My parents bought me a Michael Bourn t-shirt for my 24th birthday this year, because his number with Atlanta was 24. Michael Bourn. For my birthday. (Get it? Get it? You get it). And now it’s sharing closet space with my home white Francoeur jersey.
Bourn has finally found a home in Cleveland (CLEVELAND?), carrying a price tag of 12 mil/year for four years. And I was just beginning to fantasize about having the best outfield in the game and the best fourth outfielder in the league. I know, I know, it was next to impossible. But I thought two Uptons was a fantasy, too.
In my opinion, the tribe overpaid. His defense, especially his ability to cover real estate in center, is a valuable commodity, but offensively is he anything better than league-standard? For a few weeks in the beginning of 2012, Bourn was our entire offense, but his second-half was a far cry from flawless. I remember a lot of weak pop flies. His best attribute may be his speed. He stole 103 bases in the last two years. Is that a rare enough tool in today’s game to warrant an eight-figure salary? Remember that speed fades with age and Bourn turned thirty in December.
Bourn is in his prime, likely nearing the end of it. He (and the remodeled Cleveland Indians) is set to have a quality season. He may well be touted as one of the best free-agent signings of the off-season. Michael will earn his 12 million in 2013. But 2014? That’s harder to say. And 2015? Doubtful. Here’s the kicker: the deal includes a vesting option for a fifth season, so all Bourn has to do is wear a vest and he gets another 12 million in 2017!
Wait. My sources are telling me that’s not how a vesting option works. In fact, he needs 550 plate appearances in 2016 to ensure a fifth season. In each of his two seasons with the Braves (one which we split him with Houston) he accrued over 700 plate appearances. So even if this statistic drops significantly over the next few years, he will still reach the goal. Unless Cleveland plugs him in the nine spot in the lineup and sits him for thirty games in 2016, he’ll probably get 12 million in 2017. That’s a total of sixty million bucks for two, maybe two and a half good seasons.
The whole deal just shows how fortunate the Braves are and how smart Frank Wren is that we were able to secure Justin Upton for three seasons just as he approaches the climax of his career, and for less than forty million. It’s been nice having Bourn in center for the last couple seasons, and I wish him success in Cleveland, but I couldn’t be happier with the outfield makeover.
Mark August 27th on your calendar—it’s the beginning of a three-game home series with the Indians as our guests. I expect Bourn to get a big round of applause in his first plate appearance. Maybe I’ll sport my Bourn t-shirt as a token of appreciation.