4 or 5 year deal for a first round pick?

  4. NormE December 26, 2012 at 10:13 am
    Three thoughts:

    Izzy—I think you are being too generous in thinking that the Mets ceiling is 2 mill. Probably lower.

    Mike B—The Mets are a public relations disaster, but even I would be hard pressed to believe they would fail to sign their #1 draft pick. That would be the Titanic of all p.r. disasters this off-season.

    Finally—Why would any player and agent want to play for this owner? The Wilpons disrespect their players and are unable to field a truly competitive team. A player who signs with them is probably desperate for a job.

    • Mike B December 26, 2012 at 1:49 pm
      Yeah I did some research after posting and found out even the Mets sign their First rounders. It got me looking at all the First round picks, especially the last 25 or so. Just looking at the odds of making a positve effect to the team wether it be on the field or used as a trade chip, I would sign either bourn or Sorianno and lose the first round pick. maybe the mets can spice up there offers on top of the 1.5 million for a year they can offer thier wives tickets in the pepsi porch with all you can eat hot dogs and soft drinks.
      • Joe Janish December 26, 2012 at 4:37 pm
        There is a band of Baseball America-reading, Billy Beane-loving prospect watchers who will tell you that’s no way to build an organization for the long term.
    • Izzy December 26, 2012 at 2:20 pm
      Thank you Norm E. I stand corrected!
    • stephen December 29, 2012 at 12:58 pm
      I would love to sign bourn however morgan makes much more sense money wise. however i have to admit as a diehard mets fan i am drooling over the possibility of sizemore. He was a five tool player on verge of superstardom before getting hurt. if he is healthy id love to see him in cf at citi field
  5. Dan B December 26, 2012 at 11:16 am
    Norm E– they did fail to sign their #2 pick so I doubt not signing #1 would be too shocking. For a team that is rebuilding, they don’t invest in their farm system all that much. If the Mets did have a protected pick, I definitely see the Mets signing one of those players. Then trading the player as part of a sign and trade, saving the other team a #1 draft pick. Mets could make money out of being another team’s drug mule of sorts.
    • Izzy December 26, 2012 at 2:16 pm
      MLB has told teams they can’t do sign and trades. They don’t want to lose any more collusion cases.
  6. Jujo December 26, 2012 at 2:06 pm
    I think the Mets knowing 2013 is a stepping stone should pick from the dollar section. They should sign Nyjer Morgan to play CF and Matt Diaz to be the RH OF bat. Both could be had for $1 mil or less (or perhaps incentives). Then they have to get some bodies for the bullpen. The vision of success for 2013 is to get the kids experience; especially the pitchers so that hopefully 2014 has pitching staff that looks like Harvey, Niese, Wheeler, Syndergarrd and Gee. I am pleased with D’Nauo for the future catcher this year. The infield is set (unless Murphy could be traded for a better 2B, but doubt it). The OF and the bullpen would be the places to spend $ next year. As a fan, although I hate the Wilpons and have not been that impressed with Alderson until the recent Dickey trade I would prefer to see hungry players (Morgan and more rookies) try to fight for every win this year, knowing they may only win 70 games for the chance of better seasons beginning next year.
    • Joe Janish December 26, 2012 at 4:41 pm
      Considering what the Mets’ plan for ’13 looks like, signing Diaz and Morgan for a combined $3M or less (and one year) makes a heckuva lot more sense than wasting $10M for two years of Scott Hairston.

      Morgan would at least make the team mildly interesting, especially for tabloids like The Post and Daily News.

      What’s Hairston going to do, even if he hits 20 HR again? Help the Mets win 70 games instead of 68?

      • Joe December 27, 2012 at 1:57 am
        Hairston will help the Mets be in a few more games than if he wasn’t there. At this point in time, $10M does sound rather high for that. Made more sense to keep him to the end of the year when he was making a lot less than that though. But, Soriano also wouldn’t make much sense given what he wants. Why would they spend Boras money for a reliever for a year or two? Bourne still might get some real money. Lohse seems like the best chance.

        Tossing in Soriano is gratuitous … another year of “the Mets aren’t bad enough, so let’s force things” in here!

  7. DaveSchneck December 26, 2012 at 11:33 pm
    It’s too late on Diaz, Yanks inked him. “Tony Plush” Morgan is worth a look unless Alderson has something up his sleeve, but the rabbits are almost all gone.
    Bourn is the only of these 4 worth giving up that #11 pick, but Mets are not outbidding anyone this winter so signing him would be shocking. That said, the Mets biggest need may be a CF/leadoff hitter
    I think Alderson has one bullet left in his gun this winter not counting a resigning of Young and Hairston, which still seems like the most probable moves.
  8. John S. December 28, 2012 at 12:07 pm
    Putting dollars aside, other than Soriano would any of these guys be significant pieces in 2014?
    Would you want to trust Josh Hamilton’s psyche in New York? Bourne is going to look for a 3 or 4 year deal at more money than he is worth and might get it from a team that is one player away this year. But he strikes out too much and for a guy who relies on speed he is getting on in years.
    Most of the outfielders were .260 hitters who really only warrant a one year deal. Swisher was a product of Yankee Stadium
    Hamilton was the one difference maker and it was just way too much of a risk for a guy his age and history. His body has a lot more miles on it than his chronological age.
    If you somehow work a three way deal for Justin Upton (B.J. is not in the same category) and use prospects who are blocked (Flores, Rodriguez types), Murphy, and some non elite pitching prospects then you should go for it. But otherwise you just have to hope that your prospects will be ready when the pitchers are ready. If not, then you look to make that “Gary Carter” deal or sign a free agent down the line when the team is one player away. No sense in doing it now.