Michael Bourn, Chopped Liver?

Why isn’t there more interest in Michael Bourn? A six-win center fielder is on the market, and our most recent article on the subject is whether or not his agent has waited too long to get him a deal. We don’t know what his asking price is, but the idea that a player coming off a career year and four straight seasons with more than four wins now needs a pillow contract seems to suggest that either there’s a reason to doubt Bourn’s work, or there’s a lack of demand for his services in the market place.

There really aren’t many indications that Bourn’s 2012 was a luck-driven affair. His batting average on balls in play was .349. His career BABIP is .343. His batting average was .274. His career batting average is .272. He put up the best UZR/150 of his career at +22.5. His career UZR/150 is +10.5, and he had a +20.6 season as recently as 2010. He walked (10%, career 8.8%) and struck out (22%, career 20.2%) at about his career rates, too. Doesn’t seem like a fluke.

Maybe the power wasn’t a typical part of Bourn’s identity. His .117 isolated slugging percentage (and nine home runs) were career highs, above and beyond his previous career-highs (.101 and five, respectively) and career averages (.093 and four). He’s a slight ‘push’ hitter — the left-hander’s fly balls head towards left field on average — but he hasn’t changed that in the last two years and his batted ball distance has only inched forward from bad (267 feet in 2010) to okay (290 feet last season according to baseballheatmaps.com, or between Howie Kendrick and Joe Mauer). All the park factors for left-handed power stats are under 100 in Atlanta, so it’s not a symptom of his home park for the last year and a half.

On the other hand, we’re not talking about a difference maker when we talk about his power. You want Michael Bourn for defense, patience, and speed. His defense has been a positive every year but one during the thirty-year-old’s seven-year career. Other than the occasional seasonal blip in his walk rate, Bourn has had an above-average walk rate. Judged by Bill James‘ speed score, Bourn’s wheels have fallen off his peak slightly (8.6 in 2009), but he’s still well above average (7.5 in 2012, 8.0 in 2011).

Could it be the market? The Braves went with B.J. Upton, and that took an option away. And the Twins filled two teams’ center field needs with center fielders of their own and don’t figure to enter the free agent market for a new one. But the Cubs (Brett Jackson, Tony Campana), Houston Astros (Brandon Barnes, Justin Maxwell), New York Mets (Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Collin Cowgill), Seattle Mariners (Franklin Gutierrez, Michael Saunders), and Texas Rangers (Leonys Martin, Craig Gentry) — all of these teams could use a Michael Bourn despite their current options. That seems like enough teams to get a little bidding war going for his services.

But you might notice something about the list, too. Due to circumstances — either the current state of the roster, or team finances — most of these organizations aren’t in the market for a high-priced free agent center fielder. Most of them would want to protect the pick they might lose because the Braves offered Bourn a qualifying offer. Realistically, there might only be two general managers having serious conversations with Scott Boras about the best free agent on the market.

And yet, as the Angels seem to teach us every season, just because a team has an adequate incumbent at a position, doesn’t mean they won’t sign a free agent there. The Braves could push Upton to left field. The Blue Jays could make Colby Rasmus a great fourth outfielder on their quest to win now. The Royals could do the same with Lorenzo Cain. Or one of the rebuilding teams could decide that Bourn will age well — there’s some evidence that speed does help players remain more productive, longer — and that he would make sense for a team that might be two or three years away.

It’s not that Bourn is chopped liver. He may not put up another six wins next year, but his patience, defense and speed are all legitimate, and he’ll be an above-average center fielder for his new team. It’s just that this year, that team has not yet stepped up. If he takes a pillow contract, it will be because of the market, not the player.




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Graphs: Baseball, Roto, Beer, brats (OK, no graphs for that...yet), repeat. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris.


117 Responses to “Michael Bourn, Chopped Liver?”

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  1. 2ndedition says:

    Nothing unusual going on. We have half of a story here. As stated “We don’t know what his asking price is”. I’d like a Maserati in my driveway but I don’t have one. And it’s not because the car can’t perform.

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  2. El Guapo says:

    Maybe he’s not a Maserati but rather a Chrysler Crossfire?

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  3. Shawn says:

    The Braves definitely could be an option, but it just does not seem like a match is going to happen. Boras is coming off an offseason in which holding off until the last minute actually worked (Fielder), although it has cost him clients in the past. The Braves really like the idea of holding on to some finances going into the year to get a marquee difference maker at the trade deadline, or going the rate of a trade/ some internal combo of Prado, Gattis, Francisco between third and left field, depending on the fielding matchup. It seems the Rangers will eventually realize that getting the table set for the middle of their order, plus tracking down some of those can of corns that turn into legit gap shots, will be worth 15 mill a year at least.

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  4. Well-Beered Englishman says:

    I came away from this thinking, “People are still underrating Craig Gentry.”

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  5. DrBGiantsfan says:

    1.Not sure why you are talking about BA’s and BABIP’s on this site, especially in the context of Michael Bourn’s value.

