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  1. So is this a bias in the free agency system? Seems like if a player doesn’t make free agency by mid 20s he won’t get the chance to cash in on defensive value. If that’s all he has, then he’s screwed.

    Comment by B — January 15, 2013 @ 1:39 pm

  2. No research here, so I could very well be way wrong, but over that period, didn’t several of those players (Beltran, Jones) have injury histories that Bourn does not?

    Comment by Uncle Randy — January 15, 2013 @ 2:09 pm

  3. If the Mariners sign him, he can turn more deep fly balls into outs and allow him to be slightly more valuable. A team like Texas could use him, but have a smaller park. (They seem to proud to sign a player that will clearly decline in 2016 anyway.) The team that would benefit the most from his skill set isn’t going to sign him to a deal that only benefits in the short term could be another reason front offices have been weary so far to sign him.

    Comment by RMD — January 15, 2013 @ 2:16 pm

  4. Also, Rios was played out of position in CF in 2011, his only year with a significantly below average UZR. Last year, back in his natural position, he was a scratch defender. Still an overall decline, but that -7.0 from 2011 makes a big difference and may not be that useful.

    Comment by Eminor3rd — January 15, 2013 @ 2:22 pm

  5. So I’m assuming the defensive decline can be attributed entirely to losing speed, as route instincts and reactions times aren’t going to diminish (if anything I’d think they would become more refined and efficient).

    So my questions is, what is the answer to the oft asked, “which skillset erodes quicker?” — The old player’s power/BB, or the speedster’s quickness/defense? Or is the answer muddled and somewhere in between?

    I’ve been hesitant to pick a side in such discussions because I’ve seen arguments going both ways from saber inclined individuals.

    Comment by wilt — January 15, 2013 @ 2:27 pm

  6. What if expanded data set prior to 2002? In other words, what other historically “great” defenders would make the list…of course realizing the limitations of defensive stats prior to that time frame (i.e. no UZR).

    One quickly springs to mind….Paul Blair. Had very good/spectacular numbers in his age 30 and age 31 seasons, then promptly fell off a cliff in 1976 both offensively and defensively.

    Perhaps also would be useful to tally out all of the +10 FLD seasons from centerfielders age 30 or older.

    Comment by Damien — January 15, 2013 @ 2:39 pm

  7. this article has done a lot to change my position on Bourn… I have been arguing most of the off-season that the Cubs should sign him to either a front loaded contract or one with a significant signing bonus given their position, however, that was contingent on assuming he can average 3.5 to 4 WAR over a 4 year contract which appears like too much to ask when considering this article.

    I understand the natural regression that is going to come with age but it appears that OF’s that rely on a high defensive value probably fall faster than the naturally assumed 0.5 War per year

    Comment by cody k — January 15, 2013 @ 2:54 pm

  8. I think this article does more to explain the lower than expected market for Bourn than predict well how he’ll do going forward. He seems to have more speed to lose, lack of injury history, and a slender body type that handles aging better. Of course he is likely getting worse, but he could still be good to very good for another few years and then merely average for the backend of a 5-6 year deal.

    Comment by TKDC — January 15, 2013 @ 3:28 pm

  9. Mike Cameron is another relatively recent example. Between the ages of 24 and 30 he was worth about 10 wins with his glove. He accumulated just 1 win over the rest of his career.

    Comment by Eric Walkingshaw — January 15, 2013 @ 3:46 pm

  10. Devon White would be another. About 13.5 wins with his glove through age 30. Less than 1 the rest of the way.

    Comment by John Roberts — January 15, 2013 @ 4:19 pm

  11. it’s usually hard to doubt Boras but it’ll be a challenge to get more than 3/$30M for Bourn I think, given the comp issue now.

    Comment by Spike — January 15, 2013 @ 4:21 pm

  12. Take a 5/4/3 weighting of his WAR the past three seasons and you get 5.2, then to be safe take away a few extra UZR runs (his three year average is about 15; dock him half that) and call him a 4.5 win player. With your standard .5 WAR/year decline and $5 million/win – to be extra conservative, even throw out inflation – we are talking about something in the range of 5 years/$90 million.

    That seems like it’s on the conservative end, but I remember people guessing he would sign for something like 5/80. Is he demanding much more than that or are teams *really* worried about his defense crashing?

    Comment by Matt — January 15, 2013 @ 4:22 pm

  13. Seems way off. He’s a better and younger player than Nick Swisher…

    Comment by Matt — January 15, 2013 @ 4:23 pm

  14. Might be that speed guys are more prone to injury.

    Comment by B — January 15, 2013 @ 4:33 pm

  15. He’s a much worse offensive player than Nick Swisher, and as illustrated above, teams that pay players with the expectation of elite defense usually turn out to be spending their money foolishly.

    Comment by Sparkles Peterson — January 15, 2013 @ 4:47 pm

  16. He isn’t worth 5 years and $60-$65million??? Assuming that his bat is league average (on average) over the next 5 seasons (600PA); that his base running goes from merely very good to totally average; that is fielding is great, then good, then average, then bad, then very bad; and that he gets almost all of his starts in CF at first and then fewer and fewer as time goes on until he no longer has a positive positional adjustment. With $5million/war this offseason, so really no inflation from 2012, that still makes him “worth” ~$61.52million. Am I crazy? Or stupid? Or both?

