The New York Mets have a glaring hole in center field and no legitimate leadoff threat. The last big free agent domino to fall, Michael Bourn seems like a perfect fit for the Amazins’. The MLB players union may file a grievance that would be significant in this case. An arbiter’s ruling on the draft slotting system adopted prior to 2012 draft could clear a major hurdle for Sandy Alderson in his reported pursuit of the fleet footed outfielder.
The New York Mets were slotted to draft tenth in the upcoming 2013 MLB draft, based on their tenth worst record. With the first 10 picks protected, the Mets could sign a free agent a Bourn’s caliber and not surrender their first pick in the 2013 draft. However, the Pittsburgh Pirates were unable to come to terms with the number eight pick in 2012, Mark Appel. Because of this, the Pirates will now draft ninth, knocking the Mets out of the top 10, to the 11th hole.
If there is a grievance, it would be a case of the letter of the law vs. spirit of the rule debate. The spirit of the rule is to protect the 10 worst teams’ first round pick. The letter of the law rewards the Pirates for an inability to sign Appel, giving them the nninth slot in the next year’s draft.
If an arbiter comes down in favor of the union, the Mets 11th pick would remain protected. That the players union is reportedly considering filing a grievance should come as no surprise. Besides driving down the market for free agents like Bourn, it gives teams additional leverage when negotiating with draft picks. Since Scott Boras is Bourn’s agent, his fingerprints are likely somewhere in the whole affair.
The ruling may set precedent, so Bourn’s individual case is not the only issue. To amend the agreement, involving the slotting of picks and draft compensation, would give one side an upper hand that was not collectively bargained.
If the Mets can retain their first round pick, Alderson may pursue Bourn. The market has thinned and many of the larger market teams have solidified their outfield. Scott Boras always seems to create a market for his clients and is a master at having general managers outbid themselves (see Sabean, Brian and Rizzo, Mike) for players like Barry Zito and Jayson Werth.
Bourn would bring a legitimate leadoff threat the Mets have lacked since the departure of Jose Reyes. Current shortstop Ruben Tejada has a lower OBP than Bourn and profiles more like Rey Ordonez. Andres Torres was a disaster, and the projected Mets starting outfield of Duda, Nieuwenhuis and Baxter would be a mid level trio in the International League.
Bourn is not a perfect player, for a leadoff hitter his OBP of .348 in 2012 (.339 lifetime) is low and he has relatively little power. But his 42 steals and Gold Glove caliber defense would play well in the leadoff role at Citi Field. At the right price, for a term of four years or shorter, signing Bourn would at least generate some excitement and hope among the desperate fan base.
Fred and Jeff Wilpon should have enough money from SNY and Sterling Equities to make an initial offering to Bourn. If Boras can’t create a market and Queens ends up as the best landing spot, Citi Field might not be a mausoleum by mid May.