Tag: Michael Bourn

Michael Bourn to Orioles: Latest Trade Details, Comments, Reaction

Seeking to boost their outfield depth for the final playoff push in September, the Baltimore Orioles have acquired Michael Bourn in a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for outfielder Jason Heinrich, the Diamondbacks announced.

Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball first reported that the Orioles and Diamondbacks agreed in principle to the deal.

“We are happy to address our outfield defense with a defender who can help us in a number of positions, and also someone [manager] Buck [Showalter] can insert in a game and give us a good chance for a stolen base,” Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said, per MLB.com’s Brittany Ghiroli.

The Orioles’ biggest need all season has been starting pitching, but due to a lack of strong options available before the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline, they have chosen to add bats instead. 

Baltimore acquired Steve Pearce from the Tampa Bay Rays earlier this month. Bourn joins him after playing 89 games for the Diamondbacks. 

Bob Nightengale of USA Today noted that the Diamondbacks were concerned about finding spots for players when rosters expand on Thursday. With A.J. Pollock recently returning from the disabled list, Bourn no longer had an opportunity to be an everyday player in Arizona, so trading him was a smart move. 

With rosters set to expand [Thursday], Bourn will give the O’s a late-inning option to bring some speed off the bench and perhaps to upgrade the outfield defense over Mark Trumbo or Hyun Soo Kim, neither of whom grades out anywhere close to average with the glove,” MLB Trade Rumors’ Steve Adams wrote. 

The 33-year-old Bourn is having a modest bounce-back season in 2016. He’s hitting .261/.307/.362 with three home runs and 13 stolen bases in 329 at-bats, which is a marked improvement over the .238/.310/.282 slash line he put up with the Cleveland Indians and Atlanta Braves last year. 

Baltimore lacks any kind of running threat on the basepaths, ranking last in all of Major League Baseball with 15 stolen bases. Bourn at least gives it some credibility in that category as the regular season’s final month approaches. 

The Orioles were possibly looking for another center fielder with Adam Jones battling a left hamstring injury that has kept him out of the lineup since Aug. 26.

Bourn does not shift the needle in Baltimore’s favor in terms of the American League East and wild-card races, but he’s a veteran who has been on multiple playoff teams in the past. He gives Showalter more versatility and a speed element this team desperately needs.

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Michael Bourn to Blue Jays: Latest Contract Details, Comments, Reaction

The Toronto Blue Jays added speed and a solid glove to their system Friday in the form of outfielder Michael Bourn.

As first reported by Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com, the Jays inked the 11th-year veteran to a minor league contract. Shi Davidi of Sportsnet confirmed the move.

This comes after the Atlanta Braves cut Bourn on April 2, right before the start of the 2016 season, per David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. O’Brien noted Bourn had a $14 million guaranteed salary, and the Braves elected to designate him for assignment and purchase the contract of Drew Stubbs instead.

It didn’t take long for a player with Bourn’s resume to generate interest after Atlanta cut him. MLB reporter Jon Morosi reported the Arizona Diamondbacks considered adding Bourn after center fielder A.J. Pollock fractured his elbow before the start of the campaign.

As for Bourn, his rookie season in 2006 came with the Philadelphia Phillies, and he also played for the Houston Astros, Braves and Cleveland Indians throughout his career. 

He struggled somewhat in 2015 for the Indians and Braves and hit .238 without a home run. What’s more, his 17 stolen bases were a far cry from what fans saw in his prime when he stole 61 bases in 2009 for the Astros and 61 bases in 2011 for the Astros and Braves. In fact, his overall speed and ability to steal bases is a major reason why he was such a valuable commodity for most of his time in the majors:

Bourn was also a two-time All-Star in 2010 and 2012 and a two-time Gold Glover in 2009 and 2010. According to FanGraphs, he was responsible for 72 total defensive runs saved above average in his career in the outfield coming into the 2016 season. 

At his best, Bourn brings occasional pop in his bat (178 career doubles) and is a threat to set the tone for the rest of the lineup when he gets on base (.331 career on-base percentage). 

