August 13, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves center fielder Michael Bourn (24) runs home in the eighth inning against the San Diego Padres at Turner field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Have the Rays Already Offered Michael Bourn a Contract?


Lately we’ve heard a lot about negotiations between the New York Mets and free agent outfielder Michael Bourn. Nothing is imminent at all right now. The Mets are appealing to Major League Baseball to be able to sign Bourn, a free agent tied to draft pick compensation, without surrendering their first round draft pick, with the logic being that even though they pick 11th in the 2013 MLB Draft with only the top 10 picks being protected, they were among the worst 10 records in baseball from 2012. But before that happens, the Mets need to get Bourn and agent Scott Boras to agree to a contract they deem reasonable in order to make a deal happen. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported that Scott Boras has told the Mets that Bourn has “attractive offers elsewhere,” and the Mets have challenged him to prove that those offers actually exist. Who could possibly be the teams that Boras is referencing? There can’t be too many teams interested in Bourn at this point. The Texas Rangers have been mentioned repeatedly as a possible suitor for him, but they appear to be ready to let a group led by Craig Gentry and Leonys Martin compete for starting roles (or we might see Jurickson Profar seize a starting role out of spring training with others moving around to accommodate him). The Indians reportedly have interest, but only if Bourn’s price goes down significantly. Who else is there?

One team that has been discussed as a possible sleeper suitor for Bourn has been the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays would seem like an illogical fit for Bourn on several different levels. The first factor is obviously the money- the Rays have never been a team known to give lucrative long-term deals to anyone not named Evan Longoria- and then there’s the fact that the Rays place a premium on the draft and player development and it’s hard to see them give up a first round pick to sign a free agent. Aside from all of that, the Rays appear to have a full outfield now with Desmond Jennings and Matthew Joyce manning two spots and either Ben Zobrist or Kelly Johnson occupying the third- and that goes without saying that top prospect Wil Myers should arrive in the major leagues at some point during the season. But if the right opportunity arises, the Rays might sign Bourn despite all those factors. The Rays are not the team that is going to give Bourn a big multi-year deal. But what if they offered him something like a 1-year, 12 million dollar contract to reestablish his value and go back on the market next year? Bourn would cost them a draft pick, but they have two first rounders this year thanks to B.J. Upton replacing Bourn in Atlanta, and if the opportunity arose to sign a player the caliber of Bourn at the right price, it’s hard to believe that the Rays would use players like Kelly Johnson and James Loney as excuses not to sign him. In Bourn’s eyes, they certainly will not be giving him the contract he deserves, but he would be signing with the organization that values his talents- speed and defense- most highly, will guarantee him their leadoff spot, and although Tropicana Field is certainly not a hitter’s haven, it’s a ballpark that fits for Bourn’s abilities as he’ll be able to rack up plenty of triples. Would Boras and Bourn be willing to settle for the Rays? Signing a 1-year, $12MM contract would probably be like pulling teeth for them, but if no other options present themselves, it may be something that they would take.

Even if the Rays have offered Bourn the best 1-year deal they could offer, maybe its only purpose will be as leverage against teams like the Mets and Rangers. But with so few options available and Boras pursuing every avenue to find a suitor for Bourn, the Rays are emerging as a real option, and if there’s a dark horse in the discussions for Bourn, it is clearly them.

Tags: Michael Bourn New York Mets Tampa Bay Rays

  • phattitudes

    This team still has needs and adding a 1yr 12 million dollar centerfielder is not one of them. This is not the time to abandon the plan, whatever the plan is. Bourn is a non fit to all that has been done this offseason. He clogs up the outfield situation. The Rays have big needs but they are offensive. A proven defensive center fielder is a plus but not above their offensive needs. Needs like a right handed platoon at 1B. Needs like that oft discussed but missing “big bat” addition. Let’s focus on addressing those needs rather than being a pawn in a Scott Boras drama. Also, let Wil Myers be what he is, an unproven bonus and hopefully a future star. We already have too many things we need to go right such as 9 of our 13 hitters trying to put disappointing years behind them and again at least reach their career norms in OBP, SLG, and OPS. Adding a “big bat” who is not coming off a bad year would be sweet. At this point this is only available via a trade and that won’t happen until we see how things gel in spring training. I’ld rather bundle some too good to pass package to Minnesota for Willingham, who actually is a “big bat”.

    • Robbie_Knopf

      My response to that is that if the Rays can get another proven bat in their lineup the issue of getting right-hand hitters in the game to replace guys like Loney should resolve itself naturally. Bourn is a lefty hitter, but he had very little platoon split in 2012 (.745 OPS vs. RHP, .728 vs. LHP), and if the Rays had him in the lineup they could have a lineup versus lefties of something like this.