    2. A huge part of Bourn’s WAR value is in his UZR which is so reliable he was in negative numbers in 2011.

    3. Project Gregor Blanco’s numbers to 700 PA’s and see if they look at all familiar.

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    • Shawn says:

      The reason why he is talking about BABIP and BA is because those are very essential to a leadoff, speedy players offense. If you are not hitting the ball over peoples heads or with enough power to get them past infielders, then a high BABIP shows he is using his speed well and knows how to get hits (bunts) and has the bat control to put the ball where he wants. If those were not essential to this site or bourns game, the Joey Gathwrights and Willy Tavares’s of the worlds would not be out of the game or signing minor league deals. It is not just having speed, it is knowing how to use it effectively.

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      • DrBGiantsfan says:

        It’s all in the OBP. BA from Michael Bourn counts for nothing! Having said that, Bourn’s has been fairly consistent and fairly good over the years, but nothing to drop $15 M/ year on.

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      • vivalajeter says:

        Batting Average isn’t the greatest stat, but it’s absurd to say it counts for nothing. Especially in the context used here (to show how his #’s are consistent with his career norms), there’s nothing wrong with mentioned that his current average is consistent with his career average.

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    • TiensyGohan says:

      1. Eno Sarris talks about BA and BABIP to show that Bourne’s season wasn’t grossly luck driven. I know this because I read the article.

      2. Right, so it’s possible Bourne is an average or a poor fielder? Do you watch the games?

      3. Sure.

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      • TiensyGohan says:

        Ugh, Bourn not Bourne.

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      • DrBGiantsfan says:

        I think you could look up Bourn’s OBP’s over the last several years and come to the conclusion that his offensive season wasn’t luck driven. His UZR, on the other hand…..

        One more point: His SB’s were definitely off by a couple of ticks and teams have to be wondering if he’s starting the downward slope of his career trajectory with those, which account for a big part of his value.

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      • TiensyGohan says:

        Here’s a thought experiment. Let’s say Bourn’s OBP remained stable the last four years, but in the past year his BA and BABIP were significantly higher than the other three. Do you see where I’m going with this?

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      • Eno Sarris says:

        I don’t get it. The components of OBP are batting average and walk rate, basically. I talked about both. TiensyGohan — Sure, his walk rate was a little down last year, but it’s been down before.

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      • DrBGiantsfan says:

        TG,

        I’d go with the OBP remaining more stable than the BA/BABIP.

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    • Eno Sarris says:

      1. Context, showing last year wasn’t luck, as I said.

      2. And it was +20 the year before, and positive every other year in his career. Every stat oscillates from year to year, if you throw away every stat that doesn’t line up every year, you won’t have any stats left. He’s consistently a good fielder.

      3. Gregor Blanco, who I called the most underrated Giant this year, doesn’t have the same track record, and is also not available as a free agent, so he’s not relevant to the conversation in a couple of ways.

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      • DrBGiantsfan says:

        I think you could look up Bourn’s OBP’s over the years and easily come to the conclusion his offensive season was not due to luck.

        I fully understand that Bourn is a good fielder. Just pointing out that at least a couple of his WAR points are due to a stat that tends to fluctuate a lot.

        The reason I used Gregor Blanco as just one example of how teams can find their Michael Bourn in sundry less expensive ways. Several have already done that this year which is why he is out there on the street corner with a tin cup in his hand.

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      • joe w says:

        i agree with DrB that the gregor blanco comp is particularily worthwhile…

        to me, bourn doesn’t add enough value over a gregor blanco type player to justify the (alleged) price difference between the two. if you’re in the market for bourn, go ahead and be a good GM and get 75% the production at 25% of the price..

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      • joe w says:

        75% of a 4 WAR player, which is Bourn’s projected value in 2012.

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      • Stuck in a Slump says:

        So DrBGiantsFan is angry that Eno compared the individual components of OBP to each other instead of using OBP itself? We’re getting the same information, but more detailed, Eno should be applauded for breaking down Bourn’s numbers in a way to expose any possible reasons for him to have been considered a fluke last year instead of blasted for not painting with a broad enough brush for your liking.

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      • DrBGiantsfan says:

        First of all, I am NOT angry! Secondly, there was never any reason for anyone to suspect that Bourn’s offensive numbers last year were a fluke. His WAR is a career outlier based on an labile NON-OFFENSIVE metric.

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      • joser says:

        There is reason to question whether every pkayer’s stats were a fluke, every year. Even in years where they’re exactly in line with previous years, it’s worth checking to see if good luck happened to mask some underlying decline (or bad luck some improvement). It’s always a good idea to dig into the component / “peripheral” stats to see if something odd is going on under the surface; it’s something I try to do with any player that piques my interest. Sure, you can just take a lazy look at OBP, burp, and go back to your beer, but I thank Eno for doing the work.

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      • jonkk says:

        Labile is an underrated word. Thumbs up.

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      • DrBGiantsfan says:

        Joser,

        Here are ranges for 3 Michael Bourn stats over the last 4 seasons:

        BA: .265-.294.
        BABIP: .329-.369.
        OBP: .341-.354.