While he is past his prime at 33 years old, Bourn is a veteran presence who can fill in where needed for his new team and even serve as a pinch runner who can change the course of a game with a critical steal or advancement on the basepaths. Between his glove and his speed, Bourn is a worthwhile addition as Toronto looks to make a push toward the postseason in 2016.

Bourn may begin his tenure with the organization at Triple-A Buffalo, but there is certainly a clear path back to the major leagues.

There is little depth behind starting outfielders Jose Bautista, Kevin Pillar and Michael Saunders in Toronto currently aside from Ezequiel Carrera, which means one injury would quite possibly earn Bourn a call-up.

Bourn does the little things in the field and on the bases that help teams win tight games, and that is precisely what the Blue Jays will be tasked with doing in the competitive AL East.

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Michael Bourn: Latest News, Rumors, Speculation Surrounding Free-Agent

The Arizona Diamondbacks, who are still in need of a center fielder, could look to add former Atlanta Braves outfielder Michael Bourn.

Continue for updates.

Bourn Could Add to Diamondbacks’ Outfield Depth

Sunday, April 3

On Sunday, MLB reporter Jon Morosi noted Bourn is among multiple options the Diamondbacks could add for depth in the outfield.

The Braves cut Bourn on Saturday despite owing him $14 million, per the Associated Press (h/t Fox Sports).

The 33-year-old journeyman has played for four teams in his 10-year career. Although he has just 31 career home runs, he has stolen 326 bases and earned two Gold Glove Awards.

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said cutting Bourn was not an easy decision, per David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

[Releasing] Bourn was very, very difficult. It might have been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. You spend so much time with them, and you care for both of those guys. [Emilio Bonifacio] played his first year in the big leagues for me, with the Marlins. There’s a personal attachment there. And you know with Mike Bourn how we feel about him in this organization and what he brings.

Arizona lists the 24-year-old Chris Owings as its starting center fielder, after A.J. Pollock suffered a fractured elbow, but he has played only shortstop and second base in his career.

David Peralta and Socrates Brito are the team’s backups. Peralta is slated to start in right field, and Brito has just 18 MLB games under his belt.

O’Brien said there is a chance that the Braves also could look to bring Bourn back.

“DFA’ing Bourn and Bonifacio ($1.25 million salary) instead of outright releasing them, there’s a chance the Braves could work out a trade for either and recoup some of the money they owe on those deals,” he wrote.

If Arizona jumps on Bourn first, he would be a solid veteran presence in the outfield, though he won’t be adding any power and hasn’t hit over .260 since 2013.

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Making Sense of Atlanta Braves’ Strange Trade for Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn

The Atlanta Braves making a headline-grabbing trade? After all they’ve done in the last few months, odds are you’re not surprised to hear that.

Rather, if you’re surprised by anything, it’s the nature of the Braves’ latest swap.

Buzz began to build Friday afternoon that Atlanta was nearing a deal with the Cleveland Indians that would net it All-Stars-turned-duds Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn. Eventually, that buzz led to a trade that looks like this:

If nothing else, this is our first big reminder that, yes, big-ticket deals can still go down after the passing of the July 31 deadline. That’s thanks to MLB‘s waivers system. ‘Tis a complicated affair, but it can get things done all the same.

Beyond that, though, it takes some mental gymnastics to get a grip on this deal.

It makes sense that the Indians would want a player like Johnson. He’s having a lousy year with a .235 average and a .592 OPS. But one thing he’s continued to do in 2015 is hit left-handers well with a .747 OPS. Given his track record in that department, it’s possible the Indians have it in mind to solve their third-base conundrum with a Johnson/Lonnie Chisenhall platoon. Apart from that, trading two players for one allows the Indians to free up a roster space, which is always good.

But where things get interesting, of course, is why the Braves, of all teams, would want to take on the two players in question. Given the particulars, however, their end of the deal also makes sense.

