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Michael Bourn is still waiting for some love

Jan 20, 2013, 8:19 PM EDT

Michael Bourn Getty Images

Considered by many as the No. 2 free agent hitter available this winter, Michael Bourn has now gone three months with seemingly no market developing for his services. The Braves struck early to sign B.J. Upton to replace him. The Phillies also targeted Upton and then traded for Ben Revere after coming up short. The Nationals traded for Denard Span. The Giants re-signed Angel Pagan. And it’s unclear if Bourn has even one offer on the table at this point.

Let’s explore all of the possible suitors as of Jan. 20, going from most likely to least likely.

Rangers – The most obvious destination; the Rangers have no clear starting center fielder and they possess as much payroll flexibility as any AL team. Still, one gets the idea that if they were truly high on Bourn, something would have gotten done already. Perhaps they’ll be more interested if he proves willing to accept a three-year deal.

Mariners – Management knows changes are on the horizon if the Mariners fail to take a clear step forward in 2013. Bringing in Bourn to play center fielder over the injury-prone Franklin Gutierrez would likely result in at least a couple of more wins. However, the team has been focused on adding power at the expense of speed and defense this winter.

Braves – Bourn is open to returning, even after the Braves initially shoved him aside to bring in Upton, and Atlanta still needs an outfielder and a leadoff hitter. If the Braves could come up with the cash to make it happen, they’d have a much better chance of hanging with the Nationals all season.

Cubs – The Cubs had no plans to splurge on a hitter this winter, but if Bourn’s price tag falls, they could find room in their plans for him. They’ve already upgraded their pitching staff enough to entertain dreams of sneaking up on teams in the NL Central.

Rays – He’d be a terrific fit if they could come up with the money. The Rays seem to prefer keeping Desmond Jennings in left field, and Bourn would be an upgrade in the leadoff spot, with Jennings hitting sixth or lower. Still, it’s hard to see them making the salary work.

Dodgers – They’re here simply because they do have the budget room for Bourn. However, any chance of them trading Andre Ethier and signing an outfielder seems to have passed.

Astros – If the Astros thought bringing back Bourn would excite the fans, then maybe they’d make a run. They certainly have room for him in their outfield. Unfortunately, they’re so far from contention that it makes little on-field sense to sign him.

White Sox – What would the winter be without a big surprise move from Ken Williams and Rick Hahn? Center field isn’t a need, but Bourn would be an upgrade over Alejandro De Aza in the leadoff spot.

Tigers – The team signed Prince Fielder last winter despite already having Miguel Cabrera at first base. However, with Austin Jackson in center, the upgrade from Andy Dirks to Bourn isn’t nearly worth Bourn’s asking price.

Yankees – There’s been some talk about a Curtis Granderson trade, but since he’s a free agent after 2013 and the Yankees are trying to cut payroll for 2014, Granderson is still a really good fit in New York. Plus, a Brett Gardner-Bourn-Ichiro Suzuki outfield, while ridiculously awesome defensively, just wouldn’t be very practical.

Blue Jays – They’re capped out as is, so they’d have to beg ownership for the money. Besides, they’re not too badly off with Colby Rasmus in center and Jose Reyes batting leadoff.

Red Sox – Would have to trade Jacoby Ellsbury and still might not be interested then.

Mets – Bourn would be a huge upgrade for the game’s second worst outfield (ahead of only Houston’s), but the Mets don’t have the money right now.

In my estimation, that’s three realistic possibilities (Rangers, Mariners and Braves) with maybe the Cubs as a sleeper if this drags on a few more weeks. My guess is that we’ll finally see some real Bourn talk this week, and he’s still going to get his $15 million per year in the end, even if some of that ends up being deferred (see Soriano, Rafael).

  1. cowboysoldiertx - Jan 20, 2013 at 8:43 PM

    I could see the Rangers selling fans on his defence and makign him a 3/45 offer.

