Indians sign Michael Bourn to 4 year, $48 million deal.
Finally, after pitchers and catchers already reported, the player that MLB Trade Rumors ranked as their third best player heading into the offseason has signed and our attention can turn to Kyle Lohse and just who will hit six home runs in Florida’s wind. Bourn’s signing, held up because the signing team would have to forfeit a draft pick (in the Indians case, #71 overall), still received a hearty sum. While it’s not on par with BJ Upton’s 5 year, $75 million contract, Bourn is two years older and his value is largely tied up in his speed and defense. For a centerfielder over the age of 30, those skills are quickly fleeting, something the Indians should be accustomed to given Grady Sizemore’s long, endless breakdown over the last half decade.
Just look at FanGraphs centerfield leaders from 2010.
Only a handful of players are still playing the position, most moving over to corners or fourth outfielder work, and Bourn lacks the power to play there. While the move is a definite upgrade for the near future, pushing Drew Stubbs to the bench or possible platoon partner, the Indians still look to be treading water in the AL Central. Their rotation is weak beyond Justin Masterson, praying for the fumes of Ubaldo Jimenez and Daisuke Matsuzaka, and no amount of Nick Swishers, Lonnie Chisenhalls, and Mark Reynolds should be able to top what the Tigers or White Sox are offering. Bourn will certainly make watching Indians baseball easier and more enjoyable next season, but they are still an awfully mediocre team in a mediocre division.
It is a step forward, and the deal doesn’t require Bourn to be great, only requiring about 2 WAR a season to break even. But there are only 16 players in the last 22 years to post more than 10 WAR while playing primarily playing centerfield, and most, save the Lance Johnson or Otis Nixon, had much more power.
But as the Orioles and A’s proved last year, all you need to do is stay competitive and anything is possible. That may be what the Indians are banking on.