Above all, it’s the contract swap that wouldn’t seem to make sense for Atlanta at first. The Braves now owe Bourn and Swisher a combined $29 million in 2016, whereas Cleveland owes Johnson a minimum of $17.5 million between 2016 and 2017, should the team choose to decline his $10 million option for 2018.

Why would the Braves want to take on more money?

This is where the cash considerations come into play. As Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported, the Indians are kicking in over $10 million to the deal:

If so, the contract swap is basically a wash. Rather than paying Johnson $17.5 million in 2016 and 2017, the Braves will be giving $19 million to Swisher and Bourn in 2016.

The bad news? Atlanta will have less payroll flexibility for its 2016 roster.

The good news? The Braves will have increased payroll flexibility for their 2017 roster, which is part of their ultimate goal. Atlanta will be moving into its new home, SunTrust Park, in 2017, and it’s widely expected that the team is going to do its darnedest to put a winner on the field that year. To that end, having extra payroll flexibility will certainly help.

Mind you, there’s a chance that the Braves’ best-laid plans will be ruined by Swisher and Bourn triggering their vesting options for 2017, in which case Atlanta would be on the hook to pay them $26 million combined. But as Chris Cotillo of SB Nation noted, that’s unlikely to happen:

As much as anything, recent history is a strong indicator that neither Swisher nor Bourn will make it to 550 plate appearances in 2016. Due to a combination of injuries and age—Bourn is 32, and Swisher is 34—both are going to fall well short of 550 trips to the batter’s box for a second straight year in 2015.

But even if Swisher and Bourn find themselves on track for 550 plate appearances next season, that could be welcome news for the Braves. The two veterans are not going to find themselves in such a position unless they’re reasonably healthy and productive, and that’s something the Braves could take advantage of.

He’s been going about it in a unique way, but one thing John Hart has made clear since Atlanta named him its president of baseball operations last fall is that he means to stock the club with as much controllable talent as he can get his hands on. To do so, he’s notably traded Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, Evan Gattis, Craig Kimbrel and Alex Wood since last winter.

And if Hart has his way, both Swisher and Bourn would be next.

Right now, neither Swisher nor Bourn has the trade value required to land young talent. Swisher has OPS’d just .597 since the start of 2014 and is currently on the shelf with knee troubles. Injuries also limited him to 97 games in 2014. Bourn has had issues with injuries throughout the last two seasons as well, and he has struggled with a .648 OPS and only 23 stolen bases in the process.

But at the same time, the Braves know as well as anyone that a healthy Swisher is a good hitter. He showed as much when he OPS’d .763 with 22 home runs in what was a “down” season in 2013. And as it happens, Bourn is showing right now that he’s also a good player when he’s right, as he’s hitting .360 with an .827 OPS since the All-Star break.

Or, if you prefer the sales pitch that Hart gave to Kevin McAlpin of Braves Radio Network: “We’re getting winning players with good makeups. They play the game the right way. I think these guys will fit what it is we’re doing.”

Admittedly, there’s a chance that neither Swisher nor Bourn will rescue his trade value enough for the Braves to get anything for them in 2016. But if nothing else, Atlanta is better off wagering on two guys with strong track records turning it around next season than it would have been wagering on one guy without a strong track record (Johnson) doing so. 

If it works out, great. The Braves will then have two veterans on their hands whom they can deal for more controllable talent.

If it doesn’t work out? Oh well. At least Atlanta will still be getting that 2017 payroll flexibility no matter what.

It’s hard to say that the Braves have made a brilliant move. But since they’re shedding some future payroll while taking on a couple of potentially valuable reclamation projects, they’re at least making a worthwhile gamble.

This may be one of the stranger deals you’re ever going to see, but it’s a sensible one.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

If you want to talk baseball, hit me up on Twitter.

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Michael Bourn Hamstring Injury Could Mean Big Trouble for Indians

Michael Bourn could be headed back to the disabled list after starting the season there. His repaired left hamstring is acting up again, a big problem so closely after surgery. The Cleveland Indians speedster is being evaluated by their medical staff, according to MLB‘s Jordan Bastian, and no decision has been made on a return.

