Michael Bourn came into the 2012-13 offseason as one of the top free agents available on the market. However, with only a little over a week until pitchers and catchers report, Bourn still remains unsure of where he will be playing the 2013 season.
Bourn has been tied to several teams this offseason, but the Seattle Mariners have been connected to Bourn since the Winter Meetings back in December. However, as the calendar turns into February, there has been little movement for a potential Bourn to Seattle deal happening.
In order for Michael Bourn to wind up a Seattle Mariner, a few things are going to have to break the Mariners way, as they are not the only team who is currently looking into Bourn's services. With that in mind, here are three things that will have to happen.
Seattle Acquires a Pitcher Via Trade
After Seattle traded Jason Vargas for Kendrys Morales, the Mariners were left with a big hole in their rotation. Sure, Vargas may not have been your standard top-of-the-rotation pitcher, but he was still a reliable arm that could toe the rubber for Seattle over the last few years.
With that in mind, the Mariners are in need of another starting pitcher. Ownership could look into bringing in someone like free agent Joe Saunders, but his services would not come cheap. Saunders has been rumored to be looking for a three-year deal which could be worth between $8-$10 million a year. If Seattle decides to sign Saunders, they would essentially be using the money they could theoretically use to sign Bourn.
If Seattle wants to sign Bourn and get a pitcher, they will most likely be looking towards the likes of Rick Porcello or Chris Capuano, both of whom have been subject to trade rumors all offseason. Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times suggested that Capuano could be an option if the Mariners were willing to send Franklin Gutierrez to the Dodgers.
Swapping Gutierrez for Capuano would essentially be a wash from a salary cap stand point, and would give the Mariners the arm they need to plug into Vargas' spot in the rotation. This would also clear up the logjam the Mariners currently have in the outfield and allow them to offer Bourn a reasonable contract.
Ownership Accepts Forfeiting First-Round Pick
Let's be clear; it has become very obvious that the reason Michael Bourn has yet to be signed is due to the price tag that comes with it. Sure, the contract will be rather expensive, but it is the first-round pick that goes along with it that is scaring teams away.
Bourn turned down a qualifying offer from the Atlanta Braves at the beginning of the offseason. By doing so, Bourn was eligible to be signed by any team, but at the cost of a first-round pick being forfeited to Atlanta. Under the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement, only the top-10 picks of the draft are protected from this rule. Unfortunately for Seattle, they have the 12th overall pick in the 2013 draft.
General Manager Jack Zduriencik and ownership have built up one of the best farm systems in baseball over the last few seasons, so giving up a high first-round pick isn't necessarily something Seattle may be interested in doing.
However, if Seattle ever had a time to give up a first-round pick, now would be the time. With a glaring hole in the leadoff spot, Seattle could greatly benefit from Bourn's speed atop the lineup, allowing Dustin Ackley to slide into a more comfortable spot in the lineup. Adding Bourn would improve Seattle's lineup, and with the current depth in the minor league system, Seattle wouldn't be that hurt by giving up their first-round pick.
MLB Denies the New York Mets Request to Avoid Compensation
As previously stated, the new collective bargaining agreement protects only the top-10 picks in the draft from signing Type-A free agents. With that being said, the New York Mets are trying to find a loophole in which they don't have to give up their first-round pick.
The Mets finished with the 10th-worst record in baseball last season, but currently have the 11th overall pick due to the Pittsburgh Pirates inability to sign Mark Appel last year. By not signing Appel, the Pirates were awarded the 9th overall pick this season as compensation, sliding the Mets to the 11th pick.
Therefore, the Mets have looked into filing a grievance that would allow them to sign Bourn without forfeiting their first-round pick and instead replacing it with a second-round selection. If this grievance is brought to an arbiter and he rules in favor of the Mets, it could be a huge road block for Bourn to wind up in Seattle.
However, if the arbiter rules in favor of the MLBPA, the Mets 11th pick would not be protected. This would most likely knock the Mets out of the race for Bourn as they have been very reluctant to lose that pick in order to sign a free agent this offseason.
If all of these scenarios fall the right way for the Mariners, Michael Bourn could be a Seattle Mariner come opening day. This isn't the only way Seattle could end up with Bourn, but it remains the most likely way that it will happen.