    • miketreedy - Jan 21, 2013 at 2:01 AM

      After this year the Rangers only will have Martin & Gentry signed. Neither player is a sure bet. Both Cruz & Murphy are free agents. I don’t think they see either as long term fits. So unless Kinsler, Olt or Moorland are moved to the OF they need to fill these positions. They don’t want to go into next off season needing to sign 3 FA outfielders. I still think they would much rather trade for Upton who is younger and hits for power.

  2. halohonk - Jan 20, 2013 at 9:14 PM

    Dont know what the rangers r waiting for. He grew up in texas. Speed Defense Can hit. Maybe hes a bad egg in the clubhouse? Centerfielders like that dont grow on trees. After losing Hamilton to my Halos they are going to miss the boat again. You Ranger honks must be scratching your heads over this off season.

  3. FinFan68 - Jan 20, 2013 at 9:30 PM

    Simple case of over value. Should have signed with the Braves

  4. dirtydrew - Jan 20, 2013 at 9:32 PM

    Overrated and too expensive. Like a house, time to lower the sticker price.

  5. chill1184 - Jan 20, 2013 at 9:47 PM

    Teams dont want to give up their pick and kill their draft money pool for a 30 yr old center fielder.

  6. Old Gator - Jan 20, 2013 at 10:15 PM

    As I scrolled lower and lower down Matthew’s list my skin began to prickle at the thought that among the “least likely” would be the Feesh, probably down near the bottom.

    False alarm. Probably just some kid on a dare.

    • FrustratedDolFan - Jan 21, 2013 at 3:36 PM

      Gator, I too was waiting to see our precious Marlins on that list and when I saw the Mets I new I had to temper my excitement for any hopes of a legitimate season. Thank god I moved to VA and can watch yet another dismantling from a far. Go Nats….for now!

  7. Carl Hancock - Jan 20, 2013 at 10:16 PM

    Michael Bourne being considered the #2 best non-pitcher free agent this offseason says everything you need to know about the talent and depth of this offseason class.

  8. tuberippin - Jan 20, 2013 at 11:30 PM

    It’s not going to be the Astros, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Yankees, Tigers, and likely not the Dodgers either.

    As you wrote, Texas and Seattle are great fits, and while the Mets would be a great fit they are far too strapped to make a run at any major FAs for a while. I feel like the White Sox and Braves both make roughly the same amount of sense. Rays would certainly be a shocker but they could definitely use him in their outfield.

    Cubs make a good dark horse, particularly because if Bourn continues to play well this coming season, Epstein could flip him to a team looking to acquire and secure a quality center-fielder for the next couple of years.

    Ultimately though, I think the demand(s) by Boras will come down as we inch closer to March, and Texas will replace Hamilton in CF with Bourn. Leonys Martin is alright but still raw, and Craig Gentry isn’t a good enough all-around player to be starting in center field for a team with World Series aspirations. Bourn won’t replace the production of Josh Hamilton, but he’ll help more than their current in-house options of Martin, Gentry and Julio Borbon.

  9. mnwildfan15 - Jan 20, 2013 at 11:52 PM

    You would think the twins would be looking for an outfielder after trading both of their starting Cfs.

    • dluxxx - Jan 21, 2013 at 10:12 AM

      CF is the last place the Twins need to be spending money. Besides, they’re in rebuild mode right now. They won’t be looking to add much FA depth until 2-14 or 2015 at the earliest. All of their best prospects are still 2-3 years away and it makes no sense to try to overpay for a few extra wins this year and next.

  10. joeyashwi - Jan 20, 2013 at 11:59 PM

    The Twins don’t want ANY proven players. Mauer’s contract has messed this team up for the next decade. New stadium, same cheap owner. I’m not saying that I would sign him if I were them but they don’t try at all.

    • Ben - Jan 21, 2013 at 1:17 AM

      There’s no reason for them to. They’re rebuilding. And truthfully, Mauer’s contract isn’t the problem. He’s producing the value you’d expect for his money; the problem is their farm was fallow for years and free agent prices have increased far beyond the Twins’ possible payroll. In a world of Joey Votto and Prince Fielder contracts, guys like Mauer, Kemp and Adrian Gonzalez are bargains. As bizarre as that sounds.

