The New York Mets desperately need outfield help. They also need a leadoff hitter.
So Michael Bourn, still a free agent and linked to the ballclub, is a no-brainer to sign, correct?
There are two complications in bringing Bourn to Flushing: the contract that would be required to land him, and the draft-pick compensation.
Each of those obstacles looks formidable, much less the combination of the two.
Bourn’s agent is Scott Boras, who rarely finds himself in the position of miscalculating the market and taking a below-market deal on behalf of a client.
Case in point: In mid-January 2011, when it seemed Rafael Soriano had nowhere to go as a closer, Boras wound up working out a deal out of nowhere with the Yankees -- working over Brian Cashman’s head, in fact. The contract would pay Soriano $35 million over three years. (Soriano opted out this offseason and landed a big deal with the Nationals.)
So while general manager Sandy Alderson’s patience in waiting for the right trade proposal for R.A. Dickey eventually landed a haul of Travis d’Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard and Wuilmer Becerra, it’s unlikely that patience will result in Bourn landing with the Mets on a sweetheart deal with the club. The Mets would have to pony up in terms of dollars and years. And the recent track suggests that ain’t happening.
Then, there’s the draft-pick compensation issue.
Even if the Mets could agree to a contract with Bourn and Boras, Alderson has publicly acknowledged the Mets have virtually not interest in forfeiting the 11th overall pick in the draft to do so. And right now that would be required.
A team has to forfeit a draft pick to sign Bourn because Atlanta made a $13.3 million qualifying offer after last season, which he declined.
The new collective bargaining agreement very clearly states that the first 10 picks in the draft are protected -- not the picks of the teams with the 10 worst records during the previous season.
The Mets had the 10th-worst record in 2012, but are pushed from the top 10 in the upcoming draft because Pittsburgh failed to sign its top pick last season and was awarded a compensatory pick this June at No. 9.
If the Mets were on the verge of signing Bourn, the Players’ Association would go to bat for the club and try to get the interpretation changed to protect the Mets’ pick at No. 11. But MLB would be just as forceful in trying to keep the Mets’ pick unprotected, and appears to have the language on its side.
There likely would not be any fight until the Mets were close to signing Bourn. So it’s entirely possible the battle over the CBA language never takes place.
Why do the Mets prefer not to lose the draft pick?
For years they signed high-priced free agents and forfeited top picks, and it left them in their current predicament where they don’t have outfielders from the system to introduce to the major league club.
And why wouldn’t Major League Baseball just give in to the Mets and protect the pick?
MLB owners like it when teams are reluctant to give up draft picks and therefore become hesitant to bid for a top free agent. That limits the bidding, and therefore helps to keep salary costs contained. The more picks that are protected, the worse collectively for the owners. Which is why they would fight any attempt to alter the language.