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The Mets should not be able to keep their first round pick if they sign Michael Bourn

Jan 25, 2013, 9:13 AM EDT

bourn getty Getty Images

We mentioned yesterday that the Mets are asking Major League Baseball to allow them to keep their first round pick this year — the 11th pick — in the event they signed Michael Bourn. This despite the fact that the new CBA says that only top-10 picks are protected if a team signs a player who has been given a qualifying offer.

Ken Rosenthal lays all of the reasoning out in his column today. The thinking: the Mets would have been the tenth pick had the Pirates not been awarded their own compensation pick for failing to sign Mark Appel, their first round pick from 2012. The Mets were the 10th worst team, the thinking goes, so they should be able to keep their pick even if it’s now technically the 11th. Rosenthal notes that the Mets and the union would support this deviation but that Major League Baseball would likely fight it.

For once I’m on Major League Baseball’s side here. The reason? The new CBA’s failure to address compensation picks kicking someone out of the top 10 in such a situation is not some mere oversight that inadvertently subverts the spirit of the rule and the intent to help out bad teams like the Mets. Rather, it was a very specific and conscious omission.

Indeed, the last CBA specifically protected top 15 picks from compensation and specifically exempted draft compensation picks — like the one the Pirates got for not signing Appel — from counting.  The new CBA changes that to the top 10 picks and makes no mention of draft compensation picks. This is not merely a matter of “rules are rules.” It’s about the fact that MLB and the union actively removed protection for the Appel-pick situation. They saw it there in the last version, had someone highlight the text and hit “delete.” They knew exactly what they were doing.

To suggest, then, that the current setup goes against the spirit of the rules is simply wrong. The union and the league changed the spirit from what it was before. Why should Michael Bourn and his agent and the Mets now benefit because that rule is now in force?

If this becomes a grievance, it’s going to go to an arbitrator. I would hope that an arbitrator holds the league and the union to the bargain they actively hammered out.  A bargain that, if they don’t like now, they should be forced to changed rather than simply set aside because it’s inconvenient for them.

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