J.P. Ricciardi: Teams Don’t Build Through the Draft

Last week, Mets special assistant J.P. Ricciardi appeared on WEEI Radio (Boston) to comment on the free agent status of 2013 Red Sox shortstop Stephen Drew. During the interview, Ricciardi mentioned that the Mets were “very happy” with the prospect of heading into 2014 with Ruben Tejada as their shortstop. Some fans may not love to hear that, but it was the right thing to say — mainly for the sake of keeping any leverage the Mets may have in negotiations with Drew.

What struck me, though, was this quote by Ricciardi, in response to a question about teams parting with compensatory draft picks for signing free agents who rejected qualifying offers:

”One of the things that is happening in baseball right now, that I scratch my head with it: young players are so overvalued right now, and I think falls in with the draft picks, too. Listen, I get it. No one builds through the draft. You add through the draft,” Ricciardi said. “You can’t build a team through the draft because they just don’t all work out. But you can supplement your system, and I get all that. But if you’re telling me I have a chance to get Curtis Granderson over a second-round pick I think I’m going to take my chances with a proven major league player as opposed to maybe a high school or college kid that may or may not become Curtis Granderson.

“Hindsight is 20-20 and we can all go back and look at guys where they were drafted and what happened to them, but in the end, the major league players, the proven major league player, has a lot more value to me than the Double A kid, the Triple A kid or even the kid who is drafted. I wouldn’t hesitate to give up a draft pick. If I’m the Houston Astros or a club like that who is still building, I might not be as engaged to do it. But if I’m a club that is looking to get closer to being good, I might be more inclined to do it.”

Huh. So, for those fans who believe the Mets should be building a juggernaut dynasty through the draft — well, according to Ricciardi, you’re wrong.

Similarly, I suppose Mets fans shouldn’t get too excited about youngsters like Brandon Nimmo and Dominic Smith.

Thoughts? Sound off in the comments.

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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. Kanehl December 28, 2013 at 2:56 pm
    Well, if you’re using your early pick #1 draft choice to pick the likes of Gavin Checinni (I may have his name wrong, but he’ll never see the bigs anyway), then I guess you would be defensively dismissive of prospects. But look at the Rays, for example, who have built a winning team by choosing and developing young talent, locking them in through their productive 20’s, then dealing them for new on-the-cusp talent. Sandy has pulled off three great trades of old talent for other teams’s almost ready talent. But his drafts, spearheaded by the inexplicably employed J.P. have been awful.
  2. DanB December 28, 2013 at 7:58 pm
    This is the most exciting quote I have seen in a long time from a Met executive. Does this mean the Mets, as I have been saying for a couple years, noticed that prospects have been overrated and they should be traded for major league players? Is this the new Moneyball segment that is undervalued? Or are the Mets trying to take attention away from a series of underwhelming drafts? Or is this an attempt by the front office to spur the Wilpons into spending more money? I think we have seen an example of that previously by Alderson. In addition to this intrigue, I also can’t wait to see the response from supporters of this front office who have been looking towards the minors as hope for the future. Will they support this new thinking or will they feel wronged? Will it win over the Izzy’s of the world? (Ok, we know the answer of that one), I feel like Ricciardi just put a big ole present under Janish’s Christmas blog tree.
    Personally, I have always agreed with former Phillies executive Ben Franklin when he said, “everything in moderation”. He meant that you need to build winning teams through good trades, good drafts, and good free agent signings. It takes all three and winning front offices look to use undervalued segments, no matter what they are, to their advantage. Okay, I will sit back and enjoy the debate…
    • DaveSchneck December 28, 2013 at 9:57 pm
      I think Ben actually said everything in moderation except beer consumption and having children, but that’s another story.

      JP is a loose cannon and sooner or later would provide some good blog fodder. It sounded a little awkward, but I get it that he is frustrated that the trend in baseball is to hold on to these prospect lottery tickets.

      Ultimately, ole Ben was right. Balance is necessary, except for the extremely rich or the extremely poor. The Mets are neither. As you said graduating prospects, making trades, and signing FAs. The higher the payroll budget, the more margin for error. And, in the absence of money, the more prospects that can contribute in the bigs in their pre-arb years, the more margin for error.

  3. Dan42 December 28, 2013 at 8:14 pm
    Words are cheap, and in this case somewhat ambiguous
    But it also could be an extremely accurate summary of the Mets latest strategy, in words only a Wlpon can fully comprehend.
  4. crozier December 28, 2013 at 9:53 pm
    I was glad to see you cover this topic. In the Tanaka post, you noted that this was an opportunity to get an elite (in theory) player for nothing but cash, and my reflexive thought was: as opposed to what? Giving up a draft pick? Like the Mets have done anything with draft picks anyway.

