The Mets today didn’t sign their 2021 first round selection, pitcher Kumar Rocker.
That usually happens after either a legitimate medical issue (like the Astros and Brady Aiken) or a medical issue the team attempts to use to justify a lowball offer to the point the player and his camp elect not to sign.
Obviously those of us on the outside can’t really know the situation. Rocker’s agent, Scott Boras, was quick with a statement asserting his client’s health, while Mets GM Zack Scott weighed in too:
Mets GM Zack Scott on Rocker: “This is clearly not the outcome we had hoped for and wish Kumar nothing but success moving forward. We’re excited about the players we have signed and look forward to watching them develop and contribute to the organization in the years to come.”
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) August 1, 2021
S0, clearly a weird situation. It’s possible the Mets were being exploitative, and it’s also possible Rocker was holding out for more money than a team was realistically comfortable with given their medical information.
The one thing everyone should be able to agree on: the system for draft prospects really sucks. Rocker is now not a free agent; rather, he’ll have to skip the year and enter the draft again. He’ll presumably pitch either overseas or for an independent team in the United States, where he’ll hope to prove his health and not miss a year of development. (While, you know, making money.)
But that’s somehow not the worst part of the story, or even the part of the story likely to have the longest repercussions. And that’s because Mets owner Steve Cohen decided to tweet.
Education time – Baseball draft picks are worth up to 5x their slot value to clubs .I never shy away from investments that can make me that type of return.
— Steven Cohen (@StevenACohen2) August 1, 2021
So THAT’S not something the league was probably happy to see. Everyone obviously knows that drafted players on rookie deals end up drastically outperforming their salaries and bonuses if they come anywhere close to their prospect status.
The MLBPA in the past has been okay with this imbalance as a way to direct more revenue to veterans via free agency. The issue in recent years has been a reticence of teams to splurge on those veteran deals in the way they once did. That has thrown the rookie wage scales into sharper focus, and while this is the kind of thing that everyone in the game knows and understands, it’s still implicit.
Until now, with Cohen on the record making it explicit and even offering up a dollar amount. Whether the MLBPA does anything with this is one thing, but if Kumar Rocker wanted to challenge his ability to sign with another team or seek some kind of damages, this would be a pretty solid exhibit A, at which point MLB might have to do some real damage control.