PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The Mets' pursuit of Michael Bourn suddenly ended Monday night when the free-agent outfielder reportedly agreed to join the Indians.
Bourn and the Indians reached agreement on a four-year, $48-million deal, according to multiple reports, with a guaranteed fifth year if he reaches 550 plate appearances in 2016. The deal could total $60 million if Bourn activates the provision.
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The Mets' pursuit of Bourn always had been seen as a long shot. "He'd be a bonus,'' a team official said earlier this month.
Indeed, the 30-year-old initially was out of the Mets' price range. But as the offseason turned to spring training, Bourn remained on the market, his pool of suitors thought to have dried up. Agent Scott Boras, known for his skill in holding out for megadeals, appeared to have overplayed his hand.
The Mets hoped to swoop in. They were willing to offer a three-year deal for Bourn. They also were exploring various contract structures to make a deal work.
But even if they had agreed to Bourn's demands, another major hurdle remained. And it appeared to be the deal-breaker.
According to rules in the collective-bargaining agreement, the Mets would have had to surrender their 11th overall draft pick in June as compensation for signing Bourn. They considered that price too steep.
But the Mets considered challenging the rules. Under those same rules, the top 10 picks in the draft are shielded from being lost as free-agent compensation, and the Mets originally owned a top 10 selection. They were bumped out only because the Pirates failed to sign last year's first-rounder, Stanford pitcher Mark Appel. When the Pirates were awarded a top 10 pick, it knocked the Mets to the 11th choice.
Though it appeared unlikely that baseball would rule in their favor, the Mets held out hope because they had the backing of the players' union. As late as yesterday, they still appeared to have a chance.
Sources confirmed that the commissioner's office and the players' union had engaged in informal talks about the draft-pick situation.
One rival executive said he could envision a scenario in which the commissioner's office could be motivated to discuss the draft-pick compensation issue if the union showed a willingness to offer a concession in another area. But the point proved moot.
After lavishing the largest free-agent contract in franchise history on Nick Swisher, the Indians struck again with Bourn, considered an elite defensive centerfielder. He hit .274 with nine homers and 42 stolen bases for the Braves last season.
A lefthanded hitter who lacks the power that the Mets could use, Bourn never appeared to be a perfect fit, but he would have been a clear upgrade over the outfielders in camp.
Lucas Duda likely will play every day in leftfield, but the Mets are in line to go with platoons in centerfield and rightfield.