        Which of those looks the most stable and predictable to you?

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      • Stuck in a Slump says:

        DrBGiantsFan:

        When you take his OBP apart and look at BB%, AVG and BABIP individually Bourn’s numbers look a little more volatile, but the overall number still looks consistent. In 2011, his BB% dropped, but his BABIP rose 40 points. The result was an AVG 30 points higher than 2010 and an OBP 9 points higher. The next year, his BABIP dropped, and BB% rose, his AVG dropped the 20 point difference of his BABIP, but the 2.7% increase in BB% kept his OBP at .348. This is something that you wouldn’t have seen if you looked at OBP alone.

        Something was off with his 2011, what it is, I doubt we’ll ever know, maybe his defense suffered amid the trade rumors, but we can clearly see that he is a plus defender in CF because of the much larger sample that he has provided us outside of his 2011 and how he bounced back defensively in 2012. Even without his lauded defensive prowess he still posted more than 4 WAR in 2011.

        Honestly, I’m not sure why you’re upset about this at all. Eno wrote a fair article trying to find the reason for Bourn’s apparent lack of a market and used very good metrics to prove that teams shouldn’t be worried about a possible fluke or seriously declining skills.

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      • DrBGiantsfan says:

        Upset? I am NOT upset! I simply made some comments about the article that I still stand by. That is not the same thing as being upset! I mean, it’s possible to have some differing opinions without being upset, right? The point of the article is why is what is Michael Bourn going to get on the FA market and I was simply making some suggestions as to why he might not get as much as the author seems to think he should. That is not being “upset.’

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      • Stuck in a Slump says:

        The fact that you’re commenting so frequently trying to assert that Eno has made a mistake some how (and most of this is nitpicking), it becomes obvious that you have had a negative reaction to the article, and because of the frequency of your comments, I’d say that you feel very strongly about this. Strong negative emotions in a person tend to be described as that person being ‘upset’.

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      • vivaelpujols says:

        Bourn has averaged 5 WAR per season over the last 3 year. He projects at at least 3.5 WAR and probably better.

        Now you can disagree with that projection if you want, but it’s not at all easy to for a team to just find a cheap 3.5 WAR player. Gregor Blanco, for one, is not even close to Bourn as a player. I honestly have no fucking idea what you’re looking at. He’s been worth 4.8 WAR total over 1300 PA in his career.

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    • MLK Jr Jr says:

      I have a dream, of a world where people simply understand that there are issues in defensive metrics, and somebody doesn’t need to comment about their reliability every single time an author uses them

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      • DrBGiantsfan says:

        It’s OK to dream, MLK but when an author refers to a player coming off a career year in the context of his FA value, and virtually 100% of the difference in WAR between this career year and his average year is caused by a huge spike in his UZR, then it deserves to be pointed out.

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      • Paul says:

        Sacred cows, Dr. B. You’re probably also a global warming and holocaust denier…

        I gave up on UZR a long time ago, but since always a heretic, always a heretic, I harp on selective use of regression. The example here is taking a full paragraph to state that his power numbers might just be legit. No talk of regression to the mean, no mention of the “set in stone” relationship between advancing age and batting skills decline, including power.

        This article is a sad attempt to justify two components of advanced analysis that its acolytes simply refuse to believe are neither advanced nor rigorously tested. If any GMs read FG, they are snickering at the notion that Michael Bourn is worth anything even in the neighborhood of $15m per. Somebody might give up more than $10m on fewer years. And a year from now a brave soul on this very sight will write many words about what a dumb move that was, while downplaying this very article, or not mentioning it at all.

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      • Eno Sarris says:

        Weird that I didn’t mention 15/20 million and only used UZR to point out that he’s been a positive almost every year of his career and should in the short term remain a positive when it comes to defense, patience and speed. Perhaps we should be talking about the sacred cows of the commentariat?

        The power thing in particular — I don’t know how you read what I wrote and don’t see ‘regression to the mean’ in other words. The power gains he made last year are not something to be banked on. You don’t own him for power. Should I say it another way?

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      • Paul says:

        If there ever was a hitter with a particular outlier statistic to simply wave off as an expectation for regression to the mean going forward, it is Bourn’s 9 home runs last year. Instead you spent a full paragraph talking about the increase in his FB rate, and how the park is not a bandbox. If regression is so obvious regarding his power, why not just write this: “Clearly his career high in HRs was an outlier regression to James’ predicted 5 should be expected.” Then move on to the next paragraph. The only thing getting into the weeds on his power does is give the impression that it is some new skill that might add to his value.

        But the real point is that for some reason on these pages regression is both dogma and perhaps the most inconsistently applied analysis. It is intellectually lazy, that’s all.

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      • vivaelpujols says:

        Let’s see Paul. Bourn’s averaged 5 WAR over the past 4 seasons, which isn’t a small sample size as far as anything is concerned (except for maybe pitcher BABIP). He’s older, which means we’d project him worse than that going forward. Still worth way more than 10 million a year. So I think your comment is simply inflammatory bullshit. Does that sound about right to you?

