Michael Bourn, and Stuff
By Eric Reining
I’m not entirely sure if I’ve been experiencing an extended holiday-induced hangover, or if I’m in an offseason coma, but I’ve lately been dealing with a heavy dosage of writer’s block. Sometimes it’s easier to just go with the flow and wait for news to pour in. Other times, when nothing is going on, time is better spent speculating about the not-so-intriguing prospect of Michael Bourn being our center fielder in 2013.
This is one of those times.
As it stands today, the Rangers will roll with a center field platoon featuring Leonys Martin and Craig Gentry. Under this blueprint, David Murphy and Nelson Cruz will be on either side, respectively, if you look at the outfield like you’re reading a book. But who reads books?
Adding Michael Bourn to this convoluted outfield mixture probably means one thing: Either David Murphy or Nelson Cruz will be traded. But if you subtract one of those two bats, then you’re looking at starting Leonys Martin in a corner outfield slot, and his potential offensive value isn’t even in the same area code as either of the two veterans. So I don’t think that makes sense.
If you combine the above information by the fact that, if we add Bourn, we’d have about 27 light-hitting leadoff types instead of 26, then you’re really screwing with conventional logic as it relates to Arlington offense. Yes, the Rangers have Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus, Jurickson Profar, Craig Gentry and Leonys Martin — who could steal 20-25 bases apiece — but how much is too much? Like pitching, speed and defense don’t take days off. That said, it’s inherently simpler to mask offensive malaise when you have guys that can bop a three-run homer now and again. Right now the Rangers are severely lacking in that department.
Michael Bourn generated 6.4 fWAR in 2012, good for 13th of all players at any position in all of Major League Baseball. Try to wrap your head around that. Because his agent is Scott Boras, many pundits opined that he may stand to match Jayson Werth‘s 7-year, $126 million deal he inked with the Nationals a couple years ago. Yeah, right. That’s like giving Vernon Wells … no, Albert Pujols … wait, no, Josh Hamilton … uhm … Barry Zito? . . .
Whatever it means, it means that much money is ridiculous over that many years. Because of inflation, and the boku bucks various television networks are delving out, $100 million contracts being a rarity are a thing of the past. I wish I was funny, then I’d have a sweet analogy to posit right now.
Basically, Michael Bourn’s primary value is his speed. His legs. His wheels. For him, you might even call them “burners,” but I’m not talking about potheads in any sense of the word. Because he’s already on the wrong side of 30 (as of about 4 days ago), it’s reasonable to project that his speed will slowly erode over the next 5 years. You don’t pay $100 million to a dude who can only run and play defense. It’s illogical. It’s like selling off your best prospects for James Shields, wait, hold on, R.A. Dickey? Oh yeah, those things happened.
I need to find better transitions.
With all this rudimentary knowledge in your memory bank, let’s say the Rangers could ascertain Bourn for two years, maybe three, at $15 million per season. Would it then be worth it? I think that may be a different discussion.
Last year Michael Bourn saved 22.6 runs in center field, according to Fangraphs’s UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating). It was the best total, by about 6 runs, in the Majors.
If you can envision a lineup with Bourn in center, and some combination of Craig Gentry and either of Nelson Cruz or David Murphy in the outfield, then more power to you. I don’t see it happening. I know a lot of Rangers’ fans are pretty torn up at the fact that the Rangers haven’t done anything by way of big name acquisitions, but if Michael Bourn is that guy, we can’t say we didn’t see his declining production in advance.
Everyone wants to fall in love with Josh Hamilton signing elsewhere, or Albert Pujols, but they never want to take into account the sunken costs that accrue over time. $100 million contracts don’t seem like a lot when the players are still producing, but what happens when they stop? Then the fan base cries foul about how stupid their front office is, how much of a waste the player is, and how in the hell the higher-ups didn’t think twice before giving out such an outlandish deal.
Remember, the front offices don’t know what they’re doing. The fans are always right.