Bourn‘s 2013 season ended with him headed for surgery after a severe Grade III strain was not going to heal on its own. Stitching muscle back together is very difficult. A surgeon once told me that it was like trying to cut your steak and then stitch it back together. (He told me this at a steakhouse. Yeah.) 

While Bourn was able to return without significant issue, the fact that he is having trouble is problematic. It’s not known where the new injury is. It could be at the repaired area, nearby or further up or down the muscle. Any is problematic as it further weakens the muscle that Bourn needs to play his kind of game.

Hamstring injuries do have a tendency to be recurrent. Because the muscle repairs itself with scar, it is never as strong. This exacerbates the normal strength deficit the hamstring has to the quad, it’s antagonist. Any imbalance leads to further movement disruption and usually only gets worse from there.

Terry Francona had a very interesting quote in the article above about the situation. “We just want to make him understand that he’s got to be honest, and then we’ll sit down with him and make decisions. That’s kind of how we always do things.” 

Francona‘s quote is intriguing in that he felt the need to articulate it. Lonnie Soloff and his medical staff are among the most respected in the game and have been there for years. Having to say that Bourn should be honest has to be a reflection that they’ve had issues with him somewhere along the line. 

The Indians should make a decision shortly on Bourn, retaining the retro move back to the weekend. They called up Nyjer Morgan, who had filled in for Bourn at the start of the season. Morgan is a streaky player, so he’s not a bad desperation play in fantasy.

Bourn‘s long-term value is tied up in his speed. With only two steals in five attempts and reduced range in the outfield, Bourn hasn’t demonstrated that at all. Further hamstring issues call into question whether it’s coming back at all. 

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Michael Bourn Injury: Updates on Indians Star’s Finger

The Cleveland Indians’ biggest 2013 offseason acquisition is headed to the disabled list for the first time while with the team. 

Center fielder Michael Bourn will be taking a 15-day leave of absence from the top of Cleveland’s lineup after lacerating his finger and receiving five stitches after Sunday’s game against the Chicago White Sox (h/t Matt Snyder of CBS Sports). 

Jordan Bastian, the team’s beat writer for MLB.com, reported the news on Twitter:

Later confirmed by Snyder, the Indians will wait to make the move official in the next couple of days as pitcher Scott Kazmir (the expected addition to the roster) rehabs with Triple-A affiliate Columbus. 

Drew Stubbs is expected to take over duties in center field with Bourn sidelined. 

Bourn sustained the injury in the eighth inning of Sunday’s game against the White Sox, sliding into first base in an attempt to beat out an infield single. He did just that, but payed the price, as White Sox first baseman Adam Dunn stepped on his finger in the process. 

Cleveland ended up losing the game 3-1. 

After the Atlanta Braves signed B.J. Upton this offseason, it became clear that there was no place for the 30-year-old speedster with Atlanta. Cleveland let things play out before signing Bourn to be its starting center fielder to a four-year, $48-million contract (via USA Today).  

With splits of .333/.375/.600 through 10 games, Bourn has been a nice signing thus far for the Indians. While the severity of the injury doesn’t seem to be enough to keep Bourn out of action for too long, the last thing the Indians want (5-6 heading into Tuesday night’s game) is for Bourn to tear out his stitches or turn what should be a routine recovery process into something more. 

He’ll head to the DL for some early-season rest, and will hopefully heal up completely from the freak play in time to suit up again before the end of the April schedule. 


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Ranking MLB’s 10 Most Feared Base Stealers Heading into 2013

In this day and age, home runs get the most “ooh’s” and “aah’s” at baseball games from spectators. Fans come to the ballpark to see guys like Prince Fielder and Giancarlo Stanton hit mammoth tater shots that come close to reaching Mars’ orbit.

