So far this off-season, three outfielders have said their final goodbyes to the Mets. Jason Bay took his strikeouts and pop-ups to Seattle. Andres Torres left in search of a ring in San Francisco. And my wife’s ass is now on new Cubs outfielder Scott Hairston’s Wikipedia page. It goes without saying that the Mets are in serious need of some outfield help.
With Justin Upton joining brother B.J. and second baseman Dan Uggla in Atlanta to form the Underachieving U’s (quick, contact Ugueth Urbina’s agent – Urbina’s out of jail and needs a place to fail!), the Mets have now set their sights on former Braves outfielder Michael Bourn. His acquisition would instantly give the Mets a proven major league outfielder. It would also give the Mets a number of problems.
Here are three pros and three cons that have to be considered by Sandy Alderson in a potential signing of free agent outfielder Michael Bourn:
1) Michael Bourn would instantly give the Mets a legitimate stolen base threat. In 2011, both Jose Reyes and Angel Pagan surpassed the 30-steal mark. Last year, David Wright led the team with only 15 thefts. As a team, the Mets’ 79 stolen bases in 2012 marked the first time they failed to steal 100 bases since the Art Howe era. In addition, no Met has stolen 40 bases in a season since Reyes swiped 56 bags in 2008, the same year Michael Bourn began his current streak of five straight 40+ steal seasons.
2) The Mets have only had two outfielders win a Gold Glove Award. Tommie Agee was the first in 1970 and Carlos Beltran won three consecutive Gold Gloves from 2006 to 2008. Bourn has a Gold Glove pedigree, taking home the hardware in 2009 and 2010 as a member of the Houston Astros. It should be noted that Houston’s Minute Maid Park has one of the most spacious and trickiest center fields in baseball, with Tal’s Hill, a flagpole and various outfield wall angles to contend with.
3) Lucas Duda is pegged to be a corner outfielder. That’s bumbling, stumbling, “I can’t move furniture without injuring myself” Lucas Duda. How bad is Duda in the outfield? Let’s just say George “The Stork” Theodore shakes his head whenever he sees Duda chasing a fly ball. In other words, the Mets desperately need an outfielder that can cover all the ground that Lucas Duda won’t. That’s where Michael Bourn will help the team the most.
1) For a leadoff hitter, Bourn doesn’t have the most impressive on-base percentage. He has compiled a .350 on-base percentage just once in six full seasons in the majors and has maintained a .339 career OBP. He also averages nearly 2½ strikeouts for every walk he draws, a number that is far too high for a player who is expected to be a table setter at the top of the lineup.
2) In 2011, Bourn batted .294 with 61 stolen bases and 140 strikeouts in 656 at-bats. Last season, Bourn’s average dropped to .274 and he only swiped 42 bases. His strikeouts also increased to a career-high 155 while his at-bat total shrank to 624. Although he stole 19 fewer bases in 2012, Bourn still led the majors by being caught stealing 13 times.
3) Michael Bourn has been an All-Star and a Gold Glove winner because of his legs. But all of his accolades and stolen base totals were achieved while Bourn was in his 20s. Bourn is now running on 30-year-old legs. As shown above, it has become easier to throw him out on the basepaths, and Bourn is also taking off fewer times after reaching base. His natural decrease in speed will eventually affect him in center field as well, as fly balls he used to track down with ease can now potentially elude his glove.
Every player has pros and cons. Michael Bourn is no exception. But with the Mets trying to build a contending team without sacrificing their future, every pro and every con has to be considered before making any player decision, including whether or not Bourn is worth the potential loss of a first-round draft pick.
Michael Bourn is clearly an above-average centerfielder. But is he an eight-figure a year player, especially now that he’s on the wrong side of age 30? Bourn also saw decreases in his stolen base total, as well as a lower batting average and higher strikeout rate. Is his play in 2012 the sign of a decline or was it just a blip on an otherwise successful career chart?
Clearly, the Mets cannot go into the 2013 season with an outfield of Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Mike Baxter. But is Michael Bourn worth the money he’ll be seeking to play at Citi Field? Is he the short-term answer that will lead to long-term success? It’s certainly going to be an interesting couple of weeks for Sandy Alderson as he weighs all the pros and cons of a potential Michael Bourn signing.