The big news of the week out of Cleveland was also arguably the biggest surprise of the offseason: The Indians signed free agent outfielder Michael Bourn to a four-year deal worth $48 million. So in this edition of the Weekly Wroundtable, we asked our very excited panel: What did you think of the Bourn signing?
Ed Carroll: I honestly didn’t know what to think when the news broke that the Indians had signed Michael Bourn, because I never considered it an actual possibility. Before the offseason, my pie-in-the-sky free agent signing idea was B.J. Upton, who eventually signed a five-year, $75 million dollar deal with Bourn’s old team, the Atlanta Braves. Bourn is older than Upton, but he’s been more productive, and the Indians got him at roughly half the price, and fewer years. You can’t fault the Indians for exploiting the market for Bourn (and having a protected first round draft pick).
There are concerns regarding Bourn’s value if he were to lose his speed, but honestly, the Indians shouldn’t have to worry about that until Year 3 of the deal at the earliest, and without legit outfield prospects, Bourn is a good value. That being said, I don’t think this move vaults the Tribe into contention, as the rotation is dependent on some undependable guys, but it at least gives the Indians a competitive team that could be ready to take advantage of the AL Central if Detroit falters.
Brian Heise: Love, love, love the Bourn signing. With it the Tribe got a legitimate leadoff hitter and the rest of the outfield and starting lineup falls naturally into place. An outfield of Michael Brantley, Bourn, and Drew Stubbs might catch every fly ball that comes their way. Sure you can argue all you want about his age and the length of his contract, but why worry about it now? Four years from now it could be a problem but today this is pure value. I thought this might have been a possibility a few weeks ago but with camp set to open this completely caught me off-guard. I’m still shocked. Opening Day can’t get here soon enough. Roll Tribe!
Lewie Pollis: Is there any way to answer this question without kvelling? Bourn instantly becomes the Tribe’s starting center fielder, leadoff hitter, and with apologies to Nick Swisher maybe even best player. The versatility of the roster means Bourn essentially filled Cleveland’s vacant DH spot even though he’ll play the field, and now the Indians’ outfield defense won’t suffer if Drew Stubbs isn’t up to the task of an everyday job.
The only knocks on the Bourn signing are that $48 million is a huge sum for a small-market team to commit to a single player and that an additional outfielder is a luxury that the Indians didn’t really need. But every contract has risk Bourn is one of the most consistent players in baseball, and if the roster looks dramatically better than it did before the signing then it doesn’t really matter what position Bourn plays. This may be the best signing Cleveland has made in an already-phenomenal offseason.
Katrina Putnam: Signing Michael Bourn was obviously a great move. It didn’t cost the Indians much in terms of a draft pick, and they got him at exactly the right price for the right amount of time, despite the perception that he is a speed guy who is nearing the age where speed starts to rapidly decline. Bourn’s contract also means there is little chance that fans will be subjected to watching Ezequiel Carrera attempt to bunt every other pitch for an entire season, which is always a good thing.
From a PR perspective, Chris Antonetti couldn’t have made a better move. He’s fielded a competitive team with an outstanding outfield and lineup, and if the rotation works some magic, it will definitely be an interesting season. Bourn has a lot to contribute, both on the field and in the clubhouse, and he’s going to have a huge impact on this team.
Merritt Rohlfing: The Bourn signing is huge, plain and simple. I was raised in the Northeast so my winters were highlighted by the Red Sox and Yankees making huge splashes in free agency while my Tribe wiled away in irrelevance. Finally I have something to crow about, and one of the marquee players of the winter, too!
Sure, Bourn is roughly average offensively (99 OPS+ the last three years) but I got to see him play the Cubs a couple times this past year, and he’s a revelation in center. At least as good as Grady was in his heyday. If nothing else it’s like having Kenny Lofton back for a few years so we get the warm and fuzzies, and on the field he’ll add value in every way possible. Maybe it’s not game-changing, maybe he doesn’t seal the division up for the Indians, but it’s a start and it shows savvy by the front office. It’s one of the little steps in Lau Tzu’s thousand miles, and it’s nice to see the Tribe moving somewhere.