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

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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.

Report: The Nationals are still in on Chris Sale and Andrew McCutchen

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 05: Chris Sale #49 of the Chicago White Sox pitches against the Detroit Tigers during the first inning on September 5, 2016 at U. S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
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The Nationals are trying to go big this offseason, and FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal notes that they are still in trade talks for White Sox’ left-hander Chris Sale and Pirates’ center fielder Andrew McCutchen. Both players figure to command a big return, as Sale delivered another Cy Young-worthy performance in 2016 and, despite a downturn in his production rate, McCutchen is still one of the more coveted sluggers in the National League.

In 2016, Sale led the league in complete games, with six, and turned in a 3.34 ERA and 5.2 fWAR in 226 2/3 innings. While teams have been sniffing around the White Sox’ ace since the trade deadline, the club is expected to maintain a high asking price — so high, said FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, that it may keep the left-hander in Chicago for the foreseeable future.

According to Heyman, four other teams are reportedly in the mix for Sale, including the Red Sox, Astros, Rangers, and Braves, though parts of Rosenthal’s tweet hinted that the Red Sox were maintaining their interest in hopes of striking a more affordable deal. Should the Nationals pursue a deal for Sale, it’s likely that they’d have to move shortstop/center fielder Trea Turner, which they appear reluctant to do.

McCutchen, meanwhile, is also drawing interest around the league after batting .256/.336/.430 with 24 home runs in 675 PA during 2016. He didn’t appear to lose much power in his eighth season with the Pirates, but took considerably fewer walks and struck out at a career-high clip.

The Nationals were said to be in the lead for McCutchen on Thursday, and there was some expectation that the club would wrap up a trade for the center fielder by the non-tender deadline on Friday. FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi pointed out that the Rangers were also talking to the Pirates, however, and no deal has come to fruition as of yet.

Astros sign Carlos Beltran to one-year, $16 million deal

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 9: Carlos Beltran #36 of the Texas Rangers hits an RBI against the Toronto Blue Jays in the first inning during game three of the American League Division Series at Rogers Centre on October 9, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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The Astros have reportedly agreed to terms with free agent DH/outfielder Carlos Beltran for a one-year, $16 million contract, per ESPN’s Buster Olney. The deal includes a complete no-trade clause, according to a report from Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

Beltran elected to return to the Astros after fielding offers from the Yankees, Blue Jays, and Red Sox. He appeared in Houston during the second half of 2004, batting .258/.368/.559 with 23 home runs in 399 PA and making his first postseason run to the tune of a .435 average and eight homers as the Astros battled their way through to a seven-game loss in the Championship Series. Beltran also played with Houston manager A.J. Hinch and bench coach Alex Cora in separate stints with the Royals and Mets, which the Houston Chronicle’s Jake Kaplan cited as possible influences in the Astros’ decision to pursue the free agent.

In 2016, Beltran split the season between the Yankees and Rangers after getting dealt at the deadline for a package of right-handed pitching prospects. He was stationed in right field for the majority of his time in New York, but was almost exclusively utilized as a designated hitter over 52 games in Texas. Between the two clubs, he batted an impressive .295/.337/.513 with 29 homers and earned his ninth career All-Star designation to boot.

The veteran slugger is expected to fill a similar role on the Astros, who need a full-time DH but could use some additional support in the outfield corner. Olney envisions a lineup with Beltran in the five-spot, per an earlier report: