Mets draft philosophy hurting the future

The Mets are one of the elite clubs in Major League Baseball. Don’t scoff at me, I am talking about in revenues. They just opened a brand spanking new ballpark that they routinely said would increase revenues for the club. They have TV rights that are the envy of the league (second to only the Yanks) and they have a rabid fan base that despite years and years of heartbreak come out in droves to support this team.

The Mets have as many resources as any team out there. The only reason the Yankees can spend more money, is because they have had more success then the Mets, not because they have some money faucet down in Tampa. There is no reason the Mets couldn’t tap into the same streams, they just have to be successful. The Mets failure have been organizational and have been failures of baseball, not business. They often do not have the best people performing the most important jobs. On top of this, despite their revenues, the Mets often operate like a small market team. It’s like because they play in the recent shadow of the Yankees, and have been second fiddle to them in New York, they take on the persona of small market team. It’s a crisis of confidence. The Mets should be the Yankees of the NL, instead they tend to operate more like the Royals and Pirates.

I, as a fan, have a real problem with this. By and large I pay as much as Yankee fans do. I pay a lot to go to games, I pay a lot to watch my games on TV. I feel that money should be put back into the baseball team. It should not be siphoned off to people like Bernie Madoff or to expand the Wilpons real estate empire.

One area that really bothers me is the Mets farm system. The two major ways to make sure this talent pipeline are stocked is through the amateur draft and the signing of unrestricted amateur players.

Baseball operates differently then a lot of other sports with respect to the draft. With sports like the NFL and the NBA the contracts draftees get are pretty much structured upon where they were selected. In baseball it can vary widely, usually based on the players agent and depending on if the player is out of high school or college. Additionally with the disparity in revenues if a kid knows he can get big bucks from a flush big market team, he will put it out there that he demands big market money, often discouraging small market teams from drafting them even if he’s available.

This is one area I would really like to see the Mets take advantage of. By leveraging their advantage as a major market team in this area they can make a big difference with their farm system. Unfortunately as Joe Spector over at reports the Mets often spend far less then they should. In fact in 2009 they spent the absolute least of all MLB teams. How does this happen? Well we do need to take into consideration that they didn’t have a 1st round pick so it would tend to be less then the year before. I fail to understand how they can spend less then teams like the Marlins, the Royals, the Pirates, and the Nats. It just doesn’t make sense. The fact that they selected a reliever with their first pick certainly didn’t help things either.

According to this article in the NY Times the Mets are really doing themselves a dis-service and are operating like they have no idea what their doing:

The Mets divvied $3,134,300 among their 35 signed picks, more than 50 percent less than their 2008 outlay, when they had two first-round selections and a first-round supplemental pick. By contrast, the average for all 30 teams was a shade more than $6 million. Without a pick until the second round, No. 72 over all, the Mets’ spending was destined to decrease. But their 2009 strategy resembled that of a small-market club that sometimes bypasses talented players in earlier rounds because it does not want to spend more on them than players available deeper in the draft.

It gets worse when you consider this:

“With a brand-new ballpark and a television network, the Mets’ revenues are probably among the top five clubs in baseball,” said Jim Callis, the executive editor of Baseball America and an expert on player development. ”After spending about $6.5 million when they had extra picks last year, do I think they could have found the money this year? Yeah, I think they could have. It just comes down to the willingness to spend.”

This annoys me to no end. Do we see a reduction in costs on our end when the Mets have a bad season? We most certainly do not, so why do they get away with not spending money to put a winning product on the field? Examples like these to me are the Wilpons blatantly not caring about winning. Talk is cheap, it’s your willingness to make moves that make me believe your serious owners, or just a spoiled kid playing in his Queens sandbox.

The Mets seem to be more concerned with being good “baseball citizens” and not as much about stockpiling the best possible talent. The Yankees, across town, get it. They understand they have a competitive advantage and leverage it at every chance they get. As much as people bitch and moan about the Yanks, when you sit down and analyze it you really have to admire them as an organization. I would trade the Wilpons for the Steinbrenners any day of the week, even if it means I have to take Hank in the deal.

The Yankees lavished $423.5 million on C. C. Sabathia, A. J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira last off-season, but they have also devoted more resources to the draft and the minor leagues. Now they routinely press their financial advantage in the draft, spreading $7,564,500 (ninth most) among their 27 signed picks in 2009, including about $2.2 million on their first-round pick and about $1.25 million on their second-round pick. Even after paying those above-slot bonuses, the Yankees still spent almost $1 million more on the rest of their 25 selections than the Mets did with all 35 of theirs, despite the teams having comparable picks.

So even after spending half-a-billion on the top free agents out there, the Yanks were still willing to invest more into their future then the Mets. Maybe that is the problem. It’s obvious the Wilpons are horrible when it comes to investing their money, maybe they just don’t understand that the farm system is investing in the franchises future. Now that I think about it, I wonder if they are using Bernie Madoff to handle that investing too?

  • Bill Turner

    Reasonable on the face of it, but maybe last year wasn’t the best example. Did the Mets actually pass on anyone that would have made a difference, in order to save money? Or was it just that the options once you got down to the 72nd pick genuinely were not worth spending much on?

