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Monday, February 4, 2013
GM: Bourn, Lyon lone players still on radar

By Adam Rubin

USA Today Sports
Michael Bourn and Brandon Lyon are the lone remaining free agents on Sandy Alderson's radar.
Sandy Alderson said Monday that free agents Michael Bourn and Brandon Lyon are essentially the only two players the Mets could add before spring training.

In Lyon's case, the Mets are nearing a deal, according to major league sources.

Bourn still appears a long shot, but the Mets remain engaged with agent Scott Boras.

Alderson noted the Mets still could upgrade the team during spring training aside from those pursuits, although he noted few trades actually occur at that point.

Alderson would not say whether there was a drop-dead date for negotiating with Bourn, although he acknowledged a preference to have a resolution sooner than later.

There are two sticking points with Bourn: his contract demands and whether the Mets would have to forfeit the 11th overall pick.

Asked if there were a point after which Bourn would not be subject to the draft-pick compensation rule (such as Opening Day), Alderson noted teams in the past have signed players to minor league contracts to circumvent the rule. But Alderson said the legitimacy of those being allowable are judged on a case-by-case basis. He added that a minor league contract cannot be used as a "subterfuge" to circumvent the rule, which rewards a team with a draft pick if it loses a premium free agent.

The GM said there has been no attempt to get a clarification from MLB on whether the Mets would forfeit the 11th overall pick in the draft to sign Bourn, since that does not become an issue until the Mets actually can get an agreement on a contract with the free-agent outfielder -- which appears a major impediment in itself.

"We haven't gotten to the point where it's a material issue to us," Alderson said, referring to the draft-pick compensation issue. "... We're focused on whether we can acquire a player as opposed to the final circumstances of how we do that. If I thought there were a timing issue, where it might be important for us to get this resolved now, because it might be difficult later, we might push it. But, again, until such time as we actually have a deal, it's moot."

Alderson spun it, however, as ultimately not a rule-change request but as a different interpretation of the collective bargaining agreeement. The GM suggested the spirit of the agreement was to protect the teams with the 10 worst records. Pittsburgh bounced the Mets from the top 10 by getting a compensatory pick for failing to sign its 2012 first-round pick.

"If the rule was written for purposes of competitive balance, then it ought to relate to the teams with the 10 worst records," Alderson said. "I don't want to get into the merits of the debate. But from my standpoint the spirit of the rule, yeah, it's the 10 worst records."

Alderson would not publicly rule out signing Bourn if it came at the expense of the 11th overall pick, but it's unlikely the Mets would under that scenario.

"Until we actually are faced with that situation, I'd rather not make a categorial statement about what we will do or not do," the GM said.