But there’s more than one dynamic to a baseball game. The stolen base is a key aspect to any successful player and team. Of course, players who can hit the long ball, and steal some bases are exponentially more valuable than the one-dimensional player. All-Stars such as Ryan Braun and David Wright are some examples of sluggers who are also bag-swipers.

In 2012, rookie sensation Mike Trout paced the Major Leagues with 49 stolen bases (the Padres’ Everth Cabrera seemingly came out of nowhere to lead the National League with 46 bags). Braun had his second consecutive 30/30 season (30 home runs, 30 stolen bases). And Jose Reyes reached 40 stolen bases for the fifth time in his career (he had 39 in 2011).

So as we sprint towards the start of the 2013 season, here is a look at who will likely be the tops in the stole base category when all is said and done.

Begin Slideshow

Why Michael Bourn Won’t Help the Cleveland Indians

Opening Day is getting closer, and teams are in a flurry trying to make last-minute moves to position themselves for contention come spring. 

The Cleveland Indians are undoubtedly one of the busiest teams, signing a slew of big names, most recently Michael Bourn

However, as we learn almost every year through free agency, all that glitters is not gold. 

As a two-time All-Star and Gold Glove winner, Bourn‘s credentials are impressive. However, when you look at his production in detail, he leaves much to be desired.

He struck out 295 times in the past two years. That’s way too much, and it can possibly become a liability for the Indians if he cannot produce on a consistent basis.   

Even more alarming, his batting average dropped from a very good .311 in the first half of last season to .225 after the All-Star Game.

What excites most people about Bourn, though, is his defensive ability. Bourn is considered to be one of the premier defensive outfielders in all of baseball, and many expect this acquisition to give the Indians the best outfield in the MLB.

However, fielding wasn’t Cleveland’s main problem. Last season, the Indians ranked ninth overall in fielding percentage. They weren’t the best, but the defense obviously wasn’t the reason for their 67-92 record last year.

Cleveland’s offense needs an upgrade, and Bourn’s inconsistency will do very little to help that.

They ranked a mediocre 18th in batting average and 25th in home runs. The offense was the team’s Achilles’ heel, and Bourn does more to highlight that than relieve it.

All last year, the fans in Cleveland were begging for a potent right-handed hitter who could light it up. This flaw was exposed in a division with the home run-happy Chicago White Sox and the very good Detroit Tigers. 

Bourn’s inability to find a consistent offensive stride will hurt the team, especially in the second half of the season, where he’s been shown to regress.

This year, the AL Central looks to be competitive, and the Indians will need to keep the offense pumping into August and September, when they will probably have to find a way to fight off both the Tigers and the White Sox.

Bourn does not help their offensive problem; he only makes it worse.

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2013 Tampa Bay Rays: Signing Michael Bourn Makes Sense for Team and Outfielder

Pitchers and catchers are slated to report to their spring training camps starting on February 11, yet top free agent Michael Bourn has yet to find a home.

Agent Scott Boras has said all offseason that he is looking for a contract in the neighborhood of five years and $75 million for the All-Star center fielder. Teams that may have been interested in Bourn, such as the Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies, have already filled their open positions through other free-agent signings or the trade market.

The market for Michael Bourn has appeared to dwindle, and the likelihood that he will obtain the contract that Scott Boras is said to be looking for is becoming less and less with each passing day.

The Tampa Bay Rays look to be going into the 2013 season with some combination of Desmond Jennings, Matt Joyce, Ben Zobrist, Sam Fuld and Brandon Guyer manning the outfield. With the inevitable call-up of uber-prospect Wil Myers to take a corner outfield spot, Tampa Bay does not seem like an ideal landing spot for the speedy 30-year-old outfielder.

However, if you look at the economics in play, a one-year deal for Michael Bourn might be a smart move for both sides,

Currently the Rays hold the 23rd and 30th picks in the 2013 draft. By signing Bourn, the Rays would have to give up their 23rd pick as compensation, which really should not scare the club off.

It is already a forgone conclusion that Wil Myers will not be called up to The Show until early May, as the Rays love to control the free agency clock on all of their young players.



