This afternoon, I decided to check in on some of the most recent Michael Bourn rumors. Even though he’d yet to sign anywhere, it seemed like talks were really heating up with the Mets. This was not surprising to me; after all, I expected he would end up there eventually despite my secret desire that he’d somehow, someway end up in Cleveland. Fast forward to this evening – I decided to hop on Twitter for a few minutes to check on spring training news and to look for pictures of players standing around playing catch (cut me some slack, I’ll take anything baseball-related at this point). I saw a bunch of Indians fans talking about Bourn and thought, “Sigh. I’d like that too, but let’s be optimistic folks.” When I realized it was actually true, I was rendered completely and utterly speechless.
I spent a good 5-10 minutes walking in circles around my house, clutching my Ipad as if it was some kind of life line. I wasn’t even looking at it anymore, just holding it while pacing around in circles, mouth breathing. (In my defense, my jaw was on the floor, so mouth breathing seemed instinctive). It’s probably been about 40 minutes since I first heard the news, and I still don’t even know what to say. Is this the same team whose only major offseason moves last year included the signing of Casey Kotchman on a one-year deal, and a trade for Derek Lowe? The same team that started the 2012 season with a rotating left field platoon that consisted of Shelley Duncan and Aaron Cunningham? A team that usually fills out the 25-man roster with players they claim off the scrap heap on minor league deals?
Even though there are things on this roster that still concern me (unless Bourn is also going to play as a starting pitcher), this has to be one of the best Tribe offseasons of the past 5-10 years. As I always say with other teams (since other teams are usually the ones making all of the moves) you don’t pick a division champion based on the strength of the team’s offseason moves. You do still have to play the games, and questions with the starting pitching still remain. After the miserable end to last season, it just feels good to be happy about something involving the Indians. If nothing else, both Bourn and Swisher are fun players to watch, and should bring a new energy to the team
I don’t know how the Indians were able to pull all of this off. Perhaps the sale of STO had something to do with the spending spree, perhaps the presence of Terry Francona played a role. Scott Kazmir recently mentioned that he had several offers, but was drawn to the Indians because Francona was the manager. The fact that the bottom fell out of Bourn’s market really helped the Indians as well. I thought Bourn would get something at least in the ballpark of 5 years/$75 million, rather than the 4 years/$48 million the Indians will pay. I think this is an excellent deal, especially when you think about what the Braves gave B.J. Upton after letting Bourn walk – 5 years/$75 million. In 2012, the 28-year-old Upton hit .246/.298/.454 with 28 home runs and 31 stolen bases and had a 2.6 bWAR. Compare that to the 30-year-old Bourn, who hit .274/.348/.391 with 9 home runs and 42 stolen bases and had a 6.0 bWAR. Bourn is slightly older with a bit less power, but I’m not sure if Upton is worth $27 million more.
The Indians have a number of options at this point. They could put Bourn, Swisher and Michael Brantley in the outfield while using Drew Stubbs as a fourth outfielder (or they could trade Stubbs). They could put Bourn-Brantley-Stubbs in the outfield and move Swisher to first, and Mark Reynolds to DH. It’s almost the exact opposite of last year; rather than thinking “who is the least terrible person we can stick in left?” you instead have an embarrassment of riches. As an Indians fan, my brain isn’t quite sure how to process such an abundance.