The rumors of the New York Mets interest in free agent Michael Bourn have been escalating in recent days, some going as far as to say the team would seriously consider a backloaded deal if it wouldn’t cost them their first round pick in 2013. As I wrote the other day, I just don’t buy it. We are talking about a 30-year-old free agent outfielder that makes his living with his legs and whose demands appear well beyond any price tag the Metsecutives have come close to approaching in recent years. To me it seems pretty clear that the time will come for the front to shift the way they approach free agency, Michael Bourn won’t be the kind of guy that creates the paradigm shift. Today, MLB Insider Ken Rosenthal that sentiment in his post on Fox Sports:
First off, I’ll believe the Mets are signing Michael Bourn when I see them introduce him at a news conference and present him with a ceremonial cap and jersey. So, the debate over the type of draft pick they should forfeit for him probably is a pointless exercise.
Oh, the Mets’ interest in Bourn is serious, according to major league sources. Heaven knows they need outfielders. They have only $33.55 million in commitments for 2014, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, giving them the flexibility to sign Bourn — or any free agent, for that matter — to a back-loaded deal.
But forgive me for being skeptical.
Photo by Michael G. Baron
Stranger things have happened, particularly when a team awakens from a slumber one day and asks: “How the heck are we going to sell tickets?” But then there is the matter of the first-round pick that the Mets would lose if they signed Bourn. For a rebuilding club, that should be a deal-breaker. Except if the pick is a second-rounder instead.
The arguments on both sides are worthy, but let’s see the Mets force the issue on Bourn before delving any deeper into the legalities. Let’s see them spend big on a free agent for the first time since signing Jason Bay three years ago.
I’m not holding my breath waiting for the Michael Bourn news conference.”
I’m not really sure where Bourn’s demands have dropped to, but they were high enough for the Rangers to apparently lose interest, leaving the Mariners and Mets as ‘favorites’ to land him.
Again, I just don’t see it happening and I can’t really see the value of giving Bourn a long-term deal that might cost as much as much as the 5-year/$72.5 million B.J. Upton recently landed. I know Bourn is good and I know he would make this outfield better (which isn’t saying much), but when I looked at his offensive numbers I was reminded of Angel Pagan. Coming off a career year in 2012 Pagan landed a 4-year/$40 million deal with the Giants this offseason and I’m not sure that Bourn, who is just a year younger, is worth twice that. Especially when you consider how much he struck out in 2012.
I know defense can’t be overlooked and I can certainly see the value of having someone like Bourn patrol the spacious confines of Citi Field, but just how good was his defense last season? I’m smart enough to know what I don’t know, so when it comes to sabermetrics I turn to our resident expert Joe Kikel. I simply asked Joe what he thought the difference was between Pagan and Bourn and to him, it really came down to defense:
Photo by Michael G. Baron
If you have the Bill James Handbook Bourn was the best defensive player in baseball. Pagan was Avg at best. Pretty much all the UZR’s and Runs Saved of the world have Bourn as the best CF in baseball. Offensively, there isn’t that much of a difference (bourn is more consistant and his OWAR is higher in some cases because the extra ABs). And Bourn’s 2H was worrysome, he struck out 30% of the time, stopped running as much and was getting caught stealling more. Public perception is there’s a huge difference (and there is defensively) – but offensively there really isn’t much.”
O.K., so maybe my Bourn/Pagan comparison doesn’t hold much water, but from an offensive perspective it should at least open eyes as to the type of numbers that can be expected from Bourn. I still don’t think he’s worth the money he’s reportedly been seeking (let alone giving up a first round pick), but that price tag might change, since the fact that he is still unsigned points to most major league clubs sharing a similar opinion. If it does and the Mets are in position to capitalize on it then so be it, but like Rosenthal, I’m not holding my breath.