Sept 12, 2012; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Atlanta Braves center fielder Michael Bourn (24) makes a diving catch of ball hit by Milwaukee Brewers center fielder Logan Schafer (not pictured) in the fourth inning at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Revisiting The Possibility Of A Michael Bourn Signing

At this point, the Rays are known to be searching for a designated hitter and for another piece for their bullpen. In addition, it has recently come to light that the Rays may also be in search of a center fielder. While the Rays had originally been expected to either shift Desmond Jennings to center, or play Sam Fuld on a more consistent basis, that appears to no longer be the case.

Naturally, given the list of free agent possibilities at center, one name stands out above any other: Michael Bourn. Bourn, who was a player that we originally looked at a month ago, is one of four players listed primarily as a center fielder that happen to be available, along with Scott Podsednik, Grady Sizemore, and Nyjer Morgan. Obviously, given the difference in talent, Bourn would seem the player most likely to sign someplace.

Yet, there are a couple of major differences. First, Bourn is represented by Scott Boras, who is, given his track record, looking to squeeze every last cent out of any interested teams. Second, as a player that declined the qualifying offer that the Atlanta Braves offered him, any team that signs Bourn would be giving up a compensatory draft pick. Normally, both situations would appear to automatically preclude the Rays from signing Bourn, but that may not be the case.

As B.J. Upton departed for, interestingly enough, the Braves, the Rays are entitled to a compensatory pick of their own. Given that the Rays would still have a first round pick should they sign Bourn, they may have a bit more interest. Next, there really are not a lot of teams that would appear to need his services at this point. With the departure of Josh Hamilton, the Rangers could use a center fielder, but Bourn is very similar to Elvis Andrus. The Mariners could be a possibility, yet they appear to be more concerned with stockpiling first base/DH/corner outfield types than in filling the holes in their roster. As it stands, the Rays may be the only team that specifically could use a center fielder at this point.

Even though the Rays could theoretically use a center fielder should they decide to keep Jennings in left, would Bourn make much sense in their lineup? While the Rays could use another bat in the middle of their lineup, they also love speed and defense – two traits that Bourn has. In his career, he has led the National League in stolen bases three times, and has not had under 40 steals in any year that he has been a regular starter. He has also won two Gold Glove awards and, excluding a 2011 season that appears to be an aberration, has consistently been an excellent defensive center fielder.

Bourn could also add an interesting wrinkle to the Rays lineup with he and Jennings hitting first and second, as constant threats upon the basepaths. Bourn has stolen bases at an 81% success rate over his career, while Jennings has been successful 84% of the time. The continual threat of either player, or both, taking off may cause distractions to whoever is on the mound at the time, and may give the Rays the opportunity for the big inning that was lacking so often last year.

Although the idea of Michael Bourn signing with the Rays may have seemed far-fetched at the start of free agency, with each passing day it appears to become a bit more feasible. Perhaps, at the end of the day, the Rays emerge as that ‘mystery team’ so prevalent in free agency rumors, and wind up with a duo atop their lineup that can burn up the basepaths.

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Tags: Michael Bourn Tampa Bay Rays

  • Dave L

    Although in 2013 we are so far destined to be a small ball team and Michael Bourn being the ultimate small ball player, he would be a perfect fit, but unfortunately his stock will never drop to a point where we could/would pay him.

    At the end of the day Bourn will sign for around what we will pay DP($10M this year, for 1 year), to a multi year deal. The only question being for how many years.

    By my estimation SS has given AF somewhere between $6 to $9M more to fill out the entire roster and we still need a DH/part time RH first baseman and a bullpen lefty specialist. Can’t get all that and a 7 figure free agent to boot.

    The M’s or somebody will snatch Bourn up before he drops to double what we would pay him.

    Look at the Rays post-Patthebat history.

    Our free agents signings are always coming off of down/injury years where we look for value. Its always C-grade cuts of beef never prime or grade A

    • Dave Hill

      I tend to agree with you, but they do have another $25Million coming in the near future from the new television deal. To me, the reason why he wouldn’t end up there will be the years. He’s 30, and a speed guy – most of them don’t age well as they lose a step or two.
      It seems that he’s looking for around 5 years, which is probably two more than the Rays would likely want to sign him for.

    • Robbie_Knopf

      We need a DH, but don’t count out Brandon Guyer for the right-hand hitting outfield role- Zobrist could slide to first base with outfield of Fuld, Jennings, Joyce from left to right. Also, we really don’t need a lefty reliever (McGee and Ramos should be just fine), and there’s a pretty good chance at least one of the three relievers the Rays just signed to minor league deals (Juan Sandoval, Jaime Wright, Juan Oviedo but he’s hurt) will make the opening day roster and be fine in middle relief (and then there’s Alex Torres, Brandon Gomes, Josh Lueke, and Dane De La Rosa as well). The Rays have one real signing left to do, to get a DH, but I don’t think their remaining needs will preclude them from pursuing Bourn if the price comes down enough. Will it? The chances are, no. But the more time passes, the more likely it gets, and even if the odds are 100 to 1, there’s a real chance it could come together.

  • Jason Nereim

    We wouldn’t really be losing a pick depending on how you look at it. If we sign him to a one year deal and then offer him a qualifying offer, we’ll get a pick next year. If this draft is weak, then maybe a similar pick next year will be of better value.

    Rays could afford to sign Bourn, trade for Smoak and sign a couple of bullpen arms within budget, especially after deferring 4 million of Price’s 2013 salary.

  • Mike Shimazu

    The Rays should take any money they would think of using to rent Bourne for a year, and put it in a little box labeled “David Price 2014″.

    • Jason Nereim

      The Rays already did the opposite, they deferred four million of his salary this season. That gives the Rays extra money to work with this offseason.

      • Mike Shimazu

        Price isn’t traded yet, and that money could still come due. If they wan’t to hold out for a big haul of prospects, the Rays need the flexibility to keep him next season.