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  6. Shawn says:

    I agree and disagree. Yes, I do get your point about OBP, and do agree that is a more significant stat to base Bourn’s value as a leadoff hitter. However, the BABIP and BA stats are good barometers to show that when these type of players do swing the bat and make contact, how effective they are. He is trying to show that Bourn is no slouch when he does swing the bat, thus adding even more value to an already above average skill set.

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  7. CJ in Austin, TX says:

    I think there are a couple of factors.

    First, I think front offices still undervalue defense to some extent. If you don’t like UZR, DRS, TZ, or other advanced metrics, then look at the fan scouting reports or watch him yourself. Bourn is a great and consistent defensive center fielder, and I’m sure most teams know this.

    Second, I suspect that a lot of teams dislike giving long term contracts to players’ whose skills depend on speed. I don’t really agree with this line of thinking, but it’s a common view. Kenny Lofton was good enough to be a Hall of Fame candidate, but teams seemed reluctant to give him long contracts. My guess is that Bourne has asked for longer contracts than the market was willing to give.

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    • Shawn says:

      This is a good point, Carl Crawford was the last big free agent who mainly had his value tied to defense and speed, and two years into his contract, it does not look like a good deal at all.

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    • DrBGiantsfan says:

      I’m not arguing that Bourn is not a good fielder. I am arguing that his WAR of 6.9 is an outlier based largely on a stat that was the highest of his career and that is labile enough to give him negative numbers from the year before. That is all!

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      • Eno Sarris says:

        If I was forced to comment on his wins above replacement value for next year, I wouldn’t say he’s a six-win player either. Perhaps my second sentence was poorly written, it was meant to represent the feeling that there was this great asset on the market that nobody was buying. I think the article shows that I believe he’s an upgrade over two-win center field situations. In other words, I believe his four-win seasons, because the facets of good defense, decent patience, and strong speed were there throughout.

        Will they decline? Sure. All free agents are post-peak.

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      • vivaelpujols says:

        Eno I liked the article, but you kind of screwed yourself focusing on his 2012 numbers so much. Is it that hard to do a weighted averaged of his past 4 years, age it a bit, and come up with a reasonable projection? That’s all you had to do, but I suppose then you wouldn’t have filled the word quota ;)

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      • Balthazar says:

        Eno, I’d value Bourn similarly. His skill base and demonstrated performance suggest a 4 win floor over the next several years barring injury. Again, a highly useful player for many players, particularly where his skills match team needs. But a big $$$, long-term signee? I get cold feet on that one, and the market suggests a similar response.

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  8. riasweng says:

    good,good

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  9. Socrates says:

    Maybe both the Yankees and Red Sox should not be counted out. The Red Sox because of the rebuilding argument (Bourn may keep value) and the Yankees because they may look at Bourn as a better option on a long term deal than Granderson (I assume that would lead to a Granderson trade).

    Bourn is not the first big FA that we have all thought the market passed. The aforementioned Fielder is one and also remember Matt Holiday.

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    • CS Yankee says:

      Grandy is needed for power, Bourn has little to none.

      Gardner & Ichiro have the speed, gloves and noddle bats…Grandy needs to relocate to LF or RF as he is the weakest glove (of the three).

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  10. Shawnuel says:

    Chone Figgins also had his value tied to defense and speed and was in his 30′s when starting his contract with Seattle. I can’t imagine how teams can ignore that, while admittedly, it could be an anomaly. One thing Figgins and Bourn have in common is the combo of speed, little power but a high K rate. Those type of players don’t usually age well.

    One other observation. Fans in Seattle’s blogosphere often speculate that Bourn is not the type of player for whom the M’s front office wants to part with a first round draft pick (#12) high teens to twenties, maybe. Perhaps that is in other GM’s thought processes as well?

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    • dustygator says:

      Yeah but the problem with Figgins is he all of sudden he stopped being the player he used to be. If you look his numbers as a M, he has swung at a lot more pitches out of the zone and has been making (shitty) contact with them. And then as his BA and BABIP rightfully plummeted, so did his walk rate.

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    • Baltar says:

      Figgins’ great fall is just a big, massive exception to everything. Crawford’s was due to injury. While I don’t doubt that many baseball executives justify their lack of appreciation of speed and defense based on these two outliers, we FanGraphs fans surely know better.

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      • DrBGiantsfan says:

        Yes, but there is solid reason to believe that Bourn’s speed asset is on the edge of a slow, or not so slow inexorable downward curve in his career trajectory. Given how much is value is dependent on speed, it might give teams pause from paying a premium price for it.

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    • Undocorkscrew says:

      Figgins had a high K rate?

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  11. Dakota says:

    The reason he has not signed yet is because of Boras…………Boras is a complete Moron!!!!!

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    • Doug Gray says:

      Yes, Boras is a complete moron who gets his clients more money than other agents can. He must be so dumb.

      Or not.

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      • DrBGiantsfan says:

        Doug,

        I agree Boras is not a moron, but there is some evidence that he may be slow in adjusting to the new CBA rules. Soriano would be another piece of evidence for that.

