NEW YORK -- The Mets may remain nothing more than fringe contenders to sign Michael Bourn, but they're at least keeping up appearances.
General manager Sandy Alderson and assistant GM John Ricco flew to Houston last week to have dinner with Bourn and his agent, Scott Boras, according to the New York Post. But the meeting "was more a getting-to-know-you session than a dollars-and-cents negotiation," according to the paper, "at a time when the dollars and cents remain among the most significant hurdles in doing a deal."
The Mets' interest in Bourn has become one of the hottest plotlines of the late Hot Stove season, though that does not make an agreement any more likely. Alderson told MLB.com last week that his reluctance to surrender a first-round Draft pick to sign Bourn is "legitimate," and he echoed that sentiment to other news outlets over the weekend.
To sign Bourn, the Mets would need to forfeit their first-round pick, the 11th overall selection, in this year's Draft. The team has at least considered petitioning the league to protect its pick, given that the top 10 picks are protected and the Mets finished with a bottom-10 record last season. But the language within MLB's Collective Bargaining Agreement appears prohibitive.
From a sheer baseball perspective, a deal would make sense considering New York's dire outfield situation. Less than two weeks from the official start of Spring Training, the Mets are looking at an alignment of Lucas Duda in left, Kirk Nieuwenhuis in center and Mike Baxter in right, with Collin Cowgill and Andrew Brown on the bench. None of those five is a proven consistent big league performer.
But Bourn entered this season as the top free-agent outfielder available and is reportedly seeking a five-year deal. At 30 years old, his age and price tag seem at odds with the needs of the Mets, who do not figure to hit their competitive peak until later this decade.
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDicomo.