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February 26, 2013

Rumor Roundup

The Mets' Outfield Blues

by Daniel Rathman

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Mets claim they had legitimate interest in Michael Bourn, Justin Upton
As @KFCBarstool pointed out on Twitter earlier this month, barring further moves from general manager Sandy Alderson, the Mets will enter the 2013 season with a Mariner and a retired 50-year-old as their highest-paid outfielders. Left fielder Lucas Duda, center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis, right fielder Mike Baxter, and the projected reserves, Collin Cowgill and Jordany Valdespin, are all set to earn the league minimum. And while the group has some talent, whether any member of the crew will provide much in the way of surplus value remains an open question.

John Harper, a columnist for the New York Daily News, spoke with multiple team and rival sources over the weekend, and discovered that Alderson and company once had much higher hopes for their now-bleak outfield picture. Myriad rumors connected the Mets to Bourn, and many believed—in advance of the former Brave’s four-year, $48 million deal with the Indians—that Major League Baseball would eventually agree to protect the 11th overall draft pick that stood between him and a ticket to Queens. Meanwhile, although the Braves were generally considered a likelier destination for Upton, Harper’s sources added that the Mets had a more realistic chance of landing him than the volume (or lack thereof) of buzz might have suggested.

Mets insiders told Harper that the culprit that saddled manager Terry Collins with his current mess was timing. ESPN’s Adam Rubin reported in the wake of Bourn’s signing with the Indians that the Mets had a similar offer on the table but were unwilling to cross the T’s without knowing the fate of their first-round selection, and an impatient Scott Boras pushed Bourn to head to Cleveland. On the Upton front, the Diamondbacks overcame a failed trade with the Mariners by securing a Martin Prado-based package from the Braves, leaving the Mets—who had considered parting with Daniel Murphy or Ruben Tejada during the lull between those deals—in the dust.

Your opinion of the Mets’ outfield outcome depends largely on whether you believe that Alderson’s interest in Bourn and Upton was genuine (as the team claims), or if you think the third-year general manager was merely trying to spice up a drawn-out rebuilding period. Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler will soon fortify New York’s rotation, but based on the prospect list from Jason Parks and our minor-league staff, there is little high-upside outfield talent on the immediate horizon. And that’s why, as Harper noted, plugging those three holes could be Alderson’s most formidable challenge when ownership places him “under the gun” in 2014-2015.

Giancarlo Stanton extension on the backburner for Marlins
Meanwhile, down in Florida, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria fielded questions from reporters on Sunday night in an effort to calm tensions between the organization and its enraged fan base. With ticket sales predictably foundering, both in terms of season tickets and single-game demand, Loria and president David Samson seem hopeful that a bit more transparency could help persuade fans to turn out, even in the wake of the latest fire sale.

Palm Beach Post beat writer Joe Capozzi relayed Loria’s comments in a blog post, and the most salient remarks concerned Stanton, who publicly expressed dismay when news of the blockbuster trade with the Blue Jays broke over Twitter in November. The 23-year-old Stanton has logged two years and 118 days of major-league service time to date, which means that at this time next winter, his representatives at Wasserman Media Group could seek a hefty sum in arbitration. Unless the sides get to work on a long-term pact, that may be the likeliest path, assuming that Stanton does not join the export list.

Loria told reporters that he holds no “negative feelings” toward Stanton stemming from the aforementioned tweet, though it is unclear if Stanton’s distaste for the man upstairs has similarly dissipated. When asked about the situation by Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports, Stanton replied with two rhetorical questions: “What are you gonna do? Honestly, what?” That does not sound like a player eager to negotiate an extension, and Larry Beinfest and Loria may have decided to table talks with the hope that time will heal the past offseason’s wounds.

Stanton is under the Marlins’ control through the 2016 season, so there is no immediate rush to lock him up beyond that point. On the other hand, lingering tensions with management could pave the way for an ugly arbitration battle, one that would stand in stark contrast to this year’s hearing-less February, detailed yesterday by our own Maury Brown.

Loria said on Sunday, referring to the idea of extension discussions with Stanton, that the organization “will cross that bridge at the appropriate moment.” We should have a better idea next winter of whether Stanton—who possesses a rare power profile and could hit the market ahead of his age-27 campaign—will even consider letting his current boss pay the toll.

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

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