Michael Bourn finally found a home yesterday, signing a four-year, $48 million deal with the Cleveland Indians. Bourn had spent most of the winter trying to find a deal somewhere near those earned by Josh Hamilton (five years, $125 million) and B.J. Upton (five years, $75 million). The Scott Boras client, though, drew only faint interest as concern mounted over his age (30), reliance on speed, the potential mirage that was his 2012 season, and that his signing would cost a draft pick.
The contract is relatively cheap — it pays the center fielder like a 2.5-win player, something he has been for many of the past five years. In fact, Baseball Reference has Bourn exceeding 4.5 WAR in three of the last five seasons. Even with the decline that is expected of players in their 30’s, the Indians have a great shot at getting positive value out of the deal. In Phillies land, there was some frustration as the team has had a quiet off-season highlighted by the Ben Revere trade that sent Vance Worley and Trevor May to Minnesota. Adding Bourn instead of Revere, some think, would have given the Phillies a much more favorable outlook going into 2013.
The Phillies were never going to get Bourn on a four-year, $48 million deal, though. Part of the reason Bourn’s price fell so dramatically was because the Phillies unexpectedly traded for Revere, a player who wasn’t on anyone’s radar after the Washington Nationals traded for Denard Span. If the Phillies, Nationals, and Braves hadn’t satisfied their outfield needs via trade, Bourn would have had more leverage to ask for more guaranteed money and even another guaranteed year. Back in November, the Phillies’ limit with Upton was five years, $55 million, so it is hard to see them beating that for Bourn.
Phillies fans should be happy that GM Ruben Amaro traded for Revere at the relatively low cost of a fungible back-end starter and a middling pitching prospect, rather than handing out yet another rich, multi-year contract to a free agent. Revere is similar to Bourn in a lot of ways, even including offense. PECOTA projects Revere to post a .243 true average (TAv; a stat similar to wOBA, scaled to batting average) while Bourn is projected at .249. Both play stellar defense and run the bases very well. What should make fans appreciate Revere over Bourn are two things: Revere’s age (24) and contract status (arbitration-eligible from 2014-17). Revere should be a relative equal to Bourn on the field, but he will be more likely to be healthy and he will be significantly cheaper over the same span of time over which Bourn’s contract with the Indians runs.
Amaro hasn’t had a great winter setting the Phillies up for 2013 and beyond, but the Revere trade should be universally applauded even after Bourn signed his team-friendly contract yesterday. Phillies fans should not be pining for another relatively expensive, aging free agent.