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Michael Bourn is looking for $100 million? OK, good luck with that

Nov 1, 2012, 11:00 AM EDT

michael bourn getty Getty Images

I’m gonna be sick to death of this stuff by January, but man, I forgot how much I loved the scuttlebutt, rumors, slanders, lies, hyperbole and general silliness of the hot stove season.  And it hasn’t truly begun until you start hearing things about Scott Boras clients, be it stuff from Boras himself or from people who are speculating about what his clients are demanding.

Up next: Michael Bourn, who CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury has heard is seeking a contract of around $100 million.

Before you say anything, let’s remember something about how offseasons work.  (1) people sign big contracts; (2) everyone mocks the contracts as silly and crazy and oh my god they’re going to bust the team; and (3) within a couple of years most of them don’t look too terribly bad and even the real clunkers end up being more annoying than team-killing.  Hell, even Barry Zito got some redemption this year. Add into that the fact that so many teams have so much more money now due to the big TV deals dropping and you’ll quickly realize that we’re entering a different world.

With that large caveat aside, if Bourn does get $100 million, we certainly are entering a much different financial world than the one we currently know.  He’s a good player. Great on defense, can steal some bases and is in the lineup every day. But he sported a 274/.348/.391 batting line in his walk year and that’s better than his career line.  He’s a 90 OPS+ guy. Dave Roberts without the legendary playoff steal.

Which is really nice, actually. But that skill set has not previously garnered anyone $100 million, and it’s hard to see how it might now, even in this brave new world.

  1. jarathen - Nov 1, 2012 at 11:06 AM

    This should improve the value of Peter Bourjos immensely. He’s not quite as good as Michael Bourne offensively, but his defense is outstanding and he’s under control.

    • dcfan4life - Nov 1, 2012 at 11:50 PM

      Exactly. Let Bourne walk, he was streaky. But man this makes me wish i hadn’t quit baseball. Good lord all that money guaranteed to streaky players. Bad players make $20 million now a days in MLB. It isnt fair. Why did i play soccer growing up…

  2. illcomm - Nov 1, 2012 at 11:07 AM

    uh. its pretty much the going rate. 6 years at 100 mil is the new norm. 5 years at 100 would be overpay. but hey either got 5/85 and seething got much more.

  3. makeham98 - Nov 1, 2012 at 11:14 AM

    Wait till Kyle Lohse hits the market. . . how many will offer him four years, of which probably 1.5 will be productive?

    • jarathen - Nov 2, 2012 at 6:24 AM

      Joel Pineiro haunts my dreams.

  4. willclarkgameface - Nov 1, 2012 at 11:32 AM

    Boras will tell the team he runs and the slacker GM he controls – the Washington Nationals and Mike Rizzo – that Bourn is worth $100 million. They will pay him and STILL miss the World Series in 2013.

    Bank on it.

  5. stex52 - Nov 1, 2012 at 11:34 AM

    It seems a bit of an overpay, but two quick thoughts on that based on Baseball Ref:

    1. You can always do a bit of selective time frames, but he struggled in his first year in Houston (2008, after the big trade). But from 2009 on, avg. OPS+ is 97. Still not stupendous, but allows you to look more at his other skills.

    2. I saw a number once that suggested you pay roughly 4 MM$ per WAR point. Since 2009 B. Ref. has him with WAR=19, or an average of 4.75 over four years. That is barely short of All-Star quality on their scale. So if you buy the payment scale, then 6 years 100 MM$ is fair. Unless you think his skills are going to erode quickly.

    • hansob - Nov 1, 2012 at 11:46 AM

      even if his WAR goes down to 3-4, we’re entering a 5.5 to 6 MM$ per WAR period of time in my opinion, especially for premium players, so Bourn could easily be worth that $16.7M a year (on a 6/100 contract) for most of the 6 years if he maintains his body and speed. And he could give you a $5-$10M premium for a year or two on that $16.7M.

      • stex52 - Nov 1, 2012 at 1:06 PM

        Which brings up another point. When the Astros dumped Hunter Pence and Bourn in 2011, I wondered on this site why they seemed to get a better deal for Pence when Bourn’s WAR numbers were clearly better. The consensus seemed to be that GM’s paid a premium for OPS, and Pence’s OPS+ was in the 130 range at the time. (That and the market for centerfielders at the time).

        But, in retrospect, I think almost anyone would have rather had Bourn for the last two years.

      • prionogenic - Nov 1, 2012 at 1:28 PM

        Probably not the San Francisco Giants….

      • stex52 - Nov 1, 2012 at 2:29 PM

        Hunter batted .219 with a 91 OPS+ for the Giants. Bourn would have done better. Especially in a park that puts a premium and speed and not on homeruns.

        I expect Hunter to bounce back next year, so they will be okay. But Bourn is still better.

