This morning, during an appearance on “Hot Stove” on the MLB Network, Peter Gammons had the following to say regarding the Mets and their pursuit of Michael Bourn:
I got the sense yesterday that there’s some optimism that the Mets are gonna be able to pull this off – sign Michael Bourn and not give up the [first round] draft choice. Now, the argument by the Mets, by the players association, and of course by Scott Boras is that the first 10 picks are protected. The Mets have the 11th pick. But the 8th pick was awarded to the Pirates because they didn’t sign their number 1 pick last year. So, they’re [the Mets] arguing that actually, in reality, the 10th pick is actually the Mets pick, it’s protected, they don’t have to give up the number 1 [11th overall]. And I sensed yesterday that there’s real optimism that this may get done.
Howard Reynolds then asked Gammons how many years the Mets were likely to give Bourn:
I think probably four years. It makes sense, he’s a leadoff hitter. That’s a big ballpark, he’s a really good defensive center fielder. It makes sense, but the Mets aren’t gonna give up their number 1 pick [11th overall], and they’re not gonna give up the slot money that goes along with that number 1 pick. If the pick is protected, I think that they’ll sign him.
…After listening to Gammons this morning and combing over the exact quotes, it sounds as if Gammons has sources informing him of what’s likely to happen regarding the Mets’ argument that they shouldn’t have to relinquish their first rounder in the event they signed Bourn. This didn’t sound like his opinion.
After going over how many years Gammons thought the Mets would offer Bourn (four), he made a good point that many seem to be omitting from their Mets/Bourn stories: If the Mets gave up their first rounder to sign Bourn, they’d also be forfeiting a significant portion of their slot money. So, they’d be losing the pick and 40% of their draft budget. It’s something the Mets really can’t afford to do.
If the Mets are able to get Bourn for either three or four years without having to forfeit their first round draft pick, I think they should pull the trigger. Yes, Bourn has flaws, but so do the vast majority of players in the league. He’d slide into the leadoff spot, and his presence in center field would allow Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Collin Cowgill to shift to right field.
After Gammons spoke, Ken Rosenthal chimed in about the possibility of the Mets signing Bourn, and said the following:
There is a possibility, but this idea that the Mets are going to be allowed to forfeit a second round pick instead of a first rounder, because they draft 11th, and because they only draft 11th due to the Pirates getting back into the first round for not signing their first round pick last year – I don’t see that happening, and here’s why: The basic agreement clearly states that the top 10 picks are the ones protected. Those are the teams that can’t lose their first round picks. It does not account for any teams after that, and I have a really hard time believing that Major League baseball is going to allow the basic agreement to be changed for one team, the New York Mets, because the New York Mets are in an unfortunate position here. You do that, the other teams scream ‘hey, why are the Mets getting this break?’ And you do that also, there’s a precedent now. Next year’s number 11 team could be in the same position if another team sneaks into the first round, and it’s just a bad path to go down. I don’t see that happening…
Unlike Gammons (who seemed to be giving his take on the situation after speaking to people in the know), Rosenthal seemed to be giving his opinion. Rosenthal stated that MLB would be “setting a precedent” if they ruled in the Mets’ favor as far their request to retain the 11th pick is concerned. I don’t agree. The Mets are the only team that finished in the bottom 10 record wise, but who (for the moment) would be forced to give up their first rounder if they signed Bourn. I don’t think that’s fair, nor do I think it fits the spirit of the rule. If MLB ruled in the Mets’ favor, they could simply fix the rule for next year and beyond. All they’d have to do is change the language to state that if a team finishes in the bottom 10, their pick is protected.
With Spring Training a little over a week away, I’d expect this to get resolved sooner rather than later.