To sign Bourn, the Rays would have to theoretically give the center fielder a contract between $12 and $13 million for a one-year deal. As it stands right now, the Rays have a payroll just over $51 million, about $12 million less than what they started last season with. Therefore, the addition of Bourn would let Tampa stand pat with where they were last season.

Not only that, but the Rays would also not have to worry about committing long term to a player on the wrong side of 30 that relies on his speed as his biggest asset.

By signing Bourn, the Rays could start the season with an outfield of Desmond Jennings in left, Michael Bourn in center and Ben Zobrist in right field. This will allow Kelly Johnson to be the full-time second baseman, and Matt Joyce will be able to slide into the DH spot at the start of the year.

Once Myers is called up in early May, the Rays would be able to shift Zobrist to second base and move Myers into right field, then Kelly Johnson and Matt Joyce can platoon at the DH spot. By doing this, the Rays would be able to not only give themselves a strong defensive lineup, but they would also be able to utilize matchups in true Joe Maddon fashion.

While this seems all fine and dandy on the Rays’ end, what incentive would Bourn have to play in St. Pete?



The most obvious answer would be that Bourn would have a job. If we end up in spring training with the center fielder still out of work, his leverage will be reduced to almost zero.

Secondly, Bourn will be able to play in a style of offense that tailors to his strengths. It is no secret that Joe Maddon loves to play small ball and let his players race around the base paths. By having players such as Desmond Jennings, Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist hitting behind him, he’ll have a good chance of racking up some stolen bases and scoring a large amount of runs.

Since there does not appear to be a multi-year market out there for Bourn at the moment, a one-year deal with Tampa would give him a chance to build on his value with a speed-oriented offense for the 2014 off-season in hopes of securing the type of contract that he could not obtain this year.

Depending on how the season unfolds for Tampa Bay, the Rays could go in a couple of different directions should they sign Bourn.

One option for Tampa would be to flip the center fielder to a contending team to help stockpile their strong farm system should they find themselves outside of the playoff hunt at the deadline.

If Tampa finds themselves in the thick of the playoff hunt, then they could hold on to Michael Bourn and extend him a qualifying offer at the end of the season with the near guarantee that he will not accept. Chances are good that Bourn would qualify for draft pick compensation and the Rays would be able to recoup the draft pick that they would give up in 2013 to sign him.

With the start of the season just over the horizon, this is a solution that both parties should strongly consider.

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How Michael Bourn to the Tampa Bay Rays Would Impact the AL East

If the Tampa Bay Rays want to make a power play in what is a very deep AL East, they should consider signing the top free agent left on the open market: Speedy center fielder Michael Bourn.

Yeah, it’s not often we get to say these things. The Rays aren’t exactly the New York Yankees Los Angeles Dodgers, after all.

However, ESPN’s Jayson Stark hears the Rays are looking for a center fielder, and he wonders if they might make a play for Bourn:

Just so we’re all on the same page here, this is just speculation, and it surely comes off a bit as crazy speculation. Like, hurry-up-and-put-him-in-a-straight-jacket crazy speculation.

But it’s not. Stark’s thought process is actually defensible.

Scott Boras is out there looking for a deal for Bourn, and his track record suggests he’s going to find a multi-year offer before long. That Boras finally managed to find one for Rafael Soriano this week was a reminder that he’s getting things done even when it seems like he isn’t.

But Boras is in a tough spot with Bourn. The demand for center fielders dried up weeks ago, thanks in part to the willingness of the Minnesota Twins to part with two center fielders in trades. Bourn‘s market is being further slowed by his ties to draft pick compensation after he rejected a qualifying offer from the Atlanta Braves.

There’s an outside chance that Bourn could settle for a one-year deal, which would allow him to re-enter the market next year with maybe a better shot at a multi-year deal.

And yes, a one-year deal is likely as far as the Rays would be willing to go. They probably could make a multi-year deal work, but Andrew Friedman isn’t the type to fall into that trap, precisely because he’s the type who would know that speed doesn’t age very well.

