Bourn Fits in Flushing

Bourn Fits in Flushing

As the last Sunday in January bears it’s ugly head, Michael Bourn remains the only star free agent left on the board. Bourn, a Scott Boras client, was speculated to be in line for a 5-year contract estimated to be worth $15M per year. However, as the days creep closer to spring training and Bourn finds himself without a team, the Mets have several gaping holes that Bourn would help to fill.

  1. The Leadoff Spot: What do Andres Torres, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Ruben Tejada, and Mike Baxter all have in common? They all led off for the New York Mets in 2012. The absence of Jose Reyes has meant that the Mets have played musical chairs with the spot and will continue to do so in 2013 barring any major acquisitions. Although Bourn’s career OBP is only marginally better than Ruben Tejada’s, Bourn brings the element of speed back into the spot. Bourn’s 40+ stolen bases in 4 consecutive seasons makes him one of only several players to accomplish the feat, and would certainly be welcome in Flushing. Bourn would have the gap-happy Daniel Murphy hitting behind him and could end up being a huge asset out of the leadoff spot.
  2. Outfield Defense: I understand that Sandy Alderson’s promised “Wholesale roster changes” that were promised as the 2012 season concluded had some difficulty seeing the light of day, but the one thing that needs to be touched upon is the outfield. If the season were to start today, the defensive alignment would be Lucas Duda manning left, Kirk Nieuwenhuis patrolling center, and Mike Baxter taking care of right. All 3 players posted a combined -3.1 defensive WAR in the outfield, a number that is unacceptable at the major league level. While Lucas Duda will be less of a liability in left field (and one can make the strong argument that he shouldn’t be in the outfield at all unless his bat explodes), Bourn’s 3.0 dWAR not only replaces Nieuwenhuis’ deficit, but it neutralizes the deficiency. The numbers don’t always work out evenly, but Bourn would hypothetically not only assist in center but would also help to take the burden off of Lucas Duda if he’s moseying out in left field. A combination of Baxter/Cowgill/Brown/Nieuwenhuis in left could be the best case scenario if Bourn were to be added.
  3. Outfield Help: Michael Bourn is an All-Star center fielder. The Mets need outfield help. Does this sound familiar to the defensive section I just wrote about? It’s because it ties in quite well. If the Mets were to start the season today, their ceiling would be a league average outfield with a realistic outcome being one of the worst outfields the Mets have ever fielded. That’s not to say that platoons of  Lucas Duda/Andrew Brown and Mike Baxter/Colin Cowgill couldn’t hypothetically explode and produce numbers akin to the Oakland Atheltics of 2012 (…or maybe that’s exactly what’s being said), but in all likelihood the Mets need the bat in their outfield. The Mets need an established presence in the outfield to improve the entirety of the outfield, not a platoon at every position.
  4. Lineup Depth: Come June, an ideal offensive lineup would consist of: Bourn CF, Murphy 2B, Wright 3B, Davis 1B, Duda LF, d’Arnaud C, Baxter/Cowgill/Brown/Nieuwenhuis RF, Tejada SS. Call me crazy, but Bourn’s presence at the top of the lineup is far more intimidating than having Tejada, Cowgill, Baxter, or Nieuwenhuis lead things off.
  5. Where’s The Help?: The Mets are in the middle of retooling their team to compete in 2014 and beyond, and if all things swing their way they could see some of their success begin to pay off this year. That said, the one major area of concern has to be the lack of outfield help on the way. The Mets have a system loaded with young and promising pitching prospects, but they lack outfield depth. Wilmer Flores is a name that’s often mentioned as being tried as an outfielder thanks to his offensive prowess, but he has been deemed a third/second baseman heading into the 2013 campaign and would not come close to being able to patrol Citi Fields’ center field. Matt Den Dekker is a defensive center fielder who should see time with the big league club this year, but Dekker has yet to make the offensive adjustments to AAA and is considered a late bloomer. Juan Lagares is interesting, but it remains to be seen if he’ll stick in center. There’s hope for Brandon Nimmo, but depending on his development won’t be see playing at Citi Field until 2015 at the earliest. That leaves 2013 and 2014 wide open in hopes that a draft pick with one full season of professional experience can become the long term solution in center field. That’s a lot to gamble, perhaps more so than a 3-4 year commitment to Michael Bourn.

The biggest question surrounding Michael Bourn and the Mets involves the Mets 1st round draft pick, which became unprotected after the Pittsburgh Pirates failed to sign Mark Appel during the 2012 draft. There have been reports that the Mets have “no interest” in signing Michael Bourn if they need to surrender a 1st round draft pick in order to do so. Prospects are what they are: Prospects until they’ve competed and accomplished in the major leagues. I’m a huge fan of watching and monitoring player development, but I’m also big on achieving big league success when a window of opportunity opens to take a step forward. Would a 11th pick even net a positive result several years into the future? Here are the #11 picks from the 2002-2009 drafts (since it’s too early to call on anything after).

2002: Jeremy Hermida
Although Hermida has been in the show since 2005, he has only once posted a WAR above 1.0. He has shuffled between the majors and minors since 2010.

2003: Michael Aubrey
Although Aubrey came with high expectations, he collected only 145 major league plate appearances and is no longer in affiliated baseball. 

2004: Neil Walker
The current 2B for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Walker has emerged as a full time player.

2005: Andrew McCutchen
Not much needs to be said about McCutchen, who posted MLB caliber numbers the past 2 years and is the face of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

2006: Max Scherzer
Scherzer had a career year for the Detroit Tigers this year, posting an impressive 11.1 K/9 rate. A staple in Detroit’s rotation.

2007: Phillipe Aumont
A pitcher in the Philadelphia Phillies organization, Aumont made his major league debut in 2012. A highly touted prospect, Aumont had a bit of a disappointing minor league season in 2012 but managed to notch 2 saves for the Phils.

2008: Justin Smoak
Although Smoak has come with a lot of hype, he has yet to truly adjust to major league pitching as many thought he would when he was packaged to Seattle for Cliff Lee. Smoak has impressive minor league numbers and had flurries of success in 2012, but it remains to be seen if Smoak can breakout at the major league level.

2009: Tyler Matzek
A pitcher in the Colorado Rockies’ system, Matzek was a highly touted prospect but has slipped in the ranks due to his poor performance. Matzek posted a 4.62 ERA in A+ ball last year as a 21 year old, so there’s still time to improve.

When one examines the list, only 3 names stick out as big time contributors to their major league club: McCutchen, Walker, and Scherzer. When one examines  the #11 pick 3 years prior to 2002 (2001, 2000, and 1999), they’ll find the names Kenny Baugh, Dave Krynzel, and Ryan Christianson. Not household names, eh?

Effectively, I believe this accurately portrays how the draft, despite its importance, is still largely unpredictable. By the small sample size of the last 10 years, there’s a 30% chance that the Mets 2013 pick turns into an All-Star, and a 60% chance that he cracks the major league club. Michael Bourn is a bonafide star that the Mets desperately need and should be pursued even if he ends up costing the club their 1st round selection.