For an organization that is so obviously intent on developing its own talent -- it spent first-round Draft picks on high school hitters, outfielder Brandon Nimmo in 2011 and shortstop Gavin Cecchini in '12 -- the New York Mets need as many Minor League affiliates as they can get their hands on.
They now have nine.
The Mets announced Thursday their intention to rejoin in the Gulf Coast League following their 2012 layoff from the rookie-level circuit.
The team, likely to comprise 2013 draftees and inexperienced international signees, joins 14 competitors in the GCL. New York, which bases its facilities in Port St. Lucie, Fla., had a presence in the league from 2004 to 2011. (The Mets last won the league title in 1999, just before their five-year break from participating.)
As a result of their return, the Mets will be the third Major League organization -- along with the Mariners and Rays -- to have nine Minor League affiliates this coming season. The majority of MLB clubs, 16, sport seven affiliates.
Mets general manager Sandy Alderson indicated in a statement that the Draft's earlier signing deadline, an addition to baseball's labor agreement last year, was the primary reason for this most recent re-institution. Simply put: More roster space was needed.
For all draftees except for college seniors, the deadline moved up from mid-August to mid-July, allowing first-year prospects to play significantly more ballgames than their predecessors. For example: Cecchini signed on June 8, then played in 58 games between Rookie-level Kingsport and Class A Short-Season Brooklyn. Nimmo, the first-round choice a year before Cecchini, signed on Aug. 15, 2011 and played 38 games between the GCL Mets and Kingsport in his debut campaign.
New York's No. 1 choice next June will also gain summer experience and, no matter who he is or where he comes from, there's a good chance he'll start in the GCL.