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      • Kellin says:

        Boras is not alone in failing to see just how broken this new “Qualifying Offer” stipulation would be when paired with the new higher value of draft picks. There are a set of FA’s that are clearly stuck in limbo, Boras’ clients are not the only ones in this group.

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      • Ty says:

        @DrBGiantsfan:

        People were saying similar things about Boras last year when Prince Fielder still hadn’t signed, and look how that turned out.

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  12. Spencer says:

    Bourn is absolutely one of the best, if not the best, defensive CF in baseball. But there is a good chance his defense was helped by the excellent defensive players on either side of him. Heyward won the Fielding Bible award for RF, and Prado was an acceptable choice for a Gold Glove in LF, leading the NL in DRS for LF even though he played 5 different positions. Their range and overall defensive ability gave Bourn a lot of flexibility in CF. He does have a slightly above average arm for a CF, which could go a long way in limiting advances by runners. There’s no doubt he is a great player defensively, but his WAR is certainly being held up by defensive metrics, and the question should be of how much his teammates are holding him up.

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    • Phantom Stranger says:

      I think front offices are more reluctant to give big-dollar contracts to free agents where most of the WAR is tied up in questionable defensive metrics. I think the Carl Crawford contract really hurt the long-term viability of teams willing to pay big dollars for defense-first players.

      I do agree that Bourn was likely the best defensive CF in the game last year and if he was a couple of years younger would have already signed with someone.

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    • TiensyGohan says:

      It’s not like Bourn was a sub-par fielder in Houston because somehow Carlos Lee dragged him down.

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    • vivalajeter says:

      I figured it would be the opposite. A fly ball in the gap can only be caught by one fielder. If he has bad fielders around him, he’ll get to more balls (and have better defensive #’s). If he has good fielders around him, they’ll catch some balls that he could have caught himself. If anything, wouldn’t that decrease his defensive #’s?

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    • DrBGiantsfan says:

      PS,

      On the contrary, I think there is abundant evidence of teams almost insisting on putting excellent defensive players on the field. They are just finding it unnecessary to pay a premium price for it. It’s more like players who are offense only are finding their value going down while low-range defense first players are finding themselves moving into mid-range, but mid-range defense first guys are not moving into the top range in salary. That territory is reserved for guys who are excellent on both sides of the ball.

      Now, Bourn has actually been pretty good offensively too, but contrary to popular belief, teams don’t pay for past performance, rather for what they think future performance will be with market forces playing a big role too. Too many teams were able to fill their need for a player or players with Michael Bourn’s skillset in alternative, less expensive ways.

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  13. Stinky says:

    good points made about teams not valuing speed and defense and also that Crawford and Figgins deals have put a good scare into GMs. That’s why I think Bourn could get a good aav if he were to take a 3 yr contract. Naturally Boras is going to hold out for 5 or more. I think that depending on the team 3 yrs $51M *($17M per) is prob a fair deal for Bourn. Royals should prob pounce given that it won’t cost them a 1st rd pick and punt on Frenchy and move Cain to RF.

    Cubs seem to be the only other natural fit of the teams having a protected 1st rd pick. Are we sure that the Mets pick isn’t protected (bumped to 11 bc of the Pirates getting slotted at 9 for failing to sign Appel this past yr)? not that the Mets would spend the coin anyway….

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    • Cidron says:

      not buying at all that the Royals “need” an OF. They had a serviceable one last year, moreso when Cain got back.. Yes, I hear your comments about Frenchie already. And, his 2012 was a down year. But, is it his “new norm”? He had a decent year the year before. Which is the norm? Dyson and Cain are very serviceable if not better, as a platoon, or a CF and 4th. And, LF is already occupied too. I just dont see the room for Bourn unless its as a luxury, which a small market team cannot afford when there are other needs out there.

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  14. Teams just don’t want to give up draft picks in this new area. And, you have a player devoid of power, who is very probable to regress in the later years of a long contract. I think he can be very Kenny Loftin like. But, it’s still a big risk for a team, especially with the pick attached and the long contract demands.

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  15. momomoses7 says:

    Kind of surprised there is no mention of draft pick compensation in this article. Could be a team on the market thinks Bourn is worth close to his asking price but not that plus the extra draft pick?

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    • Shawn says:

      That has been my question all along. The braves are having to give up their first round pick to the rays for signing UPTON, so my hope is they will be getting a pick back in regards to someone signing Bourn?

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      • wilt says:

        Yeah, the Braves essentially traded their first round pick for a supplemental pick if I understand correctly.

        What happens if a team signs a player who declined a QA from that same team (example, the Braves resigning Bourn)? Does their highest pick get turned into a supplemental pick (i.e. the Braves 2nd round pick) or does nothing happen at all?

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      • TheHoustonian says:

        I don’t think so. The CBA reads “A Qualified Free Agent shall be subject to compensation only if: .. (iii) the Player signs a Major League contract with another Major League Club that is confirmed by the Players Association and the LRD before the next succeeding Major League Rule 4 Draft.” The key word there, to me, seems to be “another Major League Club.”

