The New York Mets' biggest weakness is their outfield, which at the moment is below average at best. The only remaining free agent who can make a true impact is Michael Bourn, whose speed and defensive ability could fit nicely in center for the Mets. The monkey in the room has been an issue of draft pick compensation. The Mets would be required to forfeit their first round pick, 11th overall, if they signed Bourn since Atlanta offered him a 13.3 million dollar qualifying offer at the beginning of the free agent period. The Mets have inquired to the league to see if their pick is eligible to be protected, like the other top 10 draft picks, because they finished with one of the 10 worst records in the game but didn't reap the rewards of a top 10 pick because of a rule in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The Pittsburgh Pirates failed to sign their first round draft pick in 2012, and the new CBA requires that a team who does not sign a first round pick to receive a pick in the same spot in the round the next season. The Pirates picked 8th in 2012, and the rule inserted their first round pick at 9th in 2013, bumping the Mets out of the top 10.
The word on whether or not Major League Baseball would honor the Mets' request remains mixed, MetsBlog.com reports. In an appearance on MLB Network this morning, Peter Gammons stated his belief that the league would protect the Mets' draft pick if it was a requirement for a free agent signing. Gammons believed that if the pick was ruled to be protected, there is "real optimism" that the Mets would sign Bourn to a contract. Later in the morning, however, Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal reported on MLB Network that he did not believe the league would protect the Mets pick. Rosenthal's report states that he believes MLB does not want to set a precedent by protecting the Mets' pick, effectively creating a loophole in draft pick compensation for the CBA.
The issue with signing Bourn is not simply an issue of draft pick compensation. In an appearance on SNY's Mets Hot Stove last night, general manager Sandy Alderson indicated that the length of contract could also be an issue. Alderson has been very hesitant to give out long term "second generation" contracts. The term "second generation" refers to the fact that the contract in question would be the player's second big contract after arbitration, which is typically a time when players are close to (or past) their peak. Bourn is represented by the notoriously difficult to please Scott Boras, and he is believed to be seeking a five year deal for his client. Alderson, who met with Boras and Bourn in Houston last week, is hesitant to meet that price. One rumored deal structure that has been leaked is a three year contract that features a low year one salary, an opt out for Bourn after the first year if he wants to test the market again, and two team options at the end of the contract to push the deal to five years. It remains to be seen whether Bourn would accept such a package, but with spring training less than two weeks away Bourn is going to have to find a home soon.
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