Maybe the New York Mets can pull the whole thing off and sign free-agent center fielder Michael Bourn without losing their first-round pick.
David Prouty, executive counsel of the players’ union, told The Boston Globe that he is in talks with baseball regarding the Mets’ desire to keep their pick if they sign Bourn.
One source with knowledge of the discussions said the team stands a “decent” chance of winning its argument that its first-round choice should be protected.
(The Mets had the 10th-worst record in the majors last season but fell to No. 11 — the first unprotected pick — when the Pittsburgh Pirates did not sign their first-rounder and, as compensation, moved back into the top 10).
Yet, the Mets’ path to Bourn still might not be clear.
Other clubs might have greater interest in Bourn than is being reported currently — and those clubs could sign Bourn without needing to wait for the union and baseball to resolve the draft-pick question, potentially in arbitration.
These four clubs, in particular, could be fits:
CHICAGO CUBS: Their outfield currently consists of David DeJesus in center, Alfonso Soriano in left and a platoon of Nate Schierholtz and Scott Hairston in right.
The addition of Bourn would allow the Cubs to shift DeJesus to a corner and provide greater incentive to trade Soriano, who is owed $36 million over the next two seasons.
The Cubs’ first-round pick is protected — they select second overall, behind the Houston Astros. Signing Bourn would cost them their second-round pick and corresponding slot money. That pick currently projects to No. 42 overall.
CLEVELAND INDIANS: They, too, could stand to upgrade in center, a spot that currently is occupied by Drew Stubbs, with Michael Brantley in left and Nick Swisher in right.
The draft pick should be even less of an issue than it is for the Cubs. The Indians’ first-rounder is protected, and they lost their second-rounder when they signed Swisher to a four-year, $56 million, free-agent deal. Signing Bourn would cost them their next pick — one of the new, competitive-balance selections, approximately No. 71 overall. The Indians would retain their third-rounder, approximately No. 80 overall.
The bigger question: Could the Indians afford Bourn?
They were pursuing free-agent right-hander Edwin Jackson at the time they signed Swisher, but they made it clear they were unlikely to add both. Jackson received a four-year, $52 million deal from the Cubs. Bourn could be in a similar range.
TEXAS RANGERS: Club officials remain intrigued by the speedy Leonys Martin, whom they believe will develop into not only an above-average defender, but also a legitimate top-of-the-order threat.
Bourn, though, would fill the team’s leadoff void. What’s more, draft-pick compensation would be less of an issue for the Rangers than it is for most clubs with unprotected first-round picks.
The Rangers hold a relatively low first-round selection, No. 24. And they also will select No. 30 as compensation for the Los Angeles Angels signing free-agent outfielder Josh Hamilton.
SEATTLE MARINERS: A team frequently linked to Bourn — and currently looking at two relatively modest options in center, Franklin Gutierrez and Michael Saunders.
The completion of a new deal for right-hander Felix Hernandez would not preclude the Mariners from signing Bourn; Hernandez already is under contract for the next two seasons, and his salaries will not change if the Mariners simply award him an extension rather than an entirely new seven-year, $175 million deal.
The draft pick could be the bigger concern.
The M’s hold the second unprotected first-round choice — No. 12 overall, right behind the Mets. The loss of the pick and corresponding slot money would be a high price to pay, particularly for a team that will need as much elite young talent as possible to compete long-term with the AL West powers.