Michael Bourn Joins Indians’ Roster of Interest

Michael Bourn was supposed to become a very highly-paid player. Then all the teams with center-field vacancies started filling them with other guys, leaving Bourn on the market. It was an impossible market to read, and, per usual, people started wondering if Scott Boras had overplayed his hand. Eventually there was talk that the Mets would be interested, if they could negotiate to have their first draft pick protected. So, for a short while, it looked like Bourn could sign with the Mets. But, instead, Bourn has now signed with the Indians, joining fellow free-agent acquisition Nick Swisher. And Bourn is going to be a very highly-paid player, if to a lesser extent than expected.

The terms are as such: four years and $48 million, guaranteed, with a vesting fifth-year option worth $12 million. Ages ago, the FanGraphs audience — that’s you! — projected that Bourn would sign for five years and $70 million. So, relative to expectations, Cleveland has done pretty well.

A big issue with Bourn is that he had been extended a qualifying offer, so signing him would cost a draft pick. But the Indians aren’t losing a first-rounder, and they already gave up their second-rounder for Swisher. To get Bourn, the Indians have surrendered a competitive-balance pick, which is worth even less. If you assign a value to every draft pick, then the Indians are losing less value here than other teams would’ve, enabling the Indians to put more money into the actual contract.

As for the immediate implications, Bourn will start, and Swisher will start. So it’s unclear what this means for Drew Stubbs and Michael Brantley, who could platoon, or who could get moved around. The other immediate implication is that the Indians are better, and they might rank right around where the Royals are in 2013. One can’t at all consider the Indians postseason favorites, but they have a legitimate chance of contending for the wild card, which isn’t bad for a team that just lost 94 games and had the American League’s worst run differential.

The last four years, Bourn’s posted about the same WAR as Prince Fielder, Ian Kinsler, and Josh Hamilton. He’s done it as an average bat, and there are questions regarding how well he’ll age — Dave Cameron looked at his offense, and Cameron also looked at his defense. What Bourn has done isn’t necessarily what Bourn is going to do, and in December he turned 30 years old. As a guy who relies on his legs, Bourn has a chance of going all Chone Figgins-like. But one can’t deny what Bourn has accomplished, and one can’t ignore Bourn’s performance baseline. He’s been a four-to-six-win player for four years in a row, and that’s the most important information of all.

This is not a contract without risk; no such contract exists. But it feels like a good contract for both the Indians and for Bourn, which means you can go ahead and chalk another one up for Scott Boras. Kyle Lohse? I don’t know if there’s any saving Kyle Lohse. But now Boras won’t have to divide his attention. As with Rafael Soriano, here, Boras did well, and now the Indians can entertain bigger and brighter fantasies. This could be a positive season yet.

Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

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11 years ago


11 years ago
Reply to  JS7

Cleveland got a steal.

11 years ago
Reply to  Slats

The Tribe are back!

11 years ago
Reply to  Slats

Slats: No pun intended.