We all thought any consideration of signing Michael Bourn this year was DOA, a casualty of his astronomic expectations and his qualifying offer, requiring the surrender of a first round pick in next year’s draft. As the off season got under way, Scott Boras (The Devil Wears Armani) intimated that he would expect at least 5 years and a deal in the $90 - $100 million range. And when Boras says something like that, you figure he’s going to get it, somehow, some way, by hook or by crook, eventually you’ll see those numbers announced. Oh well, we didn’t really want him anyway. I mean, after all, his game depends on his legs and he is 30 years old. And that first round pick, that’s a precious commodity, right? Besides, we have almost nothing to spend on free agents anyway. Good riddance to Michael Bourn.
Well, here it is nearing the end of January, and lo and behold, Michael Bourn remains unsigned. And even more bewildering, suddenly rumors are erupting all over the blogosphere linking the Mets, of all teams, to Bourn. Just yesterday Adam Rubin of ESPN New York said “A reliable major league source with knowledge of the Mets' plans would not dismiss the possibility outfielder Michael Bourn could end up with the team.” Jon Heyman on MLB Network reported previously that the Mets have been having serious internal discussions about acquiring Bourn. Could it be? After all, as recently as January 8, Sandy Alderson told the Star ledger ““We don’t want to lose our first-round draft pick. We think that’s one of the ways we got into the predicament we’ve had over the past couple of years. We’re very wary of that. It’s not our M.O.” Has Sandy reconsidered, and if so, is that wise?
For the better part of this off season I have been firmly opposed to signing Bourn. I didn’t want to see the Mets enter into another long term deal that could be a millstone in its later years. Bourn at 34 could be much different than Bourn at 30, and I didn’t want to sacrifice that draft pick. Recent events, however, have altered my opinion. The Braves are apparently in serious discussions with Arizona for Justin Upton. If Atlanta gets Upton it would take them out of the Bourn sweepstakes and increase the likelihood that his price would come down to earth. While 5 years/$90-$100 million is out of the realm of reasonableness to me, 3 years/$45 million would be quite attractive. And Bourn, at 32, when the contract would be up, should still be in his prime. Other speedsters like Juan Pierre and Coco Crisp have demonstrated that their legs generally remain strong through their early 30’s.
What are the positives of a Bourn signing? Although he is only a .272 career hitter, over the past 4 seasons he has an OBP over .350. He should be good for 40 to 50 stolen bases a year, and he would bring the excitement of the triple back to Citifield, excitement that left us with flying dreadlocks a year ago. I picture him racing from first to third on a single, or scoring easily from first on a Murphy double. In short, he’d be the best leadoff hitter we could hope to acquire this year. And, not insignificantly, he’s a Gold Glove caliber center fielder with great range, something we may be grateful for if Duda winds up playing left field.
What are the drawbacks? Firstly, there’s that #11 pick. But draft picks are always a crap shoot, and it isn’t as if the odds of drafting a future superstar at #11 are 50-50. And he still is not cheap. There are those who will say that, even with Bourn, we will not contend this year. Optimist that I am, I refuse to concede that contending in 2012 is impossible, although as a realist, I acknowledge that it is still unlikely. More importantly, though, with Bourn in the fold for 2014/15, and Wheeler and d’Arnaud on the 25 man roster from the start, we are one strategic acquisition away from being serious contenders a year from now.The bottom line? If the price is right, let’s bring Michael Bourn to Citifield with the team this April.