The Mets have landed their first big-league free agent of the offseason, though their next possible move looms as the most pressing issue facing them. Righthander Shaun Marcum agreed to the terms of a one-year deal, according to a source, giving the Mets a full starting rotation. But sources said they continue to explore signing free-agent outfielder Michael Bourn.
At the start of the offseason, signing one of the highest-profile free agents on the market seemed far-fetched for the cash-strapped Mets. But what might have been dismissed as fantasy actually might fall within the realm of reality.
Plenty of hurdles must be cleared before the Mets truly can make a run at Bourn, the biggest being whether they must surrender their 11th overall draft pick to acquire the speedy centerfielder.
People briefed on the situation said Thursday that the Mets are only in the early stages of the process of trying to get their draft pick protected in case they sign Bourn.
Under baseball rules, the top 10 picks of the draft are protected from free-agent compensation, and the Mets originally held the 10th overall selection. But when the Pirates were awarded a top-10 pick as compensation for failing to sign last year's No. 8 pick, Mark Appel, the Mets were bumped out of the top 10, opening the door for an unusual circumstance.
For any ruling to be handed down, Major League Baseball and the players' union first must agree to enter negotiations, sources said.
As of Thursday night, no agreement to enter negotiations had been reached. The union also could file a grievance in an effort to protect the draft pick.
Even if the Mets are allowed to keep their pick, there are no guarantees that they can meet the asking price for Bourn. His agent is Scott Boras.
However remote, there still might be a chance. Despite a tight budget, the Mets privately have been willing to extend a multiyear deal to the right player this offseason, even if it means structuring a backloaded contract. It's unclear whether Bourn -- a two-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove winner -- would entertain such a solution.
For now, Marcum remains the team's only pending free-agent aquisition. Terms have yet to be disclosed, and the deal is subject to the completion of a physical, a source confirmed.
The agreement, first reported by CBS Sports, gives the Mets five starting pitchers for the rotation. It fills the vacancy left by the trade of reigning Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey and allows the Mets to give top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler time for more seasoning with Triple-A Las Vegas.
Marcum went 7-4 with a 3.70 ERA with the Brewers last year, though elbow issues limited him to 124 innings. When healthy, the righthander has enjoyed success. In parts of seven seasons with the Blue Jays and the Brewers, he is 57-36 with a 3.76 ERA.
The Marcum agreement could be the first of a flurry of moves before the start of spring training in a little more than two weeks. The Mets' to-do list still includes acquiring an outfielder -- possibly Bourn -- and veteran help in the bullpen.