December 19, 2012 by Matt Musico
It’s been a tough winter for Michael Bourn; I mean, he is unemployed and all. However, the free agent center fielder and client of Scott Boras is hoping to land a long-term deal going into his age-30 season. In his second and last year with the Atlanta Braves in 2012, he put together a solid campaign, as he hit .274/.348/.391 line with 9 homers, 57 RBI, 96 runs scored, and 42 stolen bases. He’s a tremendous defender in the outfield and is a legitimate lead off hitter for any interested team.
What seems to be his biggest problem is that all the teams looking for top of the line outfield help this winter have already found their man. The Braves signed B.J. Upton to a five-year/$75 million deal, Shane Victorino signed for three-years and $39 million with the Red Sox, and Josh Hamilton broke the Angels’ bank with a five-year/$125 million contract. The Twins didn’t help Bourn’s cause, as they traded Denard Span to the Nationals and Ben Revere to the Phillies. Now that we’re a little under a week away from Christmas, Bourn is by far the most attractive free agent left in center field, with Rick Ankiel, Nyjer Morgan, Scott Posednik, and Grady Sizemore the remaining available players. The million-dollar question (literally) is which teams left are willing to make a long-term commitment to Bourn?
The Mariners and Indians are both in the market for legitimate outfield help, but with Cleveland going hard after Nick Swisher, it’s obvious they don’t want to spend more money on someone like Bourn, unless they have to. Seattle lost out on the Josh Hamilton sweepstakes and they have some money to burn for a big-time free agent, but for a team not ready to win right now, I doubt that looks attractive to Bourn. News broke recently he’d be willing to take a one-year deal from a team in order to re-enter the free agent market next winter.
However, if I were him, I’d strike while the iron is hot; the two-time Gold Glove winner is coming off his first All-Star selection, fifth straight season of 40+ stolen bases, and fourth straight season of 80+ runs scored. Plus, the center fielders set to hit free agency next off-season will give him stiff competition for the long-term deal he wants; Jacoby Ellsbury, Curtis Granderson, and Chris Young are all set to hit the open market in 2014.
Scott Boras knows this winter is the best time for his client to get the five-year deal he truly wants, and I won’t be surprised if this situation drags out until at least the middle of January, much like Prince Fielder‘s free agency last year. Boras waited out the market, even after Albert Pujols signed his huge deal with the Angels, and eventually found a suitor in the Tigers, who gave him $214 million over 9 seasons. Ben Nicholson-Smith of MLB Trade Rumors ran down the remaining suitors for Bourn, and he put the Rangers at the top of the list, which is an intriguing option. Texas hasn’t been able to make any of the moves they’ve wanted to this winter, as they watched Hamilton walk, Zack Greinke sign with the Dodgers, James Shields get traded to the Royals, and R.A. Dickey head to the Jays. Nothing has materialized for them in their efforts to acquire Justin Upton, so I would keep an eye on them.
They need a center fielder now that Hamilton has left, and since they lost out on him and Greinke, they certainly have the money to spend. Signing Bourn would give them a great lead-off hitter, and allow Elvis Andrus to hit in the two-hole, while letting Ron Washington move Ian Kinsler lower in the order to have more RBI-chances.
We’ll see what happens with Bourn, but since Boras is his agent, you know he’ll find a suitor for his client at the price they want. It’s only a matter of time.