New York Mets chairman Steve Cohen implied his club avoided a bad investment by not agreeing to a rookie contract with No. 10 overall pick Kumar Rocker ahead of Sunday's deadline.
The Wall Street hedge fund manager often communicates with his team's fanbase through Twitter and attempts to explain his reasoning for team decisions. While the explanation may not satisfy fans who were overjoyed the two-time All-American pitcher at Vanderbilt fell to the Mets in July's draft, it does provide some insight as to how the team viewed Rocker's long-term development in the organization.
According to Anthony DiComo of MLB.com, the Mets did not even offer a contract for Rocker to turn down after reviewing the right-hander's medical reports. Multiple sources told DiComo the Mets were unaware of any arm issues Rocker reportedly has until he came to New York for a post-draft physical.
The Mets will now receive the No. 11 overall pick in 2022 as compensation for not agreeing to terms with Rocker.
Rocker joined Mark Appel and Kyle Funkhouser as the third college first-rounder not to sign a rookie contract since the current draft system was implemented in 2012. In 2014, high school pitcher Brady Aiken was selected No. 1 overall by the Houston Astros but did not sign after concerns over the health of his arm came up in the post-draft process.
Scott Boras, Rocker's agent, noted independent doctors verified the former Vanderbilt star is healthy. The Mets medical team disagreed.
Jeff Passan @JeffPassan
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.”
"Rocker could have avoided the situation by consenting to an MLB-sponsored program that shares the medical information of top Draft pitchers, but he risked falling precipitously on Draft boards if his MRIs revealed significant elbow or shoulder issues. As such, sources said that Rocker did not participate, which allowed the Mets to decline signing him without even making an offer. Per MLB rules, they would have needed to offer him a deal worth at least 40% of his $4.74 million slot value had he participated in the program. But they also might not have drafted him at all if he did, based on his medicals."
While Rocker is likely to re-enter the draft next season, Cohen's explanation seemed to inadvertently highlight the way MLB can take advantage of prospects.
The best-case scenario discussed after the Mets drafted Rocker was having the prospect join New York's bullpen for a postseason run much like Garrett Crochet and Brandon Finnegan before him—the latter becoming the first player in baseball history to pitch in the College World Series and MLB World Series in the same year (2014).
Instead, Rocker's pro career begins with questions about his health, a failure to reach a contract with the team that drafted him and the inability to join an MLB minor league system for at least another year.