Could signing K-Rod be the worst move the Mets made in the 2000s?

Francisco RodriguezOn December 10, 2008 it was announced that the New York Mets had just signed free agent closer Francisco Rodriguez – K-Rod for short.

At the time it seemed like a nice deal for the Mets.  K-Rod was coming off a record breaking 62 saves for the Los Angeles Angels.  Yeah, it was very likely he wouldn’t come close to 62 saves again but he had had 45, 47, and 40 saves the three years before.  The signing cost the Mets $37 million for three years of K-Rod.   Oh, the Mets also sacrificed their 2009 first round draft choice to the Angels as compensation.

K-Rod went on to have one decent year with the Mets saving 35 games in 2009.  Then well, suffice to say, things went south, and K-Rod was a Milwaukee Brewer by 2011.  But that’s not what makes this story interesting.

As mentioned above having K-Rod in the fold meant the Mets wouldn’t have a first round draft choice in 2009.  At the time, it didn’t seem to be a big deal.  The Mets last ten first round choices were such names as: Ike Davis, Reese Havens, Phil Humber, Lastings Milledge, Scott Kazmir, Aaron Heilman, Billy Traber, Jason Tyner and Geoff Goetz.  Sure, some decent players in the bunch, especially Kazmir, but nothing to write home about.   The 2009 crop didn’t look to be anything special since the Mets would have been picking 24th overall.

With the 24th pick it didn’t appear the Mets would have had any chance at the cream of the crop talent in 2009.  That cream was Stephen Strasburg, who was the number one pick by the Nationals.  A couple of baseball friends of mine had watched Strasburg pitch while he was in college in San Diego, they said he was the real deal.  After Strasburg, there didn’t seem to be a lot of “can’t miss” talent in the 2009 draft.  There was actually more buzz about the 2010 draft that would include Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, Chris Sale and some Matt Harvey guy.  All in all, outside of Strasburg, the draft in 2009 didn’t seem exceptional (though future Met, Zach Wheeler would be picked by the Giants at number six).

When it came to the Angels’ 24th pick, which they got from the Mets they chose Randal Grichuk who still hasn’t been above AA.  Then with the next pick, also the Angels, this time from the Yankees, the Angels picked New Jersey native, Mike Trout.

Here is what Baseball America said about Trout, “Trout’s bat is not a sure thing, but he has a chance to be a solid-average hitter with average or better power. Like Rowand, Trout is a grinder who always plays the game hard.”

Not bad but not exactly a ringing endorsement.  Trout had a (long) cup of coffee in 2011, hitting .220 in 40 games with 5 dingers and a .672 OPS.  Nothing spectacular, mind you.  He would save that for his first full year in 2012, hitting .326, with 30 homers, 49 stolen bases and a .963 OPS.  His bWAR that year was 10.9.  Last year he had similar numbers 27 dingers, .323 average, 33 swipes, .988 OPS, 110 walks.  His bWAR was 9.2.  He was top two in the MVP race both years.

So, that’s the story, the Mets by virtue of signing K-Rod as their closer lost the chance to draft Mike Trout.

To be fair, 24 other teams passed on Trout before the Angels snatched him up, on their second chance.  Drafting is often as much about luck as it is about science and scouting.  There is no guarantee that the Mets would have picked Trout, though since he was a NJ boy, hopefully he was at least on their radar.  It’s interesting to at least ponder about what could have been.

Was that signing the biggest mistake the Mets have made in the 2000s?

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24 comments for “Could signing K-Rod be the worst move the Mets made in the 2000s?

  1. Reese
    December 13, 2013 at 10:18 am

    Not even close by a longshot — Jason Bay is number one with a bullet, followed by the less expensive but ultimately awful Frank Francisco.

    • December 13, 2013 at 10:31 am

      Jason Bay is definitely the worst signing of that period. We got el zilcho, nada, beans, nothing from him in exchange for a large salary.

    • Sean Flattery
      December 13, 2013 at 1:14 pm

      Correctamundo!! Bay is the All-time worst!!!

  2. December 13, 2013 at 10:30 am

    It would be interesting if you could find out how the Met scouting department had Trout listed.
    Have to agree with Reese Bay was awful and you could sense he wasn’t going to do anything remotely decent on the field.

  3. John Zakour
    December 13, 2013 at 10:47 am

    Did the Mets have to forfeit a draft choice for Bay? That is such a blur I don’t remember. Man, he was like invisible with the Mets.

    • December 13, 2013 at 1:56 pm

      Yes they did. The Red Sox got a supplemental pick at the end of the first round along with the Mets’ second-round pick. They added two pitchers – Anthony Renaudo and Brandon Workman. Workman, the second-rounder, made his MLB debut last year and appeared in 20 games, making three starts. Renaudo split time between Double-A and Triple-A last year and is on target to make his MLB debut in 2014.

      • John Zakour
        December 13, 2013 at 1:59 pm

        Wow, the Red Sox really do scout and draft well. It would have been interesting if that had had a shot at Trout.

  4. Jerry Grote
    December 13, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    Going back, did you have an inkling that Bay would be bad?

    We knew that Petey would have arm issues; Johann, too. But they were trades, not signings, and they turned out OK. But I think of a terrible signing as spending a lot on a guy when you could hear the bells ringing AND you commit large sums

    Jason Bay had put up 9.1 WAR in the three seasons preceding his arrival; a 121 OPS+; he averaged 30 HR/100 RBI and his defense wavered just a bit but was still not a significant drag on his performance.

