You hear a lot of reasons why the Mets haven’t had more success thru the years. These range from cheap owners, to GMs with questionable roster decisions to incompetent managers. But there’s one thing that flies under the radar. And that’s that the club is considerably below average in grabbing young talent from the international free agent (IFA) market. It’s not for a lack of trying. The Mets have spent decent money in this area and have had prospects with a lot of hype climb thru the system. But for whatever reason, these players fail to pay off the way they do in other organizations.

Let’s look at these IFAs in the Mets360 era. Here are the players signed by the Mets and who made their MLB debut with the club since 2010. Furthermore, we’re interested in the players who signed when they were teenagers, rather than someone like Kodai Senga, who signed when he was 30 and immediately played in the majors. The Mets have had multiple Latin players who they traded for or signed as free agents who’ve contributed over the years. But their homegrown IFAs have been for the most part borderline terrible.

Player MLB Debut Country Lifetime fWAR Best fWAR Season
Ruben Tejada 2010 Panama 4.6 1.7
Jenrry Mejia 2010 Dominican Republic 1.3 0.8
Jeurys Familia 2012 Dominican Republic 5.3 2.1
Elvin Ramirez 2012 Dominican Republic (-0.1) (-0.1)
Jordany Valdespin 2012 Dominican Republic 0 0.3
Wilmer Flores 2013 Venezuela 12.8 2.5
Wilfredo Tovar 2013 Venezuela (-0.4) 0
Juan Lagares 2013 Dominican Republic 7.9 2.9
Rafael Montero 2014 Dominican Republic 3.8 1.5
Habsel Robles 2015 Dominican Republic 1.7 1.9
Gabriel Ynoa 2016 Dominican Republic 0.5 0.5
Amed Rosario 2017 Dominican Republic 7.6 2.7
Luis Guillorme 2018 Venezuela 2.3 1.3
Andres Gimenez 2020 Venezuela 11.9 6.2
Ali Sanchez 2020 Venezuela (-0.1) 0
Francisco Alvarez 2022 Venezuela 2.7 2.7
Jose Butto 2022 Venezuela 0.5 0.6
Ronny Mauricio 2023 Dominican Republic 0.3 0.3

The highest lifetime fWAR of this group is Flores’ 12.8 and he has accumulated 8.2 of that total for teams besides the Mets. While playing for his original team, Flores’ best output was a 1.7 fWAR in 2015. And if you look at the column with the best season, most of these happened for teams besides the Mets. Gimenez’ and Rosario’s big years came with Cleveland, Flores’ with the Giants, Robles’ with the Angels and Montero’s with the Astros. Only Lagares, Alvarez and Familia have given the Mets a 2.0 fWAR season.

Now let’s look at the rest of MLB. The chart that follows is not complete and doesn’t necessarily even include the best performance for the club. Instead, it’s players that jumped immediately to mind. And it’s limited to one per team, so apologies to Yordan Alvarez, Rafael Devers and Ketel Marte for not being the first players thought of by me for their respective clubs.

Player Org MLB Debut Lifetime fWAR Best fWAR Season
Ronald Acuna Jr. ATL 2018 26.7 8.3
Ender Inciarte ARI 2014 16.4 4.7
Jonathan Schoop BAL 2013 17.5 4.5
Xander Bogaerts BOS 2013 38.6 6
Willson Contreras CHC 2016 17.9 3.3
Luis Robert Jr. CHW 2020 11.6 5
Jose Ramirez CLE 2013 46.7 8.1
German Marquez COL 2016 17.5 4.1
Jose Altuve HOU 2011 52.6 7.5
Salvador Perez KCR 2011 15.3 3.5
Julio Urias LAD 2016 14.1 5
Marcell Ozuna MIA 2013 25.3 5.7
Jose Berrios MIN 2016 19.9 4.4
Gary Sanchez NYY 2015 16 4.3
Cesar Hernandez PHI 2013 14.5 3.5
Starling Marte PIT 2012 34 5.3
Fernando Tatis Jr. SDP 2019 18.1 7.3
Julio Rodriguez SEA 2022 11.3 5.9
Wander Franco TBR 2021 9.3 4.6
Martin Perez TEX 2012 16 4
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. TOR 2019 10.1 6.3
Juan Soto WSN 2018 28.4 7

This chart includes players for 22 teams and 20 of these players had a single-season fWAR of 4.0 or greater, with all 22 bettering Lagares’ best year with the Mets. The teams which came up blank for me are: Angels, Athletics, Brewers, Cardinals, Giants, Reds and Tigers. The arbitrary 2010 cutoff kept Yadier Molina and Pablo Sandoval from appearing. And the Reds have a potential player for the list in Elly De La Cruz, who had an impressive debut in 2023. And to repeat – this is just guys who jumped to mind. It’s certainly possible there are IFAs who had a 3.0 fWAR for these missing teams in our time frame.

