Mets, Steve Cohen whiffing on Kumar Rocker looks Wilpon-esque – New York Post

Steve Cohen is absurdly rich, surprisingly charming and, it sure appears, diligently devoted to his new endeavor.

What he is not, is Rookie Owner of the Year.

For as much enthusiasm as the Mets’ new big boss has generated among the jewel franchise’s rabid fan base, as much on-field success as his club has enjoyed, Cohen also has managed, totally inadvertently, to rehabilitate the reputation of his predecessors. It turns out that gargantuan mistakes were not exclusive to Fred and Jeff Wilpon and Saul Katz.

Perhaps the biggest doozy yet came to a head on Sunday afternoon, shortly after another loss by the big-league team at Citi Field, when the Mets announced their failure to sign top draft pick Kumar Rocker, infuriating those same rabid fans who couldn’t believe their good fortune exactly three weeks prior as the Mets popped the Vanderbilt right-hander with the 10th-overall selection.

As first reported by The Post on July 27, the Mets held concerns about Rocker’s pitching elbow following a physical examination, and Rocker’s camp, headed by advisor Scott Boras, disputed those concerns. The Mets never even tendered an offer.

“This is clearly not the outcome we had hoped for and wish Kumar nothing but success moving forward,” acting general manager Zack Scott said in a statement, and that the Mets employ an acting GM harkens back to their first epic blunder under Cohen and president Sandy Alderson: Their December 2020 hiring of Jared Porter to head their baseball operations that blew up the next month when ESPN reported of Porter’s inappropriate 2016 contact with a female journalist.

Fred Wilpon and Steve Cohen were meant to represent old guard and new guard in the organization.
Fred Wilpon and Steve Cohen were meant to represent old guard and new guard of the organization.
for the NY POST

If Porter’s horrendous conduct appeared to catch the bulk of the baseball industry by surprise, however, the Mets simply should have better inoculated themselves better against the Rocker situation. Start with the fact he fell to them at 10 after being projected to go much higher. While Boras said in a statement, “Kumar requires no medical attention and will continue to pitch in the regular course as he prepares to begin his professional career” and backed that up with assertions of clean MRIs — and Rocker deserves the benefit of the doubt based on his track record of never missing a start at Vandy — the scuttlebutt about Rocker’s arm has been out there.

The Mets could have gambled on Rocker requiring Tommy John surgery, from which most pitchers recover. The Yankees drafted Clarke Schmidt 16th overall in 2017 a month after he underwent Tommy John surgery and Schmidt’s ceiling remains high.

Or the Mets could have hedged their bets and drafted a reach guy late in the draft as a Plan B in case the Rocker situation imploded. The Angels, who passed on Rocker with the pick directly in front of the Mets, selected high-school southpaw Mason Albright in the 12th round and gave him a signing bonus of $1.25 million, a record for that round, to forego his commitment to Virginia Tech. The Mets, who had budgeted $6 million for Rocker, left over $1.3 million of their $9.02 million pool unspent, as first reported by ESPN, because they signed the rest of their selections to under-slot figures.

Kumar Rocker
Kumar Rocker
Getty Images

As a result of not signing Rocker, the Mets get a makeup pick next year that will be no lower than 11th, and active players drafted 11th include Max Scherzer, Andrew McCutchen, George Springer and current Met Dom Smith. Yet they won’t get that $1.3 million back, and this story presents terrible optics for an owner trying to show off a new and improved product.

“Baseball draft picks are worth up to 5x their slot value to clubs,” Cohen tweeted on Sunday evening. “I never shy away from investments that can make me that type of return.”

Then they shouldn’t have put so many eggs in the Kumar basket.

Meanwhile, the Mets wrapped up their longest homestand of the season with a sleepy, 7-1 defeat to the Reds, dropping them to 5-6 during their extended Flushing stay. Their National League East lead fell to 3 ½ games over the Phillies. To the road they go, their short-term future hazy and their long-term future having taken a big hit.

Rough day for Cohen and his deputies who will get more chances to do this right but are showing everyone that money can’t buy you anything close to perfection.