Michael Bourn is a very good player. No, he’s not a superstar, but he’s a 2-time all star, has won 2 Gold Gloves, led the league in steals 3 times, and just turned 30 years old. He’s a great center fielder, and a good leadoff hitter.
His OBP will never lead the league, but it is indeed good; for his career it is .339, which is .003 lower than Jose Reyes’. In addition, his OBP is skewed a bit by the .288 in 2008—for the last 4 years it is right about .349. His .348 last year was 22nd in the entire NL. That OBP with his speed is more than adequate for a leadoff hitter.
And yes, he has played in hitter’s parks, but his splits are not at all severe. His numbers might come down in Citi Field, but his defense would almost certainly more than make up for this. His speed and range in center field would dramatically transform what right now has the potential to be a mediocre outfield defensively and a potentially historically horrible one at the plate.
If Boras wants 5 years and $75M for Bourn, it is a non-starter. That’s Omar money and the kind of money we all should hope is reserved for a player at the age and level of a Beltran, and Bourn, while very good, does not fit that profile.
There is also the issue of the draft pick. Picks around number 11 can indeed provide great players. In the last 22 years, the 11th-13th picks have yielded Andrew McCutchen, Max Scherzer, Jered Weaver, Jay Bruce, Nomar Garciaparra, Billy Wagner, Matt Morris, Joe Saunders, Manny Ramirez, Paul Konerko, and Aaron Hill. That’s a lot of talent. But it is also 11 good-to-great names out of 66 picks. So the chance of snagging a star with the 11th pick is indeed pretty slim.
The feeling here is that Bourn would be pretty close to ideal for this team for the next 2—3 years. The Mets play in a tough pitcher’s park, and a player with speed and great center field skills is more valuable in a park like Citi than in some others. The Mets also quite clearly are again building a team which will be centered around and anchored by starting pitching; young starting pitching. Niese, Harvey, and Gee will likely begin the year in the rotation, with Wheeler almost certain to join these three at some point in 2013. Having someone like Bourn out there for the next few years to run almost everything down would not only save runs, but could do a significant job of building the confidence of these young pitchers by letting them know they might be able to take a few more risks with a lightning-fast, sure-handed center fielder. Moving Kirk to a corner would turn the outfield from a defensive liability into a strength instantly.
Word is also that Bourn hustles every day, all day, and to the last day of the season. Every Met fan who has watched the last few years of Met baseball knows that this trait will be very welcome down the stretch regardless of how the season unfolds.
Yes, a speed-based player like Bourn could decline quickly, but, again, he just turned 30 and projects to have several years left in his prime. And yes, a player with minimal HR power who plays CF is definitely more susceptible to quick/severe decline in value when he loses a step or two. He’s not going to hit 25 HR to compensate for fewer legged-out hits and stolen bases. And losing speed in center field surely would affect his game more than it would if he was a SS or a corner OF. So when he does slow down, his value will shrink somewhat significantly.
But that seems unlikely to happen in the next few years. If Bourn could be had for 3 years at maybe $13—15M per, or 2 years at 15M with a club or mutual option for a 3rd year, the Mets should jump at the chance.
Alderson made a deal which could turn out to be outstanding when he traded Dickey, he signed a potentially excellent 4th starter in Marcum, and all of the bullpen moves combine to give the team a really nice collection of arms from which to try to build a competitive bullpen. It’s been a far better offseason than many of us expected.
But the outfield, speed, team defense, and the leadoff spot all remain issues, and signing Bourn could instantly impact all of these areas. This is what really points to Bourn being an ideal fit right now when one considers what the team needs and the dearth of outfield prospects in the minors. Bourn is more valuable to the Mets, all things considered, than he would be to many other teams.
The feeling here is that Michael Bourn should be signed, even if the draft pick is lost, as long as there is not more than a 3-year commitment made. The offseason moves have improved this team’s outlook for 2014-2015, and should the bullpen overachieve and d’Arnaud and Wheeler seriously contribute in 2013, the team could even have a shot to show serious improvement this year. Signing Bourn and adding his skills would be a tremendous shot in the arm for the team in several areas and would put to rest the notion that the team is too financially challenged to compete.
If Bourn can be had for a 2-3 year commitment at no more than about $15M a year, Sandy Alderson will have had an offseason that would, especially when one figures in dollars and trade chips, have to be considered to be in the B+ to A- range.
A Comment From Mr North Jersey
Just wanted to add to Kingman’s post for comparison purposes a look at some batting 1st splits.
2012 Batting 1st Comparisons
|2012 Batting 1st Stats||MLB||A.L.||N.L.||NYM||R. Tejada||M. Bourn|
|On-Base Slugging %||.715||.732||.700||.677||.692||.737|
|Runs Batted In||1738||890||848||47||18||56|
|Base on Balls||1756||845||911||59||19||69|