Peter Gammons reported Friday on the MLB Network that the Mets were still interested in free agent outfielder Michael Bourn. Due to the qualifying offer tendered to Bourn by the Braves, the team signing Bourn loses their first round pick in the upcoming draft, provided they draft outside the top ten picks.
Whether Bourn costs the Mets a top round pick could be tied to a possible grievance by the MLB Players Association involving draft rules in the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement. If the Mets, who own the eleventh pick, but had the tenth worst record in baseball, retain their pick, it would make signing Bourn more attractive. With the free agent market drying up, Mets GM Sandy Alderson may be able to acquire the speedy outfielder at a reasonable price.
Bourn would immediately make the Mets a better team in a number of areas. His presence in the leadoff role would let steady shortstop Ruben Tejada slide into the eight hole in the lineup. Tejada was miscast as a leadoff hitter, with a lifetime on base percentage of .336 and little speed. Three hitter David Wright and cleanup hitter Ike Davis would see an increase in opportunities to hit with a runner in scoring position. Second hitter Daniel Murphy’s patient approach and ability to hit deep in counts would give Bourn ample chance to steal bases. While the Mets offense has struggled in recent years, Bourn has scored 94 or more runs three of the last four years. Defensively, the two time Gold Glove winner would ably patrol center field, and help cover right fielder Lucas Duda’s defensive shortcomings.
Bourn is not a perfect player, he lacks power and his low on base percentage keeps him from being considered an elite leadoff man. However, signing him now makes sense for the organization. With $43 million coming off the books after 2013 because of the expiring contracts of Johan Santana and the now departed Jason Bay, the Mets should have the financial wherewithal to lock up a player of Bourn’s quality in a down market.
Alderson’s task will not be an easy one. He may have to engage in a high stakes game of free agent chicken with master agent Scott Boras. Boras will undoubtedly try to engage other teams in a bidding war to drive up Bourn’s asking price.
Other interested teams reportedly include the Seattle Mariners and Baltimore Orioles. Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik has long been a proponent of fielding teams with strong defensive players. The Mariners, though, have been stung by a series of poor signings players like Chone Figgins. It is unlikely the Orioles would overpay, already having quality center fielder Adam Jones and right fielder Nick Markakis on their roster.
It is possible, if Alderson plays his cards correctly, that Bourn ends up falling in his lap. Should that happen, Alderson should make the deal, making the Mets more competitive in 2013 and the future in the rough National League East.