When Major League Baseball's new collective bargaining agreement with its players union took effect shortly after the 2011 season, the free agent compensation system was overhauled. Under the new rules, the top ten picks in a given year's draft — awarded to the ten teams with the worst record from the previous season — would be protected.
The Mets finished with the tenth-worst record in baseball in 2012, which would net them the tenth overall pick and $2.5 million towards their draft budget. But the Pirates were awarded the ninth overall pick in the 2013 amateur draft when they weren't able to sign their first-round pick in the 2012 draft, Mark Appel. As a result, the Mets' tenth pick became the eleventh pick and lost its protection.
Since the team doesn't have a clear everyday outfielder on its roster and Michael Bourn is still a free agent, Sandy Alderson has reportedly checked in with the league about obtaining protection for the pick. In short, the Mets would have very little interest in signing Bourn if he cost the team its draft pick and $2.5 million chunk of its allotted draft budget. If not, though, their interest would presumably be significantly higher.
We'll have plenty more on Bourn himself tomorrow, but whether or not he'd be a good fit for the Mets could certainly hinge upon the league's decision in the matter. Here's what the collective bargaining agreement says about pick protection:
"A Club shall not be required to forfeit a selection in the top ten of the first round of the Rule 4 Draft, and its highest available selection shall be deemed its first selection following the tenth selection of the first round." — MLB Basic Agreement, page 89
Since the new system was designed to award a team like the Pirates its extra pick, the literal interpretation here is that the Mets are out of luck. But if the spirit of the league's new rules was to protect the first ten picks assigned to the bottom ten teams from the previous season, perhaps the Mets are on to something here.