Analysis of the 2009 Draft Bonuses

Yesterday, Baseball America posted their list of Major League teams ranked by the total amount paid to the team’s picks in the first 10 rounds.  The Mets placed 30th, dead last.  Matt Cerrone posted about this subject at metsblog as well.

What should fans make of the Mets seemingly pathetic last place ranking in draft spending?  Is is primarily due to the fact that 1. the Mets did not have a pick before #72 (losing their first rounder to the Angels for signing K-Rod, missing out on most of the the truly elite and expensive talents) or 2. the team follows a conservative drafting philosophy which stays close to the commissioner’s recommended slot for each pick?  Actually, a lot of both.  The Mets missing first rounder, and lack of compensation picks does not justify the team’s frugal draft performance, but accounting for the missing selections is crucial in putting the team’s work in proper perspective.

The table breaks down the Mets and the 29 other MLB teams’ draft signings ranked by total expenditure in rounds 2-10.

[table=140]

A few notes:

1. the Pirates were widely criticized at draft time for eschewing high ceiling and high bonus demand players in the first round in favor of BC catcher Tony Sanchez at #4.  The Pirates’ theory was that the players in the top of half of the first round, all of whom carried their own risks, did not justify such high bonuses and that there were other players who were more worthwhile risks outside the first round.   Give Pittsburgh credit in carrying out their strategy, as the Pirates led all MLB teams in bonuses paid ($4,864,900) in rounds 2-10.  Also, the 21-year-old Sanchez is hitting .360/.460/.605 in 29 games with the West Virginia Power in the SAL.

2. The Braves spent $2.42 million on first rounder Mike Minor from Vanderbilt, but were 30th among the MLB teams in draft spending in rounds 2-10, handing out just $1.294 million in bonuses to their seven signees.

3. The Red Sox spent the 2nd most behind the Pirates in rounds 2-10, with a total of $4.577,  signing all ten of their picks over this range, buttressing the Sox reputation as a big market team which shrewdly leverages their financial strength in the amateur draft.

4. The Mets were 22nd in total spending in rounds 2-10, forking out only $1,864,300.  That’s clearly below average ($2.58 mil) and median ($2.35), but is no longer dead last.  Hey, Mets fans, it’s like the NL East, where the Nationals bring up the rear: “Hey, at least we’re not last” can be 2009′s official rallying call.   Every team below the Mets in total expenditures in rounds 2-10 spent at least 1.7 million before the Mets first choice at #72.

5. Both the Diamondbacks (1,1S,1S,1S,2) and Angels (1,1,1S,1S,1S) selected five players before the Mets drafted one.

6. The Mets are one of just six teams to sign just seven of their picks from rounds 2-10.

7. When you adjust for cost/signing, the Mets move up to the middle of the pack, #17, spending an average of $266,329 for each of their seven picks signed through the tenth round.  However, the Mets are tied with five other teams for the fewest picks signed in rounds 2-10.  Overall, only three teams, the Mets, Rays and Rangers signed as few as seven of their picks in rounds 1-10.

Where’s the Money?

In terms of the quality (by missing out on the first round) and quantity, the Mets were among the bottom teams in Major League Baseball at adding talent through the amateur draft in June 2009.  The Mets had the same opportunities as other teams to flex their economic muscle to bring in high-reward types outside of the first round, to make up for the missing first rounder, but declined to use their financial clout, again.

Tuesday night, the always entertaining Keith Law of ESPN tweeted “Told wife the #Mets had the smallest draft budget this year. Her explanation: “Well probably they just didn’t need good players.”

Snark aside, Tuesday, Mets Scouting Director Rudy Terrasas told Mets Minor League Blog regarding sixth round pick David Buchanan, who did not sign with the team, “sometimes negotiations take a turn for the worse, and we just couldn’t meet his demands.”  How much money was the team short?  Two-hundred grand?  Three?  Four?  Five?

In this context, perhaps Mets fans should be asking their front office why the team would pay Tim Redding, who is 1-4 with a 6.42 ERA in 68.2 IP with a 0.1 WAR, $2.25 million dollars for 2009, while spending less than that on an entire draft class?

Note: Although it’s not illustrated in the table above, draft bonuses for the supplemental first rounds were removed to calculate total bonuses for rounds 2-10.  I’m having trouble formatting tables.  I have the original excel available.  If you are interested in extending or critiquing this analysis, email me here.