When the Mets landed right-handed pitcher Kumar Rocker, the Vanderbilt superstar, with the 10th overall pick in the 2021 draft, there was a feeling it could be a steal. Instead, the Mets are going to be going without a first-rounder in their system from this year's draft. Due to concerns with Rocker's right elbow and apparently fruitless negotiations on a reduced signing bonus, the two sides were unable to come to a deal before Sunday's 5 p.m. ET signing deadline.
Mets general manager Zack Scott released a statement Sunday right after the deadline: "This is clearly not the outcome we had hoped for and wish Kumar nothing but success moving forward," he said.
Scott Boras, Rocker's agent, also released a statement. Boras said his client "is healthy according to independent medical review by multiple prominent baseball orthopedic surgeons." Boras added that Rocker does not require medical attention and "will continue to pitch in the regular course as he prepares to begin his professional career."
Rocker's velocity was down in his last few outings and in the days after the draft it became known that there was an issue in his elbow. CBS Sports' R.J. Anderson reported last week that many believed the Mets botched this situation by not getting an insurance policy later in the draft. Here's the full story, with the most important entry below:
CBS Sports has talked to several scouting sources with other teams in recent days about the Rocker situation, many of whom have used colorful language to analyze what they perceive as a baffling Mets misplay. Those sources have described how their own teams will take at least one player somewhere in the second half of the draft who they could theoretically redirect savings toward in case something unexpected pops up with one of their early round selections. (Some have expressed concern that their teams don't draft enough of those types.)
In failing to come to an agreement with Rocker, they'll get the 11th pick in 2022 as compensation (that's in addition to wherever their usual first-round pick will be, so it's possible they salvage this thing long term).
Former Marlins president David Samson broke down the Kumar Rocker situation on Monday's Nothing Personal with David Samson. Listen below:
Sometimes a situation like this works out for the team. The Astros in 2014 took prep pitcher Brady Aiken with the number one overall pick and failed to come to an agreement after medicals revealed an elbow issue. With the second overall pick the next year as compensation, they took Alex Bregman. Another recent example would be the Pirates taking Mark Appel eighth in 2012 and not signing him and then grabbing Austin Meadows ninth in 2013.
Rocker, 21, was 14-4 with a 2.73 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and 179 strikeouts against 39 walks in 122 innings for Vanderbilt this season. He's eligible to return to Vandy for his senior year.