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      • wilt says:

        Thanks for the clarification.

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  16. Tom says:

    George W. Bush did WTC

    -11 Vote -1 Vote +1

  17. Grebe says:

    Naughty by Nature did OPP.

    +10 Vote -1 Vote +1

  18. jim says:

    if there’s something to be concerned about with bourn, it may be his 3-year rising K%

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  19. Hurtlockertwo says:

    Bourn’s value is speed and defense. At age 29 if he lost a step or two over the next few years he has lost most of his value. Maybe teams are just thinking he has peaked and not worth $15-20 Mill price tag? Speedy, no power outfielders become utility 4-5th outfielders rather fast after age 30.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Ivan Grushenko says:

      I don’t see why this should be true. Bourn has averaged about a +10/150 G or 600 PA on defense and another +10 base running. If he loses a step he may go to a +8 and then a +6 and then a +4, etc. That’s pretty much the usual -0.5 WAR/year that analysts typically project for everyone in their decline phase. Why should an excellent defender lose defensive skills faster than a mediocre defender? The only reason I can think of is injury. To counter this, he’s supposed to improve in “old player skills” now, right? He should gain a little power and a little plate discipline, no? Lofton, Lou Brock, Otis Nixon, Tim Raines, Rickey Henderson, Ty Cobb…..there have been lots of fast outfielders who were productive into their late 30s — no fewer than slow 1B.

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    • vivaelpujols says:

      5 WAR players usually don’t become 4-5th outfielders after they turn 30, but I can see why you would think that… no wait, i have no fucking idea why you would think that is the norm.

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      • Hurtlockertwo says:

        Vince Coleman, Otis Nixon, Omar Moreno, Willie Wilson, Bill North, Gary Pettis, Juan Pierre to name a few. There are certainly exceptions, like Kenny Lofton, but a lot of of the speed guys peak are in the 20′s. Teams would have to hope Bourn is the exception is my point.

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      • jim says:

        only wilson of those guys was ever as good as bourn, and he played for 19 years. and juan pierre has graded out as an average or better contributor in 9 of his 12 full seasons. yeah, be a real shame if bourn turned into that

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Ivan Grushenko says:

        So Hurtlockertwo is saying slightly above average players become average and then backups when they get older? That’s not unique to speed players. Say hello to Dan Pasqua, Steve Kemp, Greg Vaughn, Carlos Lee, Ron Gant, Richie Sexson, Vinny Castilla, Pat Burrell, Bobby Bonilla, Lee May……

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • vivaelpujols says:

        Of course you can name specific instances of speed players who shit the bed after 30. Just like I can name specific instances of power players (ryan howard, justin morneau, carlos pena, carlos lee) who shit the bed after 30. BTW all those guys are from the past year because I’m too lazy to go back further.

        There’s no evidece that speed players on average see a rapid decline aft 30. Certainly not to the degree with which you are implying.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  20. TX Ball Scout says:

    “A six-win center fielder is on the market”

    Simple. Too many of those ‘wins’ are coming from his defense.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • DrBGiantsfan says:

      It’s not the defense that is the problem, it is using a flawed measurement of defense to calculate his WAR, with is more than 2 Wins higher than his previous best then proclaiming that he is a 6 Win CF based on that one outlier number.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Mitchener says:

        I know what your saying. It seems like teams have a good idea how much a players offensive components our worth. When they look at Bourn’s speed value and defense value it’s hard to put a value on it with the inconsistent measuring systems.

        I think Bourn could be riskier than Crawford, since Crawford could actually hit for some power.

        As a cubs fan, I saw how quickly an outfield injury can sap a players speed.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Eno Sarris says:

        I believe he’s a four-to-five-win player. Marcel would have him at five. That sentence was just describing the fact that he was a six-win player in 2012.

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  21. Snowman says:

    As someone who watched all of his games in that last year and a half, I certainly felt, admittedly eyes only, that we are already beginning to see his speed flag. And considering that he will turn 30 next year and probably at least 3/4s of his value is tied to his speed (defense in center, extra BABIP), I’d felt he would be the most overpaid player of this offeason and that his contract would be an absolute millstone around some team’s neck in 2-3 years (this when the talk was of 6 years and $90+ million). I may well have underestimated the front offices of baseball.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  22. channelclemente says:

    He’s got the same reputation as a pie thrower as Coco Crisp. Nobody beat Crisp door down from the teams with large ballparks last year, if I recall.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  23. wedemeyer says:

    Bourn to Giants. Pagan to LF. Blanco to 4th OF. Torres to 5th OF / AAA.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  24. Balthazar says:

    Why can’t Bourn get a multi-year? Gary Matthews, Jr., who is a far better comp to Bourn than Crawford. With a very similar profile, Bourn is a much better baserunner and an observably better CFer, but Matthews, Jr. had a better BB%, a better K%, had more real power, and showed good range in the field over a loger period if not the spikes of Bourn in two of his last three years.