If we go back further in Mets history with IFAs, we do find one success story for the club – Jose Reyes, who made his MLB debut in 2003. Reyes had a lifetime 43.9 fWAR, with a single-season best of 5.8, which he registered in both 2008 and 2011. Our hopes now are that Alvarez and Mauricio can put up similar-type numbers for the Mets in the future.

The Mets have had success with the MLB Draft in this time frame, hitting on Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil and Brandon Nimmo – among others – in this span. They’ve also made good trades and have been successful in the free agent market. But life is simply easier if you find impact players in all avenues available to add talent. It would be wonderful if the Mets had their own cost-controlled IFA success story, like Acuna, Altuve and Soto. Unfortunately, they’ve only had one player in this regard and they signed him last century.

12 comments on “The Mets and their recent struggles getting and keeping homegrown IFA stars

  • Steve_S.

    Very interesting, Brian! Thanks for all of this research!

    If Alvarez keeps progressing, I wonder if the Mets will lock him up on a long-term deal?

    • Brian Joura

      Thanks Steve!

      I certainly hope they ink him to a deal that locks him up with a hometown discount.

  • NYM6986

    It seems this highlights the lack of infrastructure in being better prepared to select international players. That would seem to go hand in hand with not developing the farm system and in not spending money smarter for free agents. Hopefully the new regime will improve in all these areas and as we build up our organization, we can still be competitive. These days it’s all about snagging a playoff spot because anything can happen in a short series.

    • Brian Joura

      I don’t pretend to know why the Mets have stumbled in this area.

      They have the resources, they have the facilities – it just hasn’t worked. And I’m not sure how when the farm system brings U.S.-born players successfully to the majors, why they can’t do it with IFAs. Hopefully Alvarez and Mauricio help turn the tide.

  • ChrisF

    I think this is a condemnation of the Anderson era commitment to international scouting and failure of the past ownership to invest in key development/scouting in the international market.

    It’s a rogues gallery for the most part.

    Jenrry Mejia, Valdespin, Tovar, Hansel and Regrettle, and poor Ruben Tejada.

    • Brian Joura

      I know you never miss a chance to blame Alderson for anything. But let’s look at the guys you mentioned. Alderson joined the Mets in late October, 2010.

      Mejia – signed 2007
      Valdespin – signed 2007
      Tovar – signed 2007
      Robles – signed 2008
      Tejada – signed 2006

      All of these players were brought into the system under Omar Minaya – who was supposed to be some legendary scouting person. Perhaps he should be the object of your scorn here.

      • ChrisF

        Fair enough. Still blame Ownership for failing to see the importance of the IFA.
        As for Alderson, he was one of the worst GMs the Mets ever had, and his stain will last for ages.

  • Mike W

    It seems like the Mets always miss out. Let’s hope we get both Yamamoto and Lee.

  • James OBrien

    Alderson had a stated policy of signing many kids rather than one or two top-rated talents. His rationale was that these were just kids and no one could really predict how they would do so it was better to cast a wider net. I came across this free article from BA that seems quite relevant to Brian’s post.

  • T.J.

    I am convinced, correct or not, that there is a significant luck component to this regardless of the scouting acumen, facilities, etc. The IFA scouting process has a dicey, somewhat unsavory component from what I understand (which is admittedly limited). These players are searched out at incredibly young ages, in countries with extremely high poverty rates. Projecting not only big leaguers but elite performers is virtually impossible. Yes, the Mets have performed poorly, and it has hurt results at the big league level. They are due to cash in a lottery ticket. Alvarez may not be an Acuna, Soto, or Pujols, but he looks to be the best in quite some time.

  • Metsense

    Stearns hired Chris gross to be the VP of the scouting department. The hiring should be an improvement. He had a similar position with the Astros previously. The Athletic had an article it with some insights.

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