  6. Ben - Nov 1, 2012 at 11:34 AM

    I don’t think it’s totally unreasonable, in a vacuum–he’s put up about ~5 WAR/year on average, for the least 4 years. Most of that value is in defense, obviously, and as you noted, that’s undervalued. But he’s an excellent player, and if all baseball skills could be properly valued and weighted, he’d be one of the better players in the game.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 1, 2012 at 1:17 PM

      But he’s an excellent player, and if all baseball skills could be properly valued and weighted, he’d be one of the better players in the game.

      Are we talking about the same Michael Bourn here? He’s a career .272/.339/.365 hitter, so while he has a decent BB% (career 8.8%), he doesn’t have a lot of power (.093 ISO). His defense is good, but one season it’s great, another it’s just good. With defensive metrics varying wildly, I’d say he’s an above average defender with a below average bat. How that’s one of the better players in the game, is beyond me.

      Also, as far as rWAR goes (and when quoting WAR #s, please let us know which you are using, bref or fangraphs), he’s got a career 19.0 over essentially 7 seasons, and of that 19, 8.6 is from defense. He’s also entering his age 30 season, so we’ve likely seen the peak of his abilities, and he’s only going to decline.

      • stex52 - Nov 1, 2012 at 3:11 PM

        COPO,

        I will generally go to Bref, because it comes up first when I google player stats. I would argue that it’s more useful to look at his numbers from 26 on. I was watching him for the 2008 season, and he was clearly still finding his way as an everyday MLB player.

        Seen as numbers accumulated over 4 years instead of 7, he looks a lot more valuable. All of his WAR is over those years. His OBP moves up to about .350 and his slugging about .375.

        Still marginal for a large multi-year contract, but very solid. But you do have a point on durability. The six years part will be the key with him.

  7. kopy - Nov 1, 2012 at 11:44 AM

    We might see a plateau after these TV deals, but we can’t keep underestimating the growth of the money in the game. Joe Mauer was paid $23 Million this year. A ton of money, but he had a great season and earned it. When he gets paid $23 Million in 2018 it won’t be the highest salary on his team.

  8. tfbuckfutter - Nov 1, 2012 at 11:58 AM

    He might be worth it.

    But I’m not sure it’s wise to give a 12 year contract to a 29 year old player.

    • frenchysplatediscipline - Nov 1, 2012 at 12:10 PM

      That’s great.

  9. lew24 - Nov 1, 2012 at 12:08 PM

    He will get 100 mm…if decides to be a left handed starting pitcher!

  10. Mark - Nov 1, 2012 at 12:24 PM

    “With that large caveat aside, if Bourn does get $100 million, we certainly are entering a much different financial world than the one we currently know. He’s a good player. Great on defense, can steal some bases and is in the lineup every day. But he sported a 274/.348/.391 batting line in his walk year and that’s better than his career line. He’s a 90 OPS+ guy. Dave Roberts without the legendary playoff steal.”

    That does sound bad, Craig. However OPS+ isn’t nearly as effective at evaluating offensive production as wRC+, because OPS+ doesn’t properly value OBP like wOBA or wRC+ do. And his wRC+ for the past two years has been 104.

    And as a CF who can hit better than league average while playing plus defence, Bourn is a very valuable player.

  11. Lukehart80 - Nov 1, 2012 at 12:34 PM

    “Dave Roberts without the legendary playoff steal.”

    Wow, is that ever a lazy, inaccurate comparison.

    Bourn has had a higher bWAR in each of the last four years than Roberts had in the best season of his career. His bWAR of 6.0 in 2012 tied for 11th best among MLB position players. His bWAR of 19.0 for 2009-2012 ranks 13th among position players.

    If you want to argue that he’s going to drop off due to his age or something, and can support your claim, great, but to throw out such a poor comp is sloppy and misleading.

    • Chris Fiorentino - Nov 1, 2012 at 12:45 PM

      I think sometimes Craig forgets that he is, especially at this point in the off-season, writing to the absolute fringe baseball fan…someone who is hardcore and who isn’t going to roll over lightly for research as simple as looking at his OPS+ and making a funny comparison to Dave Roberts.

      Craig…I feel for ya bud.

      • Lukehart80 - Nov 1, 2012 at 12:56 PM

        Never feel bad for a man who owns his own plane.

        Wait, that wisdom doesn’t apply here…

        Never feel bad for a man who gets paid to write about baseball in his pajamas.

        There, that one works. Craig is living the dream, I suspect he appreciates that and doesn’t mind putting up with us “fringe” fans.

  12. thesmedman - Nov 1, 2012 at 12:41 PM

    Bourn dreamin…

    • weaselpuppy - Nov 1, 2012 at 1:24 PM

      The Bourn Ultimatum……

  13. foreverchipper10 - Nov 1, 2012 at 2:42 PM

    Never. Gonna. Happen.

  14. snowbirdgothic - Nov 1, 2012 at 4:14 PM

    So can we assume that the “book” Boras will distribute on Bourn will in fact be ghostwritten by Eric Van Lustbader?

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