"I couldn't do that,'' Bourn said. "I'd still be sitting at home.''
Bourn had done enough sitting and waiting to seriously weigh the Mets' conditional bid of $48 million and four years. Their offer was contingent upon them winning their case to retain their top draft pick at a hearing.
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Bourn had a couple other teams in the mix, but the Mets weren't a real option for him before Bourn took the Indians' offer of $48 million for four years that also included a fifth-year option that could take it to $60 million, agreeing to terms on Feb. 11, just as camps were opening.
The Mets (and Bourn) were told it might take a couple weeks to schedule a hearing to settle the dispute over the draft choice. The Mets (with the aid of the players union) were going to claim in a hearing that they should keep their draft choice for signing Bourn because they were one of the bottom 10 teams last year.
The Mets were going to say that while the new rule in the new CBA stipulated that only the teams with the first 10 draft choices could keep their first-round pick after signing Bourn or any of the players who turned down the $13.3-million qualifying offer, the spirit of the rule was intended to protect the 10 worst teams. (The only reason the Mets didn't have a protected pick is that the Pirates received the No. 8 pick for failing to sign their first rounder, Stanford pitcher Mark Appel, a year ago.)
The Mets delayed in requesting the hearing until they felt they were close to a deal because they didn't want to hand over leverage to Bourn and agent Scott Boras. They felt if New York knew they could keep their pick, there'd be a drumbeat clamoring for them to sign Bourn. So they kept the leverage, and lost the player who could have made their outfield situation look a lot less terrible.
"Forget looking behind,'' Bourn said about the situation. "I'm looking ahead.''
The rule to cost the best 20 teams a draft pick helped the Indians big-time, as they didn't have to surrender a first rounder for signing either Bourn or Nick Swisher. But it hurt a few of the stars who rejected the qualifying offers. Those stars all happened to play for contenders who didn't trade them last year, and all happen to be over 30 -- Adam LaRoche, Kyle Lohse and Bourn (who is 30).
"This happened to be the year they made that rule,'' Bourn said. "Hopefully, it won't hurt anybody in the future.'
It didn't make the winter fun for Bourn, not as fun he had hoped.
"I know the pain and heartache I went through,'' he said. "Any player wants to know early. I didn't know until the last week.''
There were some early predictions by writers Bourn would get a bigger deal than B.J. Upton, but as it turned out, Bourn did get more than any player never to have a double-digit home run total, and more than any player who's never had a .400-plus slugging percentage. If he was reading the predictions, he may have expected more. But he was also hurt when three teams (the Nationals, Phillies and Reds) traded for center fielders, he said.
Bourn said a lot of teams said they had interest, but only a few genuinely showed interest. He liked the idea of going to the Mets, but he agreed it won't be easy for them. "That's a TOUGH division. Yeah buddy, that's no joke,'' said Bourn, the ex-Brave. "You're going up against the best pitchers all the time. It seemed like we were always facing (Stephen) Strasburg and Gio (Gonzalez). The Nats got nothing but No. 1s and No. 2s.''
Bourn is an Indian now, and he said he hopes it's for five years (the fifth-year option kicks in with 550 plate appearances in year four). And he hopes he's done talking about free agency and his wait.
"I'm here now. It's a brand new, fresh beginning,'' Bourn said. "So far they've treated me great. I have no complaints.''