      • dluxxx - Jan 21, 2013 at 10:24 AM

        I agree with most of that. The Twins *are* in rebuild mode right now. As I stated above they won’t have any real help coming up until 2014 or 2015. Granted Hicks will be up this year (hopefully) but their pitching help and other position prospects are 2-3 years out.

        I disagree that they don’t have payroll to work with. They had the #11 overall opening day payroll in 2010, #9 in 2011 and #13 in 2012. They topped out at $112MM for payroll in 2011 and this year they’ll be somewhere around $80MM. They have some room to work with, some new stadium revenue and one of the richest (albiet cheapest) ownership teams in baseball. Pohlad’s kids have opened up the purse strings a bit, but they still have some anchors on thier roster money wise, and yes Mauer is making over 1/4 of the roster’s money, but there’s room and money to be spent if needed. However, they just don’t have enough money to spend their way out of their problems.

        The biggest problem with the Twins payroll is their lack of a good TV deal. But that’s another story altogether.

      • Ben - Jan 21, 2013 at 10:40 AM

        Right, that’s the nasty double bind. What do you do with 15-20 extra million these days? You can’t dump it into the draft or international market, but it also doesn’t get you terribly much on the free agent market.

      • dluxxx - Jan 21, 2013 at 11:14 AM

        Especially when the free agent market is a thin as it is this year.

        Pitching and middle infield help are their most pressing needs. The MIF free agents weren’t that great, and spending all their money on Pitching still wasn’t going to fix them. With only one starting pitcher with any upside in their rotation going into the year (Diamond) it wouldn’t be cost effective to buy a whole starting rotation.

  11. soobster - Jan 21, 2013 at 3:15 AM

    There has been chatter here on the ATL radio stations about if his price came down he’d be welcome back.

  12. buffalomafia - Jan 21, 2013 at 6:59 AM

    Brett Gardener can only play the outfeild & isn’t really a good hitter?

    The Yankees should get Bourn?

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 21, 2013 at 2:44 PM

      Do I need to post again about how everything Bourn does, Gardner does it better and cheaper? The Yanks need the draft pick AND the money in this draft. It makes zero sense to sign a guy who’s known for defense first on the wrong side of 30.

  13. stex52 - Jan 21, 2013 at 9:52 AM

    You are right that a Bourn return to the Astros is not what is needed. If they bring in an impact player, they need an OPS better than .730 or so. But they need to ask themselves how many people are going to come watch a team that can’t hit, pitch or field for two more years. Drayton’s last few years as an owner may have been a disaster, but he understood that you have to market a product. That is what kept them from the complete rebuild for so long. Without some kind of draw, they may not get to 10,000 people a game this year.

  14. onbucky96 - Jan 21, 2013 at 11:09 AM

    Fire Boras, he’d then get some offers.

  15. Kevin Gillman - Jan 21, 2013 at 1:08 PM

    Players have to realize that the agents work for them, and not the other way around, like Boras leads them to believe. Michael, you must make your move.

    • stex52 - Jan 21, 2013 at 3:36 PM

      I mean no offense, but I think you are being a bit naive here. All of the players know Boras by reputation. I think choosing him is a way of saying

      “I’m all about top dollar! Talk to my agent here!”

      Boras may not always succeed with his tactics, but the fact a player hired him is an indicator of the player’s expectations.

      • Kevin Gillman - Jan 21, 2013 at 6:42 PM

        I’m not being naive, and honestly that is dumb to say. I understand it’s about business. But sometimes, you just have to step in, and get a deal done. Because Michael isn’t going to get “top dollar” now. We are 3 weeks away from Spring Training. I am sure he wants to know where he is going by then, but the market isn’t there for him anymore. So he might have to settle for a one year contract. Look at how many more Scott Boras clients are still on the board too.

  16. iamjimmyjack - Jan 23, 2013 at 8:52 AM

    I wish he was a dodger and Carl Crawford stayed in Boston. I may change my tune about Crawford by seasons end, but regardless I think Bourne is a better overall player at this point in his career. For 15 million a year, he is a bargain by today’s standards.

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