The rumors started swirling around what Michael Bourn would be looking for in free agency about halfway through last season, up to five years/$15-17 million. The end of the season came and the Braves offered Bourn a one year $13 million dollar contract through arbitration to assure themselves a draft pick if he signed with another team. To no ones surprise Bourn rejected the offer and settled in with super agent Scott Boras to see where he would sign his mega deal. Well we are past the Winter Meetings and almost to Christmas and Bourn has very few options left. The teams heading into free agency that were at the front of the line in needing a center fielder/leadoff hitter were the Braves (signed B.J. Upton), Phillies (traded for Ben Revere), Nationals (traded for Denard Span) and Giants (resigned Angel Pagan), who all filled their need, all at less than what Bourn and Boras have thought to be looking for. What now for Bourn and why hasn’t a team locked him up by now?
The way Scott Boras works is by waiting out the initial rush, let the market drive up the price, then get a huge contract for his client. This time it looks like that has backfired. The asking price was initially too high to begin with for most teams, including the team that new him best, the Braves. Now it looks like Bourn will maybe get half the years and money he was thought to be looking for and might have to take a contract similar to what the Braves offered him in arbitration and then head back out into free agency next year.
Teams are scared away from Bourn not only for the money but the years. Chone Figgins comes to mind when it comes to Bourn. While Bourn is a superior defensive player they are similar in many ways. Both are top of the order hitters with averages in the .270’s, 4-5 HR, 40-50 RBI and 40-50 SB over their careers. The difference is that when Figgins signed his contract he was going to be 32 and Bourn will be 30 and Bourn has struck out over 140 times in three of the last four seasons while Figgins was around the 114 range. Figgins was signed by Seattle for four years/$36 million and was such a disaster he was released this offseason with the Mariners basically paying him not to play for them in 2013. What happened to Figgins is what I think is scaring teams away from Bourn, he lost his speed with both his legs and his bat and became a player that could not even get off the bench even in a utility role for the Mariners. At least Figgins had position flexibility since he could play any infield or outfield position while Bourn can only play the outfield. Bourn’s second half of the season for Atlanta was nowhere near as good as his first half and the strikeouts he piled up have to scare off teams as a player with his speed needs to be a contact hitter to use his speed to get on base. What is the old saying: You can’t steal first base. On the flip side you could say that being two years younger a team could sign Bourn to a three year contract and take their chances, but they would be taking a chance.
Teams that are left that could pursue Bourn are the Cubs, Mets, Rangers, and Mariners but remember Josh Hamilton is still out there as well and is in play for the Rangers and Mariners and I think the Mariners have learned their lesson after the Figgins signing. The only one of these teams that is a contender is the Rangers and besides the fact they could resign Hamilton, they could trade for Jacoby Ellsbury or give the job to top prospect Leonys Martin. Would Bourn want to waste his last productive years playing for non contenders Cubs or Mets?
Could the Braves resign Bourn and play him in left field? That would make the combination of Heyward, Upton and Bourn one of the greatest defensive outfields in baseball history? That is very doubtful as the Braves are thought to have less than $10 million to spend on their team the rest of the offseason and I do not think Bourn would move over to left field as the Braves have already promised B.J. Upton he would not be moved from center field. It will be interesting to see where Bourn signs and what he signs for after making a big mistake in what he and his agent thought he was worth. Bourn priced himself too high from the beginning and now he is paying for it.