    If this is an ongoing pattern, yes, the Mets need to change their approach. But if it’s an assessment that more talent was available this year via low-end free agents rather than low draft picks, that might be smart use of financial resources.

  • Brian Miller

    That’s a very good point you make Bill, one which I really hope were true.

    Honestly I hav no idea why the isn’t spend money and even if it were on international players it would be too early to tell if that were wise anyways.

    My beef is just in the while culture of the team these days. It doesn’t seem to matter if a player would be an addition to the team or not, it’s about the price tag. We signed Escobar after pitching 2 innings in 2 years and he probably won’t ever pitch for us. But god forbid we spend a cent on Hudson, Marquis, Biemel, or spend over slot on a draft pick.

    Truth is right now the AAA level looks better then it has in years – but this nickel an dime small market philosophy won’t work when you charge your best customers big market prices.

  • Brian Miller

    Sorry – I am commenting from my iPhone so pardon the typos

  • Eddie Vegas

    Yeah, I think what it looks like is we will just buy other people prospects when they hit free agency and we have not wantd to spend money on prospects, i think that is a bad philosophy look at team like florida who always are competitive without signing high priced talent wouldnt it be nice to have a team of wrights and reyes’ then about of high priced free agents i think so, if the mets can draft harper and dont they will end up regretting it

  • Brian Miller

    I just feel like the Mets need to take advantage of the financial advantage when they can.

    You can flex some of that muscle during free-agency sure but there are bigger fish in that realm and it’s not always a proven way to go and you often end up overpaying.

    Just seems like the draft and international free-agents are a place the Mets could actually flex some of that muscle at a relatively low price (we are really only talking a few million dollars between the top and bottom) with a potentially huge payoff.

    Hell I would wager that if the Mets spend more money on the draft – they would probably make a large portion of that back in increased revenues from the minor league clubs like Buffalo because they would be putting out a better product too. Just seems silly to pinch the pennies in that realm.

    The last year was a bit of an enigma with the Mets not having a first round pick and then drafting a reliever with their first selection. But for a long time now the Mets have not been picking over their slot. Being a good citizen is great and all, and following the Commissioners guidelines are great, but I really couldn’t care as a fan.

  • Mike

    This article is absurd. First the Mets revenues are nowhere near the Yankees. To say the Mets could spend like the Yankees and just choose not to is based on zero fact.

    Second the Mets spend big money, they have the highest payroll every year in the NL. How quickly you forget that we were a World Series contending team less than 5 years ago. The Pirates and the Royals???

    I hate fans like you. Once the Mets turn it around you’ll be right back on the bandwagon.

  • Nick

    I agree with Mike.

  • Read: Who is Jordany Valdespin — NYFSBlogs

    [...] a post to Mets Pundit, Brian Miller writes, “The Mets should be the Yankees of the NL, instead they tend to operate [...]

  • Chakrabs

    I’m sorry, Mike, but the Mets are the 2nd most valuable franchise in the league, yet they field a pathetic team. Yes we were a WS contending team 5 years ago, but why should a team with these resources not be competitive EVERY year? The Sox and Yanks havent had 4 seasons with 75 or fewer wins this decade! Stop following the team like sheep and stop criticizing people who are suggesting ways for the Mets to better themselves!

  • Brian Miller

    Wow obviously I struck a bit of nerve. I think some of you are missing the point of the article and are just seeing red at some things.

    You have to take the context of the blog into consideration. It’s directed at the teams draft philosophy and not the overall running of the team. A critique on the overall running of the Mets would take me weeks two write.

    As a fan it really bothers me when I watch the Mets routinely act cheaply in one area where I feel like they have no excuse to do so. When they refuse to draft a player because they want to be good citizens infuriates me. How about being loyal to your fans? How about being a good franchise year in and year out and then you can worry about being a “good citizen” to the commissioner.

    My call for the Mets to be more like the Yanks was in regard to the Yanks strategy to draft the best possible player, no matter what slot they should be in, and sign them for what they feel they are worth to the Yankees. They get the best possible talent no matter what because frankly they don’t care about the cost, they care about winning. Winning is first, winning is #1, and they don’t care about anything but winning. This is never the case with the Mets and that frustrates the hell out of me.

    Mike why do you think the Yankees revenues are what they are? Do they possibly have to do with the fact that the Yankees win a lot? Of course they do. It’s not because they won favor with the commissioner by staying in slot on draft day. That’s absurd. There is no reason the Mets couldn’t be the Yankees, in fact many people thought they were the Yankees in the late 80′s and even in the 90′s. They fumbled the ball and the Yanks went on a historic run. The Yankees revenues skyrocketed because they have a great championship pedigree, and they made a few savvy business moves at the right times. The Mets have all the same resources, minus of course 26 championship banners.

    To call me a bandwagon fan is just plain silly. I run a Mets blog, how much more on the bandwagon can you be? I don’t write this blog in hopes for free tickets, or a special tour of Citi Field, or to maybe meet David Wright. I write on it because I love the Mets and could talk about them for days. Call me a pessimist all you want but I refuse to just pretend everything is rosy. I don’t want sports with my head in the sand, and God bless those who do, it’s probably more fun for you.