A pillow contract is a one-year deal that allows a player the chance to strengthen his value before heading back onto the market as a free agent the following winter.
Cafardo also reported that if the Mets can convince Bourn and his agent Scott Boras to accept such a deal, they will then turn to Major League Baseball (MLB) to try to retain the 11th pick of next year's draft.
The new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) calls for any team outside of the top 10 in the draft to surrender their first round pick for signing a free agent who received a qualifying offer from his former employer. Bourn received and rejected the qualifying offer extended to him by the Atlanta Braves this winter.
The Mets' first-round pick would have been protected under normal circumstances because they finished with the 10th-worst record in baseball last season.
However, when the Pittsburgh Pirates failed to sign first-round pick Mark Appel last year, they were rewarded with the ninth pick of the 2013 draft—which pushed the Mets out of the top 10.
Regardless of whether or not the MLB agrees to let the Mets keep their first-round pick, Bourn and the Mets are a perfect match.
This late in the winter, there aren't many teams with the budget room or the need for an expensive free agent like Bourn. The teams that had a need for a center fielder this offseason have all filled the hole one way or another by now.
That leaves the Mets as the only team reportedly pursuing Bourn's services with spring training only a couple of weeks away.
For the Mets, signing Bourn would make them a more competitive team in 2013 and give them a potential trade chip at the deadline if the team isn't in contention.
General manager Sandy Alderson has pulled off two excellent trades in recent years to help the Mets rebuild.
He acquired top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler for Carlos Beltran in 2011 and two top prospects in pitcher Noah Syndergaard and catcher Travis d'Arnaud for R.A. Dickey this offseason.
Giving Alderson a trade chip like Bourn would give the Mets the ability to flip him at the deadline for more value than the 11th pick of the draft offers—if the MLB doesn't allow the Mets to keep the pick in the end.
Historically, only five players taken with the 11th pick of the draft have produced more than 10 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) for their careers. Trading Bourn at the deadline for prospects closer to the big leagues would likely give the Mets more value than holding onto the 11th pick.
There's also the possibility that the Mets are not as far away from contention as most prognosticators believe.
They were 74-88 last season and recent history shows that teams in similar circumstances have made drastic leaps into contention within one season. Instead of rebuilding, the Mets could be contending this year.
The Oakland A's were 74-88 in 2011 and virtually no one pointed to them as a contender going into 2012. They won 94 games and the American League West crown last year.
The Baltimore Orioles went 69-93 in 2011, and pretty much everyone agreed they'd be the worst team in the American League East again in 2012. They won 93 games, and the Wild Card play-in game to advance to the American League Division Series last year.
The Mets have not been particularly active this winter, and they traded away the reigning NL Cy Young award winner in Dickey.
However, former top prospect Matt Harvey looks poised to replace some of Dickey's production after he put up a 2.73 ERA over 59.1 innings in his debut last season.
Free-agent acquisition Shaun Marcum should also help the rotation remain a strength. Top prospects Wheeler and d'Arnaud should be ready to help the big-league team at some point this year as well.
Bourn would further improve the Mets by shoring up the leadoff spot and providing value on the basepaths and on defense. The Mets received a .258/.323/.354 batting line with just 14 steals from the leadoff spot last season. Bourn hit .274/.348/.391 with 42 steals last year.
The Mets finished in the middle of the pack in defensive efficiency last year by converting 71 percent of balls put in play into outs. Bourn, who finished at the top of the league in advanced defensive metrics, would significantly upgrade the Mets' mediocre defense.
The only incumbent player on the Mets who was more valuable than Bourn last year was David Wright. Signing Bourn would give the Mets two of the top ten most valuable players in the NL from last year.
The Mets and Michael Bourn are a perfect match.
For Bourn, there just doesn't appear to be any other options this late in the winter. For the Mets, Bourn would give them a better chance to compete this season. If they do fall out of contention, Alderson can deal him for prospects to further enhance the rebuilding process.
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