Saturday, June 6, 2015

With the 15th pick, the Mets take Michael Cuddyer

The amateur draft is Monday, and the Mets don't have first-round pick because they signed free agent Michael Cuddyer. It was a dubious move when it happened, and it still looks dubious now.

In 51 games, Cuddyer is hitting .268 with 6 homers, 24 RBI and a .744 OPS. He's hit better since a slow April, when he batted .247 with a .702 OPS. Cuddyer has already played more games this season than all of last year, when he played in only 49 games.

But there is no guarantee that the 36-year-old Cuddyer will stay healthy - he hasn't played in 140 games since 2010.  And even if he does stay healthy, he does not figure to get much higher than his current numbers, which are similar to what he had in Minnesota as opposed to Colorado.

Four other teams forfeited a first-round pick this year to sign a free agent: the Nationals, when they signed Max Scherzer; the Padres, when they signed James Shields; the Mariners, when they signed Nelson Cruz and the Jays, when they signed Russell Martin. These players were far more highly ranked than Cuddyer and are the kind of players worth giving up a first-rounder for. But they cost tens of millions more dollars than Cuddyer, money the Mets are unwilling to spend.

The Mets didn't need pitching or catching, and while Nelson Cruz would have looked great in a Mets uniform, some other free agent hitters this year (who did not cost a first-rounder) have so far done worse than Cuddyer, such as Pablo Sandoval, Melky Cabrera and Billy Butler. But spending free-agent money on second-tier free agents like Cuddyer and Curtis Granderson is counterproductive if these players do not produce. The Mets desperately need more offense, but can't upgrade their outfield even if someone good were available because Cuddyer and Granderson's salaries are not going to the bench.

If the Mets had not signed Cuddyer, they would have had the fifteenth pick in the draft. Since 2001, the player drafted fifteenth with the highest WAR to date is, ominously enough, Scott Kazmir. The player with the second-highest WAR is Yankee fan favorite Stephen Drew.

The Mets won't participate in the draft until the 53rd pick. For what it's worth, in 1972, with the 53rd pick, the Montreal Expos selected Gary Carter.

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