Going into the off season one thing was clear. The Phillies were going to sign a center fielder. The names most often bounced around were B.J. Upton, Angel Pagan, Shane Victorino, and Michael Bourn. Add in Josh Hamilton and Melky Cabrera, and as recently as two months ago, the odds in Vegas of the Phillies signing one of these guys would have been even money.
For Michael Bourn, most folks felt the likely spots were Washington, Philly or maybe back to Atlanta. (San Francisco was mentioned as well)
After the Nationals traded for Denard Span, B.J. Upton signed with Atlanta and Angel Pagan signed with the Giants. A Michael Bourn reunion seemed to be the way things would go. At the winter meetings, on December 5th, many Journalists and predicticators around the game felt it was a good bet to see Bourn in Phillies pinstripes. Yet, the next day, the Phillies traded for Ben Revere, leading many to speculate that the Bourn Ultimatum from Scott Boras was sky high.
As the chips continued to fall, Bourn (did I mention he was represented by Scott Boras?) remains unsigned. Texas and Seattle seemed the most likely landing spots, but the talk around Bourn has quieted to the point that many folks seem to forget he's still available.
Seattle doesn't seem to need him anymore, after trading for Michael Morse, and putting themselves in a position of having Raul Ibanez, Frankin Guiterrez, Jason Bay, Morse, Kendrys Morales and Justin Smoak to fill 1B/DH and three outfieldpositions. (another baffling offseason for Jack Z.)
So on January 18th, less than a month before spring training, unless a surprise team like the Braves decide to go after Bourn, or the Texas Rangers make a play, one has a hard time imagining where the speedster who has put up more fWAR since 2009 than Josh Hamilton, Matt Kemp, or Justin Upton will land.
Speaking of Upton, both the teams mentioned above seem to be on the peripherals of trading for him, which would leave one team left, and many in the industry believe that teams like Texas and Atlanta may be hesitant to drop the package necessary to land Justin Upton, or commit the dollars and years to Bourn, and instead, will hold their chips and wait for the inevitable Giancarlo Stanton big priced auction to happen sometime this summer or in the 2014 offseason, (when two other free agent center fielders, Curtis Granderson and Jacoby Elssbury, will hit the market).
So what's left then, for Michael Bourn? And how do the Phillies fit in?
The rub to most Phillies fans (myself included) on signing Bourn has been essentially two fold. Years and draft pick compensation. Signing Bourn means losing the first round pick, and coming into the offseason, it was expected that Scott Boras would demand a 5-7 year deal in excess of $15 million per year. A deal like that, for a "legs first" guy who just reached 30 years old would give pretty good value in the first few years, but man, talk about risk in years 4-5.
That said, as the market has shrunk, and so, likely has the deal. And before you comment on the deal he got for Prince Fielder, remember that Michael Bourn is not a household name. He's not a franchise making guy, not a human billboard, and so far, no team has lost their center fielder to a season ending knee injury. And when that happens, don't forget that the Oakland A's have two center fielders, in Coco Crisp and Chris Young, who are much more affordable stopgaps.
Then remember what Ryan Madson got last year.
If the market really has shrunk for Bourn (and I believe it has) to the point that a three year deal is the best he'll get, at 30 years old, you almost have to wonder if it isn't in Bourn's best interests to take a 1 year deal, and re-enter the market in the off season.
If that were to happen, hell, even on a two or three year deal, Michael Bourn makes a lot of sense for the Phillies.
Consider this lineup:
- Bourn CF
- Rollins SS
- Utley 2B
- Howard 1B
- Young 3B
- Ruf/Brown LF
- Chooch C
- Revere RF
When you look at the defensive value alone, and consider the run production and base running aspects, it's pretty exciting. You're looking at a completely different KIND of offense, but its a damn interesting one. One that might be a better offense that one where you go out and find a right handed bat to platoon with Laynce Nix.
The rub in all of this would be the draft pick compensation but depending on the market next off season, Bourn may be willing to come back on a 1 year qualifying offer (in the neighborhood of $14 million). if he doesn't, well you extend the QO and get the pick next year. For those of you who were in the Taco Pal "don't trade Victorino" camp this is essentially the same idea, but with, well, Michael Bourn. And with the way the QO system has worked so far, signing Michael Bourn to a 1 year deal, could essentially turn into a continual 1 year deal with an mutual option for x contract for as long as the Phillies value him at the current QO. Two to three years of QO value for Michael Bourn is a no brainer versus a draft pick, to me at least. Even with Ben Revere in the fold.
You now allow Brown and Revere to develop in 2013, Ruf gets the at-bats at Lehigh, Gillies progresses, and suddenly by July you have OF depth and major league trade value. Heck, Bourn himself is trade value.
Obviously should the market shrink this much, other teams will be quick to jump in as well, but it's something to consider. I for one would love to see the speed and stolen base potential with Bourn. Revere, Rollins, Utley and Brown in the same lineup.
Make it happen Rube.