Bourn: The Dilemma

By Rich Sparago

The signing of Shaun Marcum was not the only Mets news today. With the trade of Justin Upton to the Braves, the Mets seem to have intensified their pursuit of Michael Bourn. Tonight on Hot Stove, Kevin Burkhardt, Jim Duquette, and John Harper seemed to agree that Bourn would be a good acquisition for the Mets. The issues with signing Bourn are two fold.

Sep 09, 2012; Flushing, NY, USA; Atlanta Braves center fielder

Michael Bourn

(24) looks back as he steals second during the fifth inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

First, there’s the obvious concern, money and length of contract (I think 3 years would make sense, at around $13 million per year). The second potential issue with signing Bourn is that the Mets would have to surrender their first-round draft pick this year. As explained here on Metsblog, the Mets are challenging the need to forfeit the pick to Atlanta, as New York feels it should have the 10th overall pick in the draft, not the 11th, and therefore have their pick protected under the new CBA. The heart of the matter is that the Pirates have been slotted 10th in the draft due to their inability to sign their first-round pick last year, and the Mets are not in agreement with this. However, before MLB will consider the Mets’ argument, the Mets will have to sign or further increase their efforts to sign Bourn.

The “Bourn discussion” has been rather intense among the fan base. Some say that giving up a draft pick while in rebuilding mode is counter-productive. I understand that argument, and generally agree with it. However, it’s safe to say that the outfield must improve, whether in 2013 or in subsequent years. That being the case, there are three ways this improvement can happen.

First, quality players can get to the major leagues organically. While the Mets’ system holds some interesting outfield options (Matt Den Dekker, Cesar Puello, Cory Vaughn), none of these players has succeeded beyond the AA level, so organic help may be a few years away. Next, the Mets could trade for outfielders, as they attempted to do for Justin Upton. This is an interesting situation, as other teams seem far more interested in the Mets’ prospects (especially pitching prospects) than players on the Mets’ MLB roster. In fact, the Mets big-league roster is quite dichotomous. There are some players whom the Mets will not trade (Davis, Wright, Tejada, Harvey among others), and many other players who may not be able to yield a worthwhile return. In the trade scenario, it may cost the Mets a couple of prospects to net a quality outfielder. This leads us to option three, signing a free agent. While signing free agents and sacrificing draft picks contributed to the Mets current payroll, roster, and system problems, strategically and occasionally signing a free agent can allow the Mets to improve while preserving their current prospects, and allowing them to continue to develop in the system. Given the current state of the outfield, and the relative difficulty inherent in  improving via other methods, signing Michael Bourn to a 3-year deal (if he and Scott Boras would accept that) may make sense.

While we may not agree on how to proceed with free agents and draft picks, there’s one point of universal agreement among fans. We’re getting anxious, and would like to see some action, on any front, to improve the ball club. With the first Grapefruit League game less than a month away, the time has come. Next Friday is February first. Let’s hope that something to help the outfield can happen by then.