For The Mets, Top Draft Picks Are Trade Capital
Through three management regimes and two ownership groups, one thing has stayed consistent about the Mets in recent years: they use top draft picks primarily as trade capital.
The Mets drafted 12 players in either the first or second rounds between 2016-20. They have now traded eight of them after their latest deal to acquire all-star righthander Chris Bassitt from the A’s.
That includes four first-round picks and their top pick in three of five drafts. Most notably, it includes a Top 10 overall pick traded the same year he was drafted.
Here is a look at the Mets top picks from 2016-20 and how they’ve been utilized.
Mets First- And Second-Round Picks, 2016-20
Bold = Traded
The Mets have traded those top picks in deals exclusively for headline players. The players they have been part of trade packages for are Robinson Cano, Edwin Diaz, Marcus Stroman, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Carrasco, Javier Baez and Bassitt, all of whom had recent standout seasons at the time they were acquired.
That strategy of trading top picks for stars hasn’t panned out yet. The Mets have not made the postseason since 2016 and have only one winning record in the last five seasons.
Cano, Diaz, Lindor and Carrasco still remain with the club, along with the newly-acquired Bassitt, giving it time to still pay off, although the first four all saw their performance decline once they arrived in New York.
As of yet, the prospects traded haven’t come back to bite the Mets, either. Dunn and Kay have yet to establish themselves as bona fide major league starters and Kelenic struggled in his major league debut last year, although he got better as the year went on and remains a key part of the Mariners’ expected rise to contention in the American League. Woods Richardson went 3-5, 5.91 at Double-A last season and Wolf went 1-3, 5.89 at Low-A Lynchburg. Crow-Armstrong, Ginn and Greene all showed promise in their pro debuts but have yet to play above the Class A levels.
There are still many years ahead before it can be fully determined whether the Mets’ repeated willingness to part with top picks was opportunistic or short-sighted.
However it turns out, it does make the Mets an outlier in an era where clubs value draft picks more than ever, and will likely be instructive for team-building strategies moving forward.
Scouts On Jo Adell, Jarred Kelenic And Other Graduated Prospects Yet To Establish Themselves
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While no team in recent history has matched the number of recent top picks the Mets have traded (eight), there are two that have come close. In both cases, trading that many top draft picks for veterans failed to result in winning seasons.
A.J. Preller traded seven recent first- or second-round picks in his first offseason after he was hired as the Padres general manager following the 2014 season. The first- or second-round picks he traded were righthander Joe Ross and infielder Jace Peterson (2011), lefthander Max Fried and righthander Zach Eflin (2012), outfielders Dustin Peterson and Jordan Paroubeck (2013) and shortstop Trea Turner (2014) as a player to be named later.
Turner and Fried blossomed into stars while Ross and Eflin have been effective starters when healthy. The Padres have had one winning record in seven seasons under Preller.
The other notable instance of a team trading so many top draft picks in a short period of time is the D-backs under former general manager Dave Stewart. Under Stewart, the D-backs traded five first- or second-round picks in under two years: righthander Aaron Blair and outfielder Justin Williams (2013), righthander Touki Toussaint and infielder Isan Diaz (2014) and shortstop Dansby Swanson (2015).
Swanson became the starting shortstop on a World Series winner, but the others failed to become more than part-time players in the majors. Even so, the D-backs did not benefit from the deals. They posted consecutive losing seasons in 2015-16 before Stewart was fired.