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Michael Bourn is the most talented free agent without a job in 2013.
The New York Mets have let it be known they are interested in Bourn. But there are a few hurdles the Mets must get over before they would pull the trigger on a deal for the center fielder.
Can the Mets and Bourn agree to a contract that works for both sides?
At the beginning of the offseason, Bourn and his agent, Scott Boras, were looking for a contract somewhere in the neighborhood of five years and $75 million. This late in the offseason, those numbers look unreachable.
Boras, though, has been known with his clients who sign deals closer to spring training to work out what he calls a "pillow contract." These contracts allow his clients to get a one-year deal and then hit the open market again the following offseason. The players use the one-year contract to re-establish their value to try and secure a long-term deal the next season.
That kind of deal is something the Mets would be far more agreeable to because they are unwilling (as they should be) to deviate from their long-term rebuilding plan.
Will the Mets have to forfeit their first-round draft pick to sign Bourn?
Because the Atlanta Braves offered Bourn a $13.3 million qualifying offer (which he declined), the team that signs Bourn will have to compensate the Braves with a first-round draft pick.
The compensation rules used to state the teams with the 15 worst records from the year before got to protect their first-round pick. With the new CBA agreement, that has changed to the Top 10 picks are protected.
The Mets had the 10th-worst record in 2012. But because the Pittsburgh Pirates were unable to sign their 2012 first-round pick, Mark Appel, they were awarded the ninth pick in 2013. That pushes the Mets to the 11th pick and on the outside looking in when it comes to protected first-rounders.
New York plans to petition to the league so that they can keep the 11th pick. In fact, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe says they may try to nail down this part of the equation before continuing negotiations with Bourn and Boras.
The league office will have a tough decision to make if and when it has to decide what to do about protecting the draft pick. It could set a dangerous precedent. But the Mets are the only team affected by the rule and it does seem like it makes something unintentionally inconsistent.
There is no doubt, though, that Bourn would make the Mets a better team as they are in dire need of outfielders. If they are allowed to keep their first-round pick and get Bourn on a reasonable contract, the deal seems to make sense.
PREDICTION: Fact. The Mets are unable to keep their first-round pick, but still sign Bourn to a three-year deal worth $36 million. Bourn will have an opt-out clause placed in his contract that allows him to become a free agent after the first year of the deal.