Bourn is easily the top free agent still left on the open market after another great season. In his first full season with the Atlanta Braves, Bourn had a .739 OPS, 47 extra-base hits, 96 runs and 42 stolen bases. He’s also one of the best defensive players in the game—his 22.5 UZR/150 led all position players last season.
New York’s current outfield is an utter mess that lacks major league talent. The Mets’ top two outfielders from last season—Scott Hairston and Andres Torres—are now gone, and yet, they haven’t done anything to replace them.
Instead, the Mets are likely to go with three very young players without much experience. As it stands now, Lucas Duda would be in left field and New York would use a combination of Mike Baxter, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Jordany Valdespin, Andrew Brown and Collin Cowgill in center and right field.
That is simply horrible, and Bourn could make it all better.
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports that the Mets definitely have interest in the speedy center fielder:
Source: #Mets' interest in Bourn sincere. Deal likely would be backloaded. Big $$ come off Mets' books after '13, new nat'l TV $$ kick in.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 24, 2013
Bourn would provide immediate help to the outfield situation as well as to the Mets’ lineup. A Bourn signing would likely leave Nieuwenhuis in right field and put Baxter on the bench. It would also give the Mets the leadoff hitter that they have been lacking.
But of course, there’s a problem.
Bourn declined a qualifying offer from the Braves way back at the start of the offseason, which means that whichever team signs him must cough up a draft pick. But if the team that signs him finished last season with one of the 10 worst records in the league, then it would only have to fork over a second-round pick instead of a first-round pick.
Fortunately for New York, it had the 10th-worst record, one game worse than the Seattle Mariners. Unfortunately for New York, since the Pittsburgh Pirates failed to sign 2012 first-round pick Mark Appel last year, the Mets get the No. 11 pick instead of No. 10. This means that they would lose a first-round pick instead of a second-round pick.
The Mets have asked Major League Baseball for an exception since they were one of the 10 worst teams last season. They could argue that they earned the right to keep their first-round pick, writes Rosenthal.
Still, an exception seems unlikely.
The Mets will have to give up their first-round pick if they’re going to sign Bourn or Kyle Lohse—although Lohse isn’t in the picture at the moment.
The Braves and Washington Nationals are going to be extremely competitive next season in the National League East, making it tough for the Mets to keep up. Although Bourn wouldn’t solve all of their problems, he would solve some and thus, make the Mets a little tougher to beat each night.
No matter what type of draft pick the Mets will have to forfeit, New York absolutely has to sign Bourn.