The Rays would have to give up a draft pick in order to sign Bourn to a one-year deal, but that’s not necessarily a deal-breaker. They could earn that pick right back next winter by making Bourn a qualifying offer and then watching him sign elsewhere.

The Rays do have a bit of wiggle room on their payroll for the 2013 season. They have a little over $40 million in salaries committed for this season, and Baseball-Reference.com projects their final payroll to be about $55 million.

The Rays opened 2012 at about $63 million. If they were willing to go up to, say, $67-70 million in 2013, they could fit Bourn in.

As for why the Rays would be willing to take on such a significant investment, they could decide it’s necessary for them to go for glory before they’re forced to trade David Price next winter. Bourn could help them go for glory because he’d be an upgrade for them in more ways than one.

The Rays could use an impact bat in the leadoff spot of their lineup. Joe Maddon went mainly with Desmond Jennings at leadoff in 2012, and the results weren’t great. Rays leadoff men finished the season with a .315 on-base percentage, which was one of the lowest marks in the majors.

Bourn has finished with an OBP over .340 each of the last four seasons. He’s also stolen at least 40 bases each of the last five seasons, which should be equally appealing to a Rays team that only got 32 steals out of its leadoff spot in 2012.

Bourn would be just as useful for the Rays in the outfield. He was the best defensive center fielder in the majors in 2012 in the eyes of both the Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved metrics, as he finished with a 22.4 UZR and a DRS of plus-24 (see FanGraphs).

If the Rays had Bourn in center field and Jennings in left field, they would have one of the best defensive outfields in the majors. Jennings had the highest UZR/150 of any left fielder in 2012, and he also had a DRS of plus-nine.

Shoring up their outfield defense could help the Rays make up for some of the pitching value they lost when James Shields was traded to the Kansas City Royals for Wil Myers (who should be along to play right field early in 2013). Their pitching itself likely wouldn’t be any better, but Jennings and Bourn could combine to keep a not-insignificant amount of runs off the scoreboard.

If adding Bourn to their outfield translated to a small amount of fluctuation between the Rays’ pitching in 2012 and their pitching in 2013, they would end up with a major advantage. The Rays had the lowest team ERA in MLB in 2012, whereas none of the other AL East clubs were ranked in the top 10.

Now add an upgraded offense with Bourn in the leadoff spot to the equation. He alone would help the Rays’ run output climb from 697. Factor in a healthy Evan Longoria and a potential Rookie of the Year in Myers, and the Rays would surely have a top-15 offense. Maybe even top-10.

This would make other teams in the AL East even more wary of the Rays than they probably already are. They already have one of the best bullpens in baseball and a rotation that can go toe-to-toe with those of the New York Yankees and the Toronto Blue Jays. Give them an upgraded offense, and the Rays are at least as good as any team in the division.

The Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox would be particularly afraid of Bourn because they have catchers who don’t specialize in throwing out runners. Toronto’s J.P. Arencibia has thrown out fewer than 30 percent of base-stealers each of the last two seasons, and Boston’s Jarrod Saltalamacchia threw out fewer than 20 percent of base-stealers in 2012.

The Yankees may not be any better off, as the jury’s out on how their motley crew of catchers is going to perform in 2013 defensively (not to mention offensively).

So in addition to being a lineup upgrade and a defensive upgrade, Bourn could also be a pest for key division rivals. These things combined would make him worth a handful of wins more than the Rays are looking at winning in 2013, and those wins could be the difference between them being AL East champions and them just missing out on winning the division.

I wouldn’t bet my bottom dollar on Bourn actually signing with the Rays, mind you. They’re not the type to use extra payroll space just because it’s there, and Boras probably isn’t anywhere close to being ready to allow Bourn to accept anything less than a top-dollar multi-year deal.

But because Bourn doesn’t have a wide array of options, and because the Rays could be willing to spend big bucks on a ticket to an AL East title, this is a rare long shot that comes off as a fair bet.


Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted. 


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