Free Agent Talk: Michael Bourn
Well, it’s January 14. Pitchers and catchers report in just under a month – or, in the case of the New York Yankees, pitchers report.
Still on the free agency board is speedy center fielder Michael Bourn. The 3-time stolen base king and defensive standout is coming off a career-best 6-WAR season and is represented by Scott Boras, long known for scoring lucrative deals for his clients.
Bourn apparently wants a 100 million dollar contract. I also would like 100 million dollars, and it looks like I have roughly the same shot at getting it, although his former team, the Braves, was willing to splurge 75.2 million dollars over 5 years on the less valuable B.J. Upton.
Bourn has a couple of road-blocks in his way of landing a deal thus far. One is that he simply is not a powerful bat; the past 3 years have seen him hit .279/.346/.376 with just a total of 13 home runs, and a roughly league average 98 OPS+. Now – does Bourn make up for these things by doing other things? Yes, yes he does – he is the only player in baseball to be worth both 25 base-running runs and 25 fielding runs over the past three seasons, even turning in +3 dWAR seasons in both 2010 and 2012.
Here’s the problem though: Bourn’s contributions are limited by the extent of his speed. As long as that’s in full force, he’s a valuable player – take that away, and you take away the stolen bases, the extra defensive plays, the doubles (85 since 2010), the triples (26 since 2010), and the infield hits (109 since 2010). Take all that away and you’re left with a player who can flat-out has no business in a Major League lineup.
A leg injury is probably unlikely, depending on Bourn’s strength and conditioning program. But it’s likely enough – especially on the wrong side of 30 – that committing to a long-term deal might not be the most prudent move in the world.
It’s no wonder Boras wants to get his 30-year old client locked up long-term, and it’s no wonder that big league teams simply aren’t biting at a potential 5-year pact.
There may very well be a team willing to shell out a 15-20 million per season for Bourn, but none with any foresight should go for more than 3 years. Some possible destinations:
Texas Rangers: They have struck out consistently this off-season, failing to re-sign Josh Hamilton, failing in their quest for Zack Greinke, and failing (at least thus far) to land a trade for Justin Upton. All they’ve been able to do is sign a quite possibly crippled Lance Berkman – and with Hamilton not only leaving but taking his powerful bat the rival Angels, the Rangers need to do more work if they want to make a fourth consecutive playoff appearance. With the Rangers having money to spend, adding a stud defensive player with speed could help bump them up a notch in the standings. With Craig Gentry currently #1 on the depth chart, and a defensively challenged Nelson Cruz in right field, Bourn would be a nice fit.
Chicago White Sox: The Chicago White Sox finished just 3 games behind the AL Central Division champion and ultimately AL champion Detroit Tigers – and did so with Alejandro De Aza in center field and Dayan Viciedo in left field. Bringing in Bourn would allow the White Sox to transition De Aza to left, or possibly platoon him with Viciedo and give the White Sox a major presence at the top of their order.
Philadelphia Phillies: The Philadelphia Phillies missed the playoffs in 2012 for the first time since 2006, finishing at .500. On the bright side, they will (hopefully, of course), be getting full seasons from Ryan Howard and Chase Utley and hopefully more than 25 starts from the great Roy Halladay. On the less bright side, their current projected outfield consists of rookie Darin Ruff, consistent disappointment Domonic Brown, and the recently acquired Ben Revere. Now, maybe Revere was acquired with the idea that he would blossom into Michael Bourn (he has similar skill-sets, and is far ahead of where Bourn was at age 24). But in the short term, the Phillies should want to try and win while their high-priced talent is still somewhat capable – which could be a rapidly closing window. A signing here would allow Bourn to return to the team that originally drafted him back in 2003. However, Philadelphia may be weary of another big signing – they currently have 7 players in their 30’s making more than 10 million dollars a year.
Those are my picks, with a potential deal being somewhere in the range of 3 years, 50 million dollars. Where do you think he’ll end up?