    He was the second most expensive signing that year … a red flag, right off. But he got 4 years (not a forever) at roughly $16MM a year and the only other option, we never had a shot at, and he signed a team favorable deal at 7/120, or awfully close to Bay money annualized. At the time, it was considered even money as to which team got the better end of the deal. The Cards were criticized to give Holliday so long a deal.

    Bay turned out bad, but both he and K-Rod could have been easily thought of as reasonable decisions at the time. Especially since you don’t know whether or not the Mets would have taken Trout.

    The worst free agent signing also occurred in 2008; Oliver Perez. Here is a guy that had all the bells ringing. His ERA+ from 2005 to 2007 was 86. He had produced ZERO WAR. And still, we gave him $36MM over the next three years.

    The worst signing, to me, is the one it was clear at the outset you shouldn’t have made at the time. Ollie Perez. Hands down.

    • Metsense
      December 13, 2013 at 4:26 pm

      JG, excellent post and spot on. Perez, hands down.

  5. John Zakour
    December 13, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    I actually thought the Bay signing would be okay. I always liked him when he played for the Pirates. I thought coming from Boston he should be fine in NYC. But yeah but at face value the Bay signing turned out to be terrible. I still like to think what might have been if the Mets had a shot at drafting Trout.

  6. Sean Flattery
    December 13, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    I think after the 2008 season..The bullpen had to be addressed, and Omar did a terrific job bringing in K-Rod and Putz. I think most Mets fans were thrilled with these acquisitions after watching the likes of Ayala, Schwoenweis, Heilman, Sosa, Smith, etc. throw away another lost September

  7. Spencer Manners
    December 13, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    In addition to Bay, the Oliver Perez contract says hello.

    • John Zakour
      December 13, 2013 at 4:32 pm

      Oliver Perez, so much talent, so little grasp on how to use it.

  8. Jon
    December 13, 2013 at 4:38 pm

    That entire 2008 offseason was absolutely awful. The Rodriguez signing just demonstrated how little they’d learned from the whole Billy Wagner failure. They followed that with an even stupider move to cough up 5 players including useful ones like Hielman, Chavez, Joe Smith and Jason Vargas for an out of shape, injured JJ Putz. And of course they traded Shea for Citifield, spending all this $$ as the economy was collapsing.

  9. brian
    December 14, 2013 at 8:49 am

    I have to go with Oliver Perez as the worst and Luis Castillo second. It seemed at the time we gave these two guys each a contract no one else was even close to giving them. As “Jerry Grote” said the sign were there that Perez was a mistake which makes him the biggest mistake. Bay is the third worst signing because he should have been better.

  10. Joe G
    December 14, 2013 at 8:52 am

    I would have to go with Luis Castillo. It seemed like an stupid signing from Day 1, and it was! In addition to him being an awful player, we’re stuck with the memory of the dropped ball against the Yankees.

    • John Zakour
      December 14, 2013 at 9:50 am

      Yes, that is a pretty terrible memory. The only time I’ve ever seen a major leaguer muff a play I could have made.

      • December 14, 2013 at 7:58 pm

        Even I would’ve made that routine game ending popout from A-Roid that Luis Castillo dropped,which let the Yankees score 3 runs in the bottom of the 9th inning, all unearned with 2 outs. Something that Mets fans and Luis Castillo himself will never forget.

  11. December 14, 2013 at 5:39 pm

    Dear John Z,
    You forgot the 2nd effect of the signing you talked about. Sandy’s need to draft Nimmo because we had no OF’s for the future. If we had Trout & he progressed the way he did with the Angles, we could have opted to draft Hernandez (of the Marlins) instead of Nimmo. Imagine having Harvey and Hernandez at the top of the rotation? Here’s one more speculation for you. If we had drafted Hernandez, maybe we could have traded Thor or Wheeler in a deal to get Will Meyers from KC. Having Trout, Meyers & Lagares would look good, wouldn’t it? Woulda, coulda, shoulda. It would have saved Sandy 60 mil this year. If only Joe Smith could have filled Frankie’s shoes.

    • John Zakour
      December 15, 2013 at 2:24 am

      Very good points. There have been certainly been less productive straight signings than K-Rod, but I still feel the K-Rod one had the most cascading repercussions.

  12. amazins8669
    December 14, 2013 at 10:27 pm

    The K-rod signing really sucks considering that Omar took Trout out to dinner. I personally think it was not offering Wagner salary and picking up those two draft picks. We would have had two picks at the end of the first round of the 2010 draft which was an absolutely loaded section.

    Some of the people picked in that section: Christian Yelich, Zach Lee, Jessie Biddle, Aaron Sanchez, Bryce Bentz, Noah Syndergaard, Anthony Ranaudo, Taijuan Walker, Nick Castellanos, Mike Olt

    Now obviously everyone on that list isn’t a sure thing, but that is a ton of talent to pass over for not offering Billy wagner salary arb

  13. Robby
    December 15, 2013 at 10:06 am

    Though the Mets did end up with two first rounders from that draft in Wheeler and Vic Black.

  14. Kevin
    December 15, 2013 at 10:23 am

    Was this story written in 2010 before we knew how much of a bust Jason Bay would be???

  15. Billy
    December 16, 2013 at 10:24 am

    the Putz trade looks worse…we gave up Joe Smith, Mike Carp, Jason Vargas while Carrera and Cleto are starting their careers too (along with Endy and Heilman, but those were moveable assets)

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