    Comment by hildebeast21 — January 15, 2013 @ 4:48 pm

  17. I think it would make more sense to normalize to UZR/600 PA to correct for playing time

    Comment by fred — January 15, 2013 @ 4:56 pm

  18. Using the position adjustment rather than just UZR should mitigate this

    Comment by fred — January 15, 2013 @ 4:58 pm

  19. Then again, players can get promoted quicker on the basis of defensive skills.

    But yeah, that’s not going to get them to free agency that much quicker

    Comment by thistakesgumption — January 15, 2013 @ 5:02 pm

  20. who’s the market at that price?

    It’s nice to speak in theoretical terms but in reality the market seems almost non-existant for Bourn unless the price comes way down.

    Comment by Spike — January 15, 2013 @ 5:32 pm

  21. Talking about Bourn is a great way to talk about the Mike Trout 2012 AL MVP quest.

    You loved Trout’s speed in fantasy, the modern stats love Trout for his speed, too. There is no question that Bourn’s defense is closely comparable to Trout’s D – the speed and D games are the same.

    But now Josh Hamilton gets the $ and Bourn doesn’t.

    You’ve all turtled over this without explanation of the financial disdain for Bourn’s speed vs. Trout as the true 2012 MVP.

    Hello! Hi! How are you?

    Comment by rubesandbabes — January 15, 2013 @ 6:01 pm

  22. I’ve carefully read what you just wrote about 4 times, and I’m now ready to diagnose you as either a very bad editor or – tentatively, mind you – schizophrenic.

    Comment by Jon L. — January 15, 2013 @ 6:42 pm

  23. Both Devon White and Mike Cameron had outstanding age 30 seasons.

    From there, their performances were scattered. Some very good +10 seasons, some not so good.

    Devon White was still a good defensive asset until his age 36 season and then fell of a cliff.

    Mike Cameron had 2 outlier years in San Diego (post Mets injury), but then returned with two excellent years in Milwaukee.

    Comment by Damien — January 15, 2013 @ 7:14 pm

  24. I can’t remember Andruw jones having an injury problem. A fat problem maybe.

    Comment by Antonio bananas — January 15, 2013 @ 8:28 pm

  25. Baseball teams never sign players to front loaded contracts because of inflation. Other sports like football have front loaded contracts because salary cap issues.

    Comment by Krog — January 15, 2013 @ 8:53 pm

  26. Andruw did have surgery for torn cartilage in his right knee in 2008, the year when his defense really started to drop off.

    Comment by Carry On My Heyward Son — January 15, 2013 @ 11:31 pm

  27. Aaron Rowand is an excellent comp for Bourn, handedness aside. Bourn walks a tad more, but otherwise they are very similar strikeout prone speed guys, with excellent base running and good D; high end D in their 20s. Rowand has remained a defensive asset and a good baserunner, but nothing like he was, and there’s nothing to fill the gap. Harder for him to help the offense since he’s not getting on base now either.

    —And that’s why anyone would be CRAZY to sign Bourn to a five-year deal. If Bourn loses even a step, he’s still useful but nowhere near his per annum in return. And that’s always been the problem. On a three year deal, correctly priced, Bourn would be a real plus for the right team, but no one should buy those last two years because the value doesn’t bet to be there.

    Comment by Balthazar — January 16, 2013 @ 1:00 am

  28. Mike Cameron. Fantastic in his 20’s, still great in his 30’s.

    Comment by BIP — January 16, 2013 @ 2:07 am

  29. Ok, take three-year WAR averages for each player, then go ahead and dock Bourn the full 10 points of UZR that the elite center fielders experienced as illustrated above – meaning you’ve fully accounted upfront for defensive decline – and they’re roughly equal players right now. And Bourn’s still younger.

    If you’re looking for comps, Swish got 4/56. If no team is willing to give Bourn this, we’re almost certainly looking at a market inefficiency.

    Comment by Matt — January 16, 2013 @ 8:10 am

  30. I’d argue in that case that there’s a serious inefficiency in play here.

    Even accounting for a steep decline in defense, Bourn is a quality player. Make him an average center fielder in 2012 and he still would have been worth 4 WAR.

    The article makes some good points, but it doesn’t fully explain why teams are staying away. I think there’s still a bias against defense and baserunning.

    Comment by Matt — January 16, 2013 @ 8:14 am

  31. if the price comes down to 3/30M I think the Rays will pounce. I don’t see why the Rangers would be involved since Leonys Martin is ready to go and they have Gentry to play CF as well and Borbon as a fallback to both.

    I get that the draft pick penalty is prob keeping a bunch of teams away. The Rays have already gained a pick from BJU so it’s less of a penalty for them than most other teams. Just about $ for them.

    Comment by Spike — January 16, 2013 @ 11:00 am

  32. I want some of what Rubes is ingesting.

    Comment by Baltar — January 16, 2013 @ 1:29 pm

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