    Bourn will be playing his age-30 season. His ISO has always been below average. His swing will not net him any ‘old guys’ homers.’ He strikes out way too much to be comfortable with him as a bat which will hold production into his decline years. There’s reason to believe that Bourn’s speed has already begun it’s decline. Bourn’s value is _entirely linked to that speed_, both to run down the extra balls, run out the extra doubles, and rack up SBs. Bourn would quite valuable to two clubs in three in the Bigs on a three year deal in the $12m per annum range say, but nothing suggests that is what Scott Boras thinks he deserves a share of this offseason. I would be _highly_ nervous in projecting Bourn to be even a 3 win play in the back end of a five year deal, and an off-the-cliff decline like Matthews when he loses even another step is not in the least hard to see. Bourn is a one tool guy (if one sees his glove as dependent upon his speed). That’s hard to buy into long.

    On the subject of ‘Is Bourn a 6+ win player,’ I’m with the point made rather starchily above by DrB and others. WAR is too often treated as if it is a stack of gold bricks, a known solid abolute value. WAR is an aggregate stat, though. Some of those components are empirically firm; one goes so many bases in so many hits and voila! ISO. Other portions are enigmatically squishy, begin not only guesstimates of how many balls a guy should have gotten to but also positionally adjusted to how many balls everyone is supposed to get to; and so on. WAR is not a solid number, it is an estimate. The idea of comaring all players on all things has utility, but the result is a stat that makes wildly different things all countable in the same units. Michael Bourn does not look to me like, say, Nick Swisher or even Carl Crawford pre WTF; Bourn looks a lot like Gary Matthews, Jr. And that’s not a five year contract in any sane organization.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Paul says:

      You’re exactly right, but let’s be honest. WAR as an all-encompassing “theory of everything” statistic is about marketing. If this estimate, as you correctly state, were used properly, it would be expressed as an interval. And since at least one of the components is so unreliable, to express it properly as a prediction interval would give such wide ranges in many cases as to be either unusable or just laughable.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Balthazar says:

        So Paul, I don’t believe that the development of WAR was marketing _driven_, though it has become that. Bill James was looking for aggregate stats thirty years ago, as were others. The goal was to try to get people to more appropriately compare individual players in overall aspect rather than just “X hits homers and Y doesn’t.” That said, the push for a stat-of-stats has gone way too far in my view, leading to exactly the result we see in Bourn’s case, that guys are being wildly overvalued in putative analytic terms when the partiality or broad-but-shallow nature of their skills do not suggest that evaluation.

        I agree with many of your remarks to that some of the new stats we see would be better as interval estimates. I think many analysts, here and elsewhere, are acutely aware of this and try to compensate for an overly ‘hard’ appearance of a number in their commentary, which is to the good. Analysis has to rest on many legs of evidence, and not fall in love with any one of them alone, that’s just the way it is. What’s the _pattern_ of overall result? That’s one reason I like comparables more than x.x WAR alone.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Paul says:

        Agree with all of this. I don’t think anybody set out to deceive. But anybody who believes the owner of a business would invest in players based on something like WAR is just out of their minds. We can stress the value/undervaluing of defense without insisting on using distorted and inherently unreliable analysis.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • vivalajeter says:

        I agree with what’s been said. Someone mentioned that Andres Torres would be the best 5th OF of all-time, and I just looked up his stats for last year, figured he’d be right around 0 WAR. He only played 132 games, but he accumulated 1.7 WAR – or about 2 WAR per 150 games, making him about an average player.

        From what I saw last year, he was dreadful. His walk rate was solid (12%), but other than that he was an awful hitter. He batted .230 with limited power. OPS was about .660, wOBA was .297, wRC+ was 87. His defense was a little above average, but nothing spectacular. Overall, I can’t see how that 1.7 WAR is justified for a player who contributed so little, and there’s no way a GM would pay $8-10MM for that type of performance.

        There are plenty of times when I look at someone’s #’s, then look at his WAR, and it just doesn’t make sense to me.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Balthazar says:

      Bourn would look great for Cincinatti on a three-and-an-option deal. Really great. But I don’t expect that to happen. Bourn has real value to the right club, it’s all in the length of the deal, to me.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • vivaelpujols says:

      How in the world is Bourn a 1 tool player? He has a ~.730 OPS the past 4 seasons, which is above average for a centerfielder. Even if he was an average defender and baserunner he would project as a 2.5 WAR player next year. When you add in the fact that he is one of the best defenders and baserunners in baseball, he’s obviously a tremendously valuable player.

      Brendan Ryan is a 1 tool player because he does one thing well and is terrible at everything else. Bourn does one thing well (speed + defense) and is average at everything else.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Balthazar says:

        Bourn’s OPS: Bourn is well below average in power. Bourn is well below average in contact. Speed arguably sustains Bourn’s batting average, exactly the point dwelt on at length by Eno with regard to BABIP in his post. Ergo, as a hitter overall, Bourn is below average, and heavily dependent upon his speed. Drawing walks is a skill, not a tool. It’s a skill which is likely to remain intact for Bourn as he ages, since it tends to for others. Then again, as Bourn declines as a hitter, there’s more likelihood of pitcher’s simply pounding the zone against him since he already strikes out quite a bit, thereby driving down his walk rate regardless of sustained strikezone judgment. Bourn’s ‘hit tool’ is in his feet, basically.

