This afternoon, Buster Olney reported that the Indians could be interested in Michael Bourn if the price dropped “a lot.”  Bourn, considered one of the top free agents out there this winter, still finds himself homeless with pitchers and catcher reporting in just a few days.  There are likely several reasons for this – he’ll demand a large salary, and his agent happens to be Scott Boras.  Plus, since the Braves made him a qualifying offer, teams risk losing their first round draft pick if they happen to ink Bourn.

One of Bourn’s primary suitors this winter has been the New York Mets.  The Mets are in a unique position when it comes to draft pick compensation.  The top 10 picks in the draft are protected; it’s how the Indians avoided giving up a first round pick for Nick Swisher.  The Mets would be in the top 10 if it wasn’t for the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Since the Pirates didn’t sign Mark Appel, their first round pick last season, they jump the line into the top 10 with their compensation selection.  This means that the Mets’ first pick would fall to number 11, and would not be protected under the rules in the new collective bargaining agreement.

Why did I just provide that lengthy explanation of the Mets’ draft situation?  Because it may have bearing on where Bourn ends up.  The Mets are exploring the possibility of signing Bourn and fighting to keep the 11th pick overall, arguing that they’re technically the tenth worst team.  If the Mets believe they can get MLB to rule in their favor, they’ll probably go hard after Bourn, thus completely eliminating the Indians from contention.  If they have reason to believe that they’ll still lose their first round pick, they may decide to take a pass on Bourn.  As a side note, I personally don’t think they should receive any kind of special deal from MLB.  If you make exceptions for one team, you’re going to have to make exceptions in pretty much every future case.  It sets a bad precedence for future teams if you let the Mets hang on to their first round pick.

Normally when Boras is a player’s agent, I think to myself “oh, well that guy won’t be coming to Cleveland any time soon.”  This is an opportunity where having Boras in the picture may actually benefit the Indians in any pursuit of Bourn (and notice I said “may” not “will.”)  It sounds as if Boras is concerned that these qualifying offers could really hurt his clients in the future.  It’s a big reason that two of his biggest clients, Bourn and Kyle Lohse, remain unsigned as of February.  He may be willing to get creative in order to help these players get the best deal possible.  Since the Indians wouldn’t lose a first round pick by signing Bourn, perhaps Boras could attempt to get him a one-year deal and send him back to the free agent market next winter.  A team that would lose a first round pick probably would never settle for a one-year deal – if they’re going to lose the pick anyway, it might as well be for a multi-year deal.  It may be worth it for a team that will lose a later pick, however.  On the other side of that coin, Boras always seems to get his client a crazy awesome deal, even when it looks like nobody will be willing to offer such a deal.  I fully expect a team to swoop in with a great offer in the near future.

If the Indians were to somehow, someway, manage to sign Michael Bourn, it would give them several options in the lineup and on the field.  They could use Bourn, Michael Brantley, and Nick Swisher in the outfield and use Drew Stubbs as a fourth outfielder.  They could rotate Swisher between the outfield, first and DH, and in turn, rotate Mark Reynolds between first and DH.  Bourn is a pretty solid player that hit .274/.348/.391 with 9 home runs and a had a 6.0 WAR last season, in line with his career averages of .272/.339/.365.  He doesn’t hit for a lot of power, but is fast (stole 42 bases in 2012 and 61 during two different seasons) plus Bourn is a decent defensive player.  I’m a fan, and if by some miracle the Indians are able to get a bargain, they should jump on it.

Now, about the odds on that bargain…the Indians need the price to drop “a lot.”  This is almost like me saying that I’d like a BMW, but only if I can find a really nice one for about $2,000.  It may sound good on paper, but how likely is it that I’ll find a luxury automobile that’s in great shape, for $2,000?  Even if such a deal sounded possible, someone with more money will always swoop in at the end and snag the car away from me with a full price offer.  Unfortunately for the Indians, in the Bourn situation I think that full price offer will eventually come from a team like the Mets or Mariners.

12 Comments

  • Drew says:

    So, would the hypothetical deal be contingent on the Indians promising not to make a qualifying offer? I mean, if he signs a 1-year contract, wouldn’t he be in the same mess next season but this time a year older?

    • Stephanie Liscio says:

      In my opinion (and this is just my opinion), I would think he’d request they did not make a qualifying offer if it was a one-year deal. Just because of what you mentioned – he would be back in the same boat next winter. One interesting example is Edwin Jackson. He took a one-year deal last offseason and still managed to get a decent multi-year deal from the Cubs this offseason. The Nationals never made him a qualifying offer though. (And he dropped Boras as his agent mid-year in 2012). I just wonder if the Cubs would have been as aggressive if they lost a pick.

  • joey says:

    i find it ironic,that by boras screwing over the pirates,by not letting his client Appel sign with them.its now screwing up his other clent Bourn. he really cost both of them and himself alot of money…the indians should def sign Bourn.but only if its a multi year deal.take advantage of his mistake and the new cba.the real question is.will the discount dolans be willing to sqeeze some more cash out of their tight pockets? and will shapanetti even do business with boras,cuz they have made it a point not to deal with boras.

    • Stephanie Liscio says:

      You’re right about Boras screwing over his other client…I wonder if he didn’t fully realize how reluctant teams would be to surrender that first round pick. I’m not hopeful that the Indians would be willing to fork over the cash and deal with Boras, but you never know! Time will tell.

  • Steve Alex says:

    Why not sign Bourn, give up your #3 pick, keep him for one game and then trade him to the team that wants him but doesn’t want to lose a #1? If you acquire a better player than a 3rd round draft choice would be, you come out ahead in exchange for one game’s salary. That should be legal. Realistically, if they were to sign someone for one year with an eye toward keeping him all year, I think it would be Kyle Lohse. I see one year, five million in his future. That’s affordable and a helluva bargain if he even comes close to last year’s play. The rotation would look pretty deep too.

    • Stephanie Liscio says:

      I honestly think that you may start to see teams try to find ways around this with creative scenarios like that one. I’m not a legal expert though, so I’m not sure what they could get away with, etc. in terms of circumventing the surrender of a draft pick.

      This is just my opinion, but with the Carpenter news I think Lohse may end up back in St. Louis. They wouldn’t have to give up a draft pick, and they could probably use the depth.

  • Chad says:

    “Bourn is a decent fielder”??? How about, Bourn is top 3 at his position defensively. That’s the biggest reason why he was a 6 Win player last season.

    • Stephanie Liscio says:

      That’s high praise for me! ;) In all seriousness, I probably should have picked a stronger term.

  • Chris Burnham says:

    If his stock has fallen THAT FAR, and if we can swing it, I don’t see why not! That would be a massive cherry on top of a fun off-season.

    • Stephanie Liscio says:

      I’m not going to hold my breath, but I at least like that it’s something that is being discussed.

  • Steve Alex says:

    Bourn is the caliber of player you go over budget for. But can mgmt. convince the owner?

  • Chris Burnham says:

    Most talking heads were saying that the Mets were the favorites, and they signed Corey Patterson.

    Wow.

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