Is it time to swoop in and take advantage of the free agent market?
I read an interesting article on Michael Bourne from Fangraphs this morning. I'll post it all below, but it basically outlined how the market for Michael Bourne (outside of the Rangers and Mariners IMO) has shrunk for many reasons. BJ Upton signed early, the Twins traded both of their CF'ers which counts out two more teams.
It seems as if it is too late and Bourne is not going to get a five year deal with money exceeding BJ Uptons contract. Why don;t we offer him a short term deal so he can re-establish his value and enter free agency in a better market? I know Jones is our guy and we just signed him to an extension, but I feel Jones is a team player and would move to left to make room for the best defesnive center fielder in the game. He has speed and could be the leadoff hitter we sorely need. He would make our offense more dynamic.
Do you think he would sign for like, 1 year 16 mill?
Or 2 years 31 mill?
Even 3 years 45 mill?
If he signed a 1 year deal, we could even extend him a qualifying offer and get a draft pick if he signs elsewhere after the contract. I know it is a stretch, but if we could get him for a shorter term deal, we need to look into it. He would improve our Defense tremendously, improve our OBP, add speed to the lienup, etc. etc. He is a great player and it seems as if he will come on the cheap relatively.
What do you guys think? Picking him up and a wildcard like Jair Jurjenns would help this team tremendously IMO.
Michael Bourn, Chopped Liver?by Eno Sarris - December 26, 2012
Why isnít there more interest in Michael Bourn? A six-win center fielder is on the market, and our most recent article on the subject is whether or not his agent has waited too long to get him a deal. We donít know what his asking price is, but the idea that a player coming off a career year and four straight seasons with more than four wins now needs a pillow contract seems to suggest that either thereís a reason to doubt Bournís work, or thereís a lack of demand for his services in the market place.
There really arenít many indications that Bournís 2012 was a luck-driven affair. His batting average on balls in play was .349. His career BABIP is .343. His batting average was .274. His career batting average is .272. He put up the best UZR/150 of his career at +22.5. His career UZR/150 is +10.5, and he had a +20.6 season as recently as 2010. He walked (10%, career 8.8%) and struck out (22%, career 20.2%) at about his career rates, too. Doesnít seem like a fluke.
Maybe the power wasnít a typical part of Bournís identity. His .117 isolated slugging percentage (and nine home runs) were career highs, above and beyond his previous career-highs (.101 and five, respectively) and career averages (.093 and four). Heís a slight Ďpushí hitter ó the left-handerís fly balls head towards left field on average ó but he hasnít changed that in the last two years and his batted ball distance has only inched forward from bad (267 feet in 2010) to okay (290 feet last season according to baseballheatmaps.com, or between Howie Kendrick and Joe Mauer). All the park factors for left-handed power stats are under 100 in Atlanta, so itís not a symptom of his home park for the last year and a half.
On the other hand, weíre not talking about a difference maker when we talk about his power. You want Michael Bourn for defense, patience, and speed. His defense has been a positive every year but one during the thirty-year-oldís seven-year career. Other than the occasional seasonal blip in his walk rate, Bourn has had an above-average walk rate. Judged by Bill JamesĎ speed score, Bournís wheels have fallen off his peak slightly (8.6 in 2009), but heís still well above average (7.5 in 2012, 8.0 in 2011).
Could it be the market? The Braves went with B.J. Upton, and that took an option away. And the Twins filled two teamsí center field needs with center fielders of their own and donít figure to enter the free agent market for a new one. But the Cubs (Brett Jackson, Tony Campana), Houston Astros (Brandon Barnes, Justin Maxwell), New York Mets (Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Collin Cowgill), Seattle Mariners (Franklin Gutierrez, Michael Saunders), and Texas Rangers (Leonys Martin, Craig Gentry) ó all of these teams could use a Michael Bourn despite their current options. That seems like enough teams to get a little bidding war going for his services.
But you might notice something about the list, too. Due to circumstances ó either the current state of the roster, or team finances ó most of these organizations arenít in the market for a high-priced free agent center fielder. Realistically, there might only be two general managers having serious conversations with Scott Boras about the best free agent on the market.
And yet, as the Angels seem to teach us every season, just because a team has an adequate incumbent at a position, doesnít mean they wonít sign a free agent there. The Braves could push Upton to left field. The Blue Jays could make Colby Rasmus a great fourth outfielder on their quest to win now. The Royals could do the same with Lorenzo Cain. Or one of the rebuilding teams could decide that Bourn will age well ó thereís some evidence that speed does help players remain more productive, longer ó and that he would make sense for a team that might be two or three years away.
Itís not that Bourn is chopped liver. He may not put up another six wins next year, but his patience, defense and speed are all legitimate, and heíll be an above-average center fielder for his new team. Itís just that this year, that team has not yet stepped up. If he takes a pillow contract, it will be because of the market, not the player.