        Outfield defense consists of at least range, jump, read, positioning, and arm. For an elite CFer, which it is argued that Bourn is, range is the separating factor, and range is substantially a function of speed. If someone has the view that Bourn’s jump and/or positioning are truly elite, here’s the place to say it. I haven’t heard that, but then again I haven’t heard the contrary. If his jump and positioning are truly exceptional, then yes there is a case for seeing his ‘defense’ as a function somewhat independent of his speed alone. Make that case if you want to, in which case we might be speaking of a two tool player. Bourn’s arm is said to be good, so maybe he’s a one point five tool player now anyway. Regardless of how you parse it, though, defense for an outfielder, especially a CFer, is dependent _substantially_ upon their speed, which leads us back to speed being the single really elite aspect of Bourn as a player. It’s hard to see that worth 15 for 5, especially when a) he seems to be entering his decline with regard to speed which is just what we should expect from his age, and b) when you lose it speed stays gone, it _doesn’t_ come back.

        Since you asked . . . .

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • vivaelpujols says:

        The distinction between tool and skill is useless here if you’re talking about risk factors for Bourn. I agree that he’ll likely see more strikes, but his skill should also increase (walk rate is by far the latest peaking skill).

        Bourn’s contact skills are also average. You have to make the distinction between being average at a given tool/skill and lacking it completely.

        The only thing Bourn lacks is power. If you’re arguing anyone who lacks power is a 1 or 1.5 tool player then I’m not buying that.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  25. Antonio bananas says:

    Guessing its a mix of market and years. He’s a one dimensional guy who will be going through his decline phase soon. How many years until he turns into a defensive replacement?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  26. Steven says:

    I think this will be good between his 30-33 maybe 34 age but i wont go more than 4 years

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  27. hk says:

    Is it the market? Yes, combined with the fact that Bourn was extended a qualifying offer, which shrunk the market for him even further. Teams seem to be putting greater value not only on their first round pick, but also on the slot money (and the flexibility it provides) that comes with the pick. In years past, teams could compensate for losing their first round pick by going over “slot” later in the draft. With the new CBA, the loss of the pick and the slot money that comes with it reduces teams’ ability to be flexible in the draft.

    I think Boras may have missed the mark when it comes to how unwilling teams are going to be to part with the 1st round pick and slot money (per the new CBA) and this factor may make it hard for Bourn to even sign a “pillow” contract – what team wants to lose their pick and slot money for one season of a player? – unless the team that signs him is one from the bottom 10.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  28. sakins says:

    I like Bourn…a lot, but would not pay 15 mil for 5 years for him towards the end of his peak. If you need one piece at the top of the line up and had to cover some ground for poor corner OF’s AND ARE REALLY in the window to contend for the next 2-3 years, then he makes sense. That’s a lot of qualifiers and I can’t see why any of the teams mentioned does this with their 15 mil, rather than investing in pitching or a power bat. The difference is that you can piece together many of the skills he has and use them situationally. You can use 3 outfielders to get much of what he offers, you cannot cobble together a #2 starter or a corner bat to hit 3-4-5 and I’d use my big money for this. The Cubs chose to p/u Shierholz and keep Campana, while giving Jackson 1 more year to see if the AAA improvement translates (it won’t) and spent their money on pitching they can trade or keep and each of the arms they bought has minimal risk compared to 75-90 mil for Bourn. Whereas the team that signs Bourn for what Boras is asking has at least 2 years of a 34-35 y/o speed player with little pop with league avg defense and OBP (BABIP will drop) and 15-20 sb for at least 15 mil per year. Does anyone think he will be tradeable at cost in year 4-5 of a 5 year deal? If not, then you should add the dollars you think the club would eat to move him to his year 1-3 valuation.

    Anyways, there are better places to spend finite resources. It’s like paying top dollar for a running back instead of a QB or DL. Makes little sense for most clubs, especially if the RB is 27 years old.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  29. Mr Punch says:

    I think most of you/us are underestimating the impact of Crawford’s collapse. He was a 6+ WAR player in 2010, younger than Bourn is now, got a big contract, and has created essentially no value since.He really hasn’t even been good enough to be a fourth-fifth outfielder (Bourn, admittedly, might be more versatile as he can play CF).

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  30. Ben says:

    If he’s in the mood to settle for a ‘pillow’ contract, what’s the pick compensation if a bottom-ten team signs him and then flips him as a rental during the season?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  31. eric says:

    Lose a first round pick. Pay a premium for defense and speed instead of power. Pay multiple years past 30 for a guy whose best asset is speed.

    There are 3 good reasons Bourn is still on the market, looking. He is a good player, but his market is more like 30 year old running back, not 30 year old quarterback.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

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