Michael Bourn: Post Mortem

Michael Bourn is a Cleveland Indian. As Mets fans, we need to move on. However, the debate has been so lively about Bourn and the Mets that one more post for closure seems appropriate. One of the many great aspects of baseball is the constant conversation it inspires. Perhaps it’s the untimed nature of the game, the slower pace that allows for dialogue among spectators, or maybe it’s the methodically active off-season that keeps us engaged more than the off-seasons of other sports. In any event, let’s look at a few the point/counterpoint interchanges that have occupied Met fandom (and the social networking sites) over the past 24 hours.

October 2, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Atlanta Braves center fielder Michael Bourn (24) reacts at the batting cage before playing the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Point 1: The Mets decided that Bourn was too expensive, and were right to walk away. Bourn is not worth $60 million over 5 years.

Counterpoint 1: The Mets’ offer was 4 years/$48 million, not 5/$60 million. So if one is going to assess return on investment, the 4/48 figure should be used. Next, this was not a case of strategically deciding that acquiring a player was not in the best interest of the organization. Such an example would be refusing to trade Wheeler or Harvey for Justin Upton. The Bourn case is an example of gambling, and losing. The Mets figured they were the primary game in Bourn’s town, and attempted to use time, and Bourn’s uncertainty, to force Bourn/Boras to accept an offer on the Mets’ terms. All accounts suggest that the Mets and Bourn had reached an agreement on the years and dollars, and then were ready to put a case before an arbitrator to resolve the draft pick issue. Upon finding out that the case would take 2-3 weeks to resolve, Bourn walked. He walked all the way to Cleveland. If the Mets had relented, and put their best offer on the table around the beginning of February, the 2-3 week resolution time may not have been a mitigating factor to Bourn’s agreeing to playing in Queens. This one may have been mishandled by Sandy Alderson.

Point 2: Bourn does not make enough of a difference to sign him right now. The Mets are not one player away. Bourn could, at most, give the Mets 5-8 more wins, and they still won’t make the playoffs.

Counterpoint 2: The above reasoning is curious. It’s fully agreed that Bourn is NOT a savior, and that, at best, the Mets would win 5-8 more games with him. However, the Mets put a 4-year contract on the table. That’s 4 years. Bourn would still be a Met when the Mets’ plan is expected to come together, in 2014 or beyond. I simply can’t understand evaluating a 4-year signing in the first year. If the organization expects the plan to come to fruition in a year or two, Bourn would be a central piece in that plan as a CF and lead off hitter.

Point 3: It’s not wise to give contracts to players who rely on speed when they’re over 30.

Counterpoint 3: Not exactly sure when 30 year-olds qualified for the AARP. In fact, some well-known base stealers had outstanding years after age 30. From his 30th to 34th birthdays, Lou Brock stole 53, 51, 64, 63, and 70 bases. In the same years of his life, Rickey Henderson stole 77, 65, 58, 48, and 53 bases. Speed players can be productive after 30.

Point 4: Bourn strikes out to much. His OBP is not good for a lead off hitter.

Counterpoint 4: Bourn does strike out too much. His 155 Ks in 2012 are alarming. Bourn also walks only about 10% of the time, looking at BB/PA. Context is important. Is Bourn a better option at lead-off than the players the Mets have? A firm argument can be made that Bourn is a much better option than Baxter, Tejada, or Murphy, if for no other reason than Bourn’s ability to steal bases. How about this point? There would have been opportunistic benefits to having Bourn bat lead-off. His presence would have allowed the Mets to bat Tejada second, where his patience and bat control would make Ruben an even more productive player, due to his ideal slotting in the order. Also, Murphy could have been dropped to 6th, where he can drive in more runs than he can toward the top of the order. The Mets need Murphy’s “doubles ability” in a place where he can drive in more runs.

Point 5: Let Bourn walk, let’s see what other options Sandy can turn up for the OF.

Counterpoint 5: I think all fans will unite behind the idea that the Mets must improve the OF. Bourn is off the table. So, what’s the plan? Internal options (beyond Matt Den Dekker) don’t seem to be there. The 2014 FA class for OFs may include Carlos Beltran, Jeff Francoeur, and Curtis Granderson. You can see the full list here. It’s not clear that any of these players may fit the Mets’ needs and budget. Then there’s the trade route. To get a starting OF, teams will likely want youth in return. The Mets have shown a reluctance to trade the true strength of their youth, starting pitching. So if the trade route is the path to an improved OF, what pieces can the Mets trade to return quality OFs? Bourn would have solved 1/3 of the problem. It may be easier to fill two spots than three.

The debates have been fun. The outcome of the Bourn saga may not have been, for some of the fans anyway. Yes, it is time to move on. But whatever we do, let’s continue discussing The New York Mets. It’s part of being a fan, and a quality of baseball that makes the game so unique.

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Topics: Justin Upton, Matt Den Dekker, Michael Bourn

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