Posted by Herb G at 12:38 AM
Michael Bourn signed with the Cleveland Indians this afternoon after negotiations with the New York Mets could not be finalized. The Indians deal with Bourn is for 4 years and $48 million, with a 5th year $12 million option that automatically vests with 550 plate appearances in the fourth year. According to a MLB source, the Mets were definitely Bourn's first choice, and they had come to agreement on the years and dollars. Joel Sherman of the N.Y. Post indicated that two sources confirmed to him that the Mets offer was also for 4 years and $48 million, but contained no option. Another obstacle, according to the MLB source, was the fact that resolution of the Mets request for protection of their #11 draft pick would have taken 2 to 3 weeks. Mike Puma, a colleague of Sherman's, reports, however, that the two sides were down to ironing out small details, such as the hotel rooms in which Bourn would stay on road trips.
It is unclear, at this time, whether the deciding factor in Bourn's decision to sign with the Indians was the fifth year option, which Bourn would feel confident of vesting, or the delay on the draft pick compensation issue. There has been no confirmation by anyone as to whether the Mets would have insisted on waiting for the final resolution to come down before signing the deal with Bourn, but that seems unlikely, givin the level of details that were being discussed by the two sides. In any event, the Mets have lost out on the player that Tim Dierkes of mlbtraderumors.com ranked #3 among all free agents this year, an outstanding leadoff hitter and a Gold Glove center fielder.
I must confess that I am disappointed that Bourn will not be patrolling center field in Flushing this year. I believe that he fit the Mets' needs to a tee. But I am not sorry to lose him under these circumstances. I was strongly in favor of a 3 year deal, even at an average salary of $14 to $15 million. I was leery of offering the 4th year, however, and I think the 5th year option is definitely a bad deal, even though it is only for $12 million. Those last two years could become an albatross, as so many long term contracts do in their latter years. And now the Mets still have that coveted #11 pick and the slot money that goes with it.
So, where do the Mets go from here? Do they now stand pat, with Lucas Duda in left, a Nieuwenhuis/Cowgill platoon in center and Mike Baxter in right, supported by Andrew Brown or Marlon Byrd as their fifth outfielder? Will Matt den Dekker or Juan Lagares now get more serious consideration for a spot coming out of spring training? Or is Sandy Alderson already burning up the phone lines to find a trading partner willing to part with an outfielder that meets his specifications?
One possibility that might meet those specifications is Tony Campana of the Cubs, who was just designated for assignment yesterday. Campana, (call him Michael Bourn lite) who won't be 27 until next season is 2 months old, has been described as one of the five fastest ball players in the major leagues. In 357 major league plate appearances, Campana has a .262 avg. (10 points lower than Bourn's) and only a .306 OBP, but he has 54 stolen bases in 59 attempts. His minor league statistics are more encouraging, with a slash line of .301/.356/.350, indicating he may be overly anxious at the plate in an attempt to impress his manager and coaches at the major league level. If he can be taught to be more patient at the plate and raise his OBP to a more respectable level, he could make an excellent leadoff hitter, good for 50 or more SBs a season. Fleet afoot, he covers a lot of ground in center field, but his arm is not strong, which could be a drawback. Another factor is that he is a left handed hitter, something the Mets already have an overabundance of. The question is whether the advantages outweigh the drawbacks.
I'm interested in what you think the Mets should do now. Weigh in with comments.