The Mets are looking for an outfielder, and are currently debating whether to go after the biggest free agent still on the market: Michael Bourn. Bourn, because he had a fantastic season in 2012, will cost the Mets their first-round draft pick if he is signed. Well, maybe. Why is this draft pick so important? First, let’s look at this explanation of the situation the Mets front office is currently in by Jon Presser of The Shea Faithful:
If they were to sign Bourn, the Mets would forfeit not only their first round pick, but also the allotted money for that pick, which could cripple their entire draft.
The way the MLB Draft works now, teams are given a capped budget for their first ten picks of a given draft, a non-negotiable figure that cannot be exceeded under any circumstances.
Last year, the Mets had a total budget of roughly $7 million, and their top pick was valued at about $2.55 million, or 35% of their total budget.
While those numbers may be different in 2013, it’s reasonable to expect that their top pick will be roughly 25-35% of their total budget. That’s a lot to give up for Michael Bourn.
Giving up the first-round slot money may not seem like a big deal from the outside, but, as Presser writes, it would have a huge impact on the draft. Signing a first round pick will probably not cost a team the entire slotted money for that pick (unless you draft a guy like Mark Appel, who demanded millions and fell), and the money left over is crucial to the rest of the draft. For example, the Mets’ first-round pick was worth $2.55 million last season. They drafted Gavin Cecchini, who signed for $2.3 million. That’s an extra $250,000 that the team can spend in later rounds, giving them more freedom. In theory, they would be able to take a risk on a high-ceiling high school player, who maybe fell because of signability concerns.
Coming in a year when the Mets’ draft budget is already tight, this is going to be very important. The front office failed to sign their second round pick last year. This year, they keep the pick (meaning they now have two first-rounders), but the slot money from last year does not carry over.
If Major League Baseball does not allow the Mets to sign Bourn and keep their pick, I would completely understand why Sandy Alderson would not sign him. Throwing away an entire draft just for one player is not worth it. The Mets system is still in recovery mode. They are still building depth. Losing the pick and money would be the last thing the farm system needs.
It remains to be seen exactly what’s going to happen, however. Major League Baseball really doesn’t have a reason to give the Mets what they want, because it would, in theory, drive up player salaries. However, if the league and union go to arbitration over this, it’s probably more likely that the arbitrator will allow the Mets to keep the pick, siding with the “spirit of the rule” argument. Whatever decision is made will have a big impact on the Mets’ future plans.