With the sixth pick of the Rule 5 Draft, the Mets were not supposed to be able to select Burch Smith. However, by some fortune, the player rated by Baseball America as the top prospect in the Rule 5 Draft, fell to the Mets. Even better, the Mets made the wise decision to pick him.
But they weren’t smart enough to keep him.
In what was likely a prearranged deal with the Kansas City Royals, the Mets traded Smith for cash considerations or a player to be named later.
Look, we don’t know if Smith can be an effective Major League player. There is certainly a reason the Tampa Bay Rays left him unprotected. His joining Zack Wheeler in missing the 2015 and 2016 seasons to Tommy John probably played no small part. Still, this was a talented player Baseball America projects as Major League ready:
Smith sat 94-96 mph with his fastball, flashed a knee-buckling 74-76 mph curveball and showed a swing-and-miss 79-81 mph changeup. Though he’s 27 and has had serious arm health issues, Smith is major league ready and has the stuff to help a team as a back-end starter or move to the bullpen.
Looking at the Mets as constituted now, it is bizarre to think the team could part with Smith without so much as getting real player back or giving him a chance. With stuff like Smith has, and with the arrival of Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland, you would anticipate the Mets organization could get the most out of Smith. Whether that is as a short inning reliever, a long man (like Sean Gilmartin in 2015), or a fifth starter, Smith at least appears to be a MLB pitcher.
Obviously, the Royals believed that to be true with them dangling cash in front of a Mets team that is cutting payroll.
Sarcasm aside, the role Smith would fulfill on this Mets team would be the one given to Robert Gsellman or Rafael Montero. With Gsellman’s not caring what the GM thinks combined with his poor season and with Montero having the career he has had, it begs the question why you would turn your back on a player who could conceivably fulfill the same role and possibly do it better.
Right now, no one is quite sure what Smith is as a Major Leaguer. The same could be said about Pedro Beato in 2010 or Johan Santana in 1999. Point is, we don’t know what or who Smith will be. However, we do know what the Mets have, which makes their decision to just give Smith away all the more troubling.
Even though the Mets lost, the Mets Magic Number is now 6 because the Nationals lost to the Orioles. With the Mets having two Rule 5 picks pitching in a game, and both of the Mets young catchers getting into the game, I thought the best choice for magic number 6 would be Kelly Shoppach:
In 2012, the 74-88 Mets traded for the impending free agent Shoppach for a player to be named later. The idea was to get a good look at him to see if the team wanted to re-sign him and/or to get him to work with Josh Thole. Neither one would be back.
Shoppach only hit .203/.276/.342 in 28 games. His play did not inspire the Mets to re-sign him. Thole would be moved in the famed R.A. Dickey trade that netted the Mets 2015 cornerstones, Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud.
The player to be named in the Shoppach deal was Pedro Beato, a former Rule 5 draft pick like Sean Gilmartin is this year. We did learn this year the player to be named later was almost Jacob deGrom, which would’ve been disastrous. Note, Sandy Alderson was reported to be alright with trading deGrom at the time until one of his advisors warned him not to make the deal.
But I digress. The seeds of the 2015 Mets were laid in the 2012 offseason. Much of the way the roster is currently constituted has to do with the Shoppach trade and his faired as a Met. If he succeeded, it’s possible he stays, and who knows what happens with d’Arnaud from there? Maybe nothing changes? Maybe Shoppach isn’t as effective a mentor as John Buck. My doctor won’t let me address the deGrom possibilities.
So as the Shoppach trade arguably set the wheels in motion, let’s offer a hat tip to Magic Man Number 6 Kelly Shoppach.