“This is clearly not the outcome we had hoped for and wish Kumar nothing but success moving forward,” Mets acting general manager Zack Scott said in a statement Sunday.
A first-round pick going unsigned is not unprecedented, but what is somewhat surprising is that Rocker’s camp, led by agent Scott Boras, had agreed to a signing bonus of $6 million, according to a person familiar with the situation. The Mets later balked over concerns about the state of Rocker’s elbow.
When the deadline passed Sunday, Boras issued a statement to several reporters in which he disputed the notion that Rocker was not healthy — claiming, as he has throughout the process, that he “requires no medical attention.”
“Kumar Rocker is healthy according to independent medical review by multiple prominent baseball orthopedic surgeons. Immediately upon conclusion of his collegiate season, he had an MRI on both his shoulder and his elbow,” the statement read. “When compared with his 2018 MRIs, the medical experts found no significant change. Kumar requires no medical attention and will continue to pitch in the regular course as he prepares to begin his professional career.”
Rocker, 21, is not without options. If he returns to Vanderbilt, he could be an interesting case study of the NCAA’s new regulations allowing athletes to make money off their name, image and likeness. As one of the most famous players in college baseball history, Rocker would seem poised to capitalize on his NIL benefits in a way few could — and in a way no college baseball player has before. He also could join an independent league team or play abroad.
As for the Mets, MLB draft rules hold that if a team is unable to sign a player it takes in the first three rounds, it receives a compensatory pick one spot lower in the next year’s draft. So New York will have the 11th pick in the 2022 draft.
But failing to sign the most prominent player in this year’s draft — a player who seemed unlikely to fall to the Mets in the first place, a player who seemed built for the New York spotlight — constitutes another blow for a franchise that entered the trade deadline as the favorite in the National League East but has been consumed by disappointment since.
The Mets traded for talented shortstop Javier Báez and will pair him with Francisco Lindor in the middle infield, but beyond the addition of Trevor Williams they did not bolster a starting rotation that has been besieged by injury all year. And, just hours after the trade deadline passed, the Mets announced ace Jacob deGrom is likely to be shut down until September with inflammation in his right arm.
Carlos Carrasco returned from the injured list to make his first start of the season Friday and Noah Syndergaard may find his way back to the rotation late this season, but the Mets’ rotation still looks fragile. Marcus Stroman has been the only reliable option all season.
The Mets lost to the Cincinnati Reds, 7-1, on Sunday and lead the Philadelphia Phillies by 3½ games in the NL East.