    Maybe a little cynical on my part. But if the Mets had a pattern of making good picks and developing them into stars, I’d have strong reservations about losing one for the likes of Drew. They don’t, so I don’t. Perhaps my desire for a half-decent top of the order guy has clouded my judgement. But less so, I think, than one who rates Tejada as a viable leadoff solution.

  5. DanB December 29, 2013 at 10:24 am
    Crozier, do you think Ricciardi is speaking honestly about his opinion of the value of prospects or is he frustrated by their attempts to trade for a young shortstop? Is he saying a proven MLB player, even one with limited success such as Tejada, is just as valuable as a minor league prospect?
    One thing I find amazing is that the front office already has said free agents are overvalued aka their salaries. Now we are being told prospects are overvalued. They don’t want to sign free agents and they don’t want to focus on the draft. Are they saying they want a well rounded approach to player acquisitions or are they preparing fans for another year of status quo?
    • crozier December 29, 2013 at 2:36 pm
      Whether or not Ricciardi was spinning the Tejada role, yes I think he was speaking honestly. Now, as to whether he believes what he says as the result of past performance (the Mets org basically stinks at drafting/developing players) or because of an actual ideology (let other clubs do the development; we’ll sign them when they’re proven), I couldn’t say.

      Is this type of thinking a hallmark of a great team? Depends on how much money you have to spend, so in this case, no. Are they gearing up for another mediocre season? I don’t think so. They’re hoping – as any Mets fan is – that the offensive acquisitions pay off, d’Arnaud realizes his potential, Duda comes to life, and the rotation shines. I consider that a long shot, but it wouldn’t be unprecedented.

  6. DaveSchneck December 29, 2013 at 10:43 am
    Sounds like JP is frustrated by not being able to deal Ike and/or Murphy for a legit prospect in order to free some cash to sign Drew and a good bullpen arm. The truth is he is frustrated by the shoestring budget they are still operating on, which every GM sans Beane and Freidman would fail with. Remember, given the new tv money,limiting payroll to $85 to $90 million this year is like limiting it to $60-$65 million in 2013. Tome that means that Grandy, Colon, and Young without a legit SS upgrade or legit bullpen arm is just lipstick on a pig
    • crozier December 29, 2013 at 2:41 pm
      Unless – and don’t quote me as one who believes this deeply – Granderson, Young, Duda, and Wright combine for 80+ home runs. That would be marginally better than lipstick on a pig. I agree the changes don’t look like much at this point, and the lack of OBP in slots one and two is discouraging. But I’m not believing this to be a surrender just yet. A little early for that.
      • DaveSchneck December 29, 2013 at 7:22 pm
        I agree it is still early and reaching conclusion on grading the offseason. A lot can still be done, and they can still fill the remaining holes with average to above average solutions.
  7. argonbunnies December 29, 2013 at 10:02 pm
    If J.P.’s actually noticed other teams being dumb, the Mets should take advantage ASAP. Over-valuing low minor leaguers? Trade Plawecki or Ynoa for a decent major leaguer! If the Mets don’t do something like that, I’ll assume Ricciardi is just babbling or spin-doctoring, and it doesn’t mean anything.
    • Joe Janish December 29, 2013 at 10:35 pm
      Were the Mets over-valuing d’Arnaud and Syndegaard when they traded R.A. Dickey? Hmmm ….
      • argonbunnies December 29, 2013 at 11:18 pm
        Hard to separate from the issue of under-valuing Dickey (as demonstrated in contract offers), but yeah, good point.
  8. TexasGusCC December 30, 2013 at 3:58 am
    It sounds like JP is backtracking because if they felt prospects were overvalued, then at this time last year they would have signed Bourn. They didn’t, so I think they are full of it.

    When this organization speaks, 50% is BS, the problem is figuring out what it is. In September on the radio, Alderson said that Tejada and Duda were not core players. Now, Tejada will surprise and Duda is a better option so trade Davis.

    I don’t listen to any of them: Collins, Alderson, JP, Wilpon. Only DePodesta seems to be honest.

    • crozier December 30, 2013 at 11:31 am
      Not that the Mets management has impressed in discussing its players – quite the opposite – but if they end up being stuck with Tejada at short on opening day, I’d prefer they speak well of him. It could make a difference in his performance (though after last year, perhaps the damage is done). Regardless, neither Duda nor Tejada has been upgraded to being part of the Mets’ “core.”
  9. Paul Festa December 30, 2013 at 12:56 pm
    Of course. Everyone knows you build through massive amounts of free agent spending on players past their prime.
  10. Mic January 4, 2014 at 10:01 am
    My 2cents: this further illustrates the high dysfunction in the mets front office which has drafted poorly, done poorly with free agents and trades. Comments from JP never marry up with Sandy’s comments..then there is always Jeff …

    Why are we still discussing Ike, Tejada, Murphy, lagares, Kirk, Familia…because the organization has an eight headed approach to everything. ..

  11. gary s January 4, 2014 at 12:14 pm
    Incompetence, thy name is NY Mets..