      1. Bourn CF
      2. Jennings LF
      3. Zobrist 1B
      4. Longoria 3B
      5. Joyce RF
      6. Roberts 2B
      7, Scott DH
      8. Molina C
      9. Escobar SS

      That would allow them to shuffle out whichever lefty hitters (i.e. Joyce, Loney, Scott, and Kelly Johnson) couldn’t hit same-side hitters. More impressive would be their lineup versus right-handed pitching.

      1. Bourn CF
      2. Jennings LF
      3. Zobrist 2B
      4. Longoria 3B
      5. Joyce RF
      6. Scott DH
      7. Loney 1B
      8. Molina C
      9. Escobar SS

      Obviously none of that matters if the Mets do elect to give Bourn a big multi-year deal. But Bourn’s abilities are certainly something the Rays could use, and although Bourn ending up in Tampa Bay is unlikely, if things play out the right way, it might just happen.

      • phattitudes

        Without Bourn, here is how the Rays stack up offensively.

        Against right handers,the Rays have 6 hitters with above average career OBP (Joyce, Longoria, Scott, Loney, Escobar, and Zobrist). Of those six 3 have an above average OPS (Longoria, Scott, and Joyce). Our catchers are below average across the board. Therefore to fill out the lineup we take the 2 next best “average” players who are K. Johnson and Jennings. Not a terrible offensive group and it covers all the positions.

        Against let handers, these same players yield 4 with above average OBP (Longoria, Jennings, Zobrist, and Escobar). Of those only Longoria and Zobrist have above average OPS. The problem is that Joyce, Loney, and Scott are all below average in OBP with Joyce and Loney also being below average in OPS. These are all candidates for platooning to improve the situation, Of the experienced players currently on the 40 man roster the best 3 candidates are Rodrigues, Roberts, and Duncan. Rodriguez and Roberts are both above average OBP and average OPS and Duncan is average in OBP and OPS. This would leave us with a line up of 6 above average OBP hitters and only 2 with above average OPS. K. Johnson and Duncan would give you 2 average players to fill out the lineup (sans catcher), Having only 2 above average OPS players means the middle of our order is weak. You are vulnerable to pitching around our strength especially if someone is hurt or in a slump. Ergo the professed need to add a high OBP + OPS bat to beef up the order.

        Bourn’s career splits in OBP and OPS are .350 and .727 vs right handers and .306 and .647 against left handers. Therefore he have an above average OBP against right hander and an average OPS but a below average OBP and OPS against left handers. Therefore he does nothing to address our problem against left hander and is in fact an offensive drain, While against right handers he is an upgrade to our weakest link who happens to be Jennings. So if we had 12M sitting around and wanted a platoon center fielder who is great defensively, we go get him. I still say it makes no sense for the Rays. If you add Bourn you lose one of our potential right handed platoon players and make us that much weaker against left handers.

        • Robbie_Knopf

          MIchael Bourn’s game isn’t just a halfway-decent OPS- he’s a great speed and defense guy, and by the way, he’s been just as good versus lefty as righties the past two years, reversing issues from earlier in his career. Rodriguez, meanwhile, fell off a cliff in 2012, so he’s not really an option. Roberts would still be in the lineup, and Duncan still isn’t really a known commodity. And by the way, Johnson has really fallen off versus lefties the past three years as he has sold out for power, so sitting him versus lefties would not be a bad thing. The benefits of signing Bourn easily outweigh the players he would displace- don’t quote career OPS and think that you’re seeing the entire picture. The only reason that it almost definitely won’t happen is the money.

          • phattitudes

            I agree Bourn is a great speed and defense guy. He is an asset as a leadoff hitter. He even had a good balanced year in 2012 that bettered his career stats. Maybe his vs righties stats justify his 12M salary. Two thirds of the games are against righties. canHowever his vs lefty stat for 2011 were an OBP of .295 and a OPS of .645. that’s not even average. His 2010 stats were worse than that. Players tend to revert to their norm which would project Bourn for a down year in 2013.

            I also agree that “weapons” like Rodriguez, Roberts, K. Johnson, Escobar, and Loney are nothing to brag about. However they all feature common Rays traits. They are coming off of bad or even miserable years where they underperformed. They are bargains who have shown glimpses of respectability in their past. They Rays are counting on them reverting toward their norms which in all cases would be to improve. If it were my team I would rather have picked up Loche, Pierzynski, and maybe a A. Soriano to add real punch to this lineup. However we have whom we have and we have to take advantage of their limited strengths avoid their weaknesses if possible. Even that useless piece of trash Rodriguez in all his ineptness managed a .368 OBP vs lefties in 2012 which was 3rd behind Longoria and Zobrist on the roster of remaining players. Other than that he has little value other that his ability to play 7 positions as a defensive sub. Now if a Guyer or Myers can’t be held off the opening day roster, it’s bye bye S Rod, but until then he is one of the few tools we have that has shown something of value vs left handers.

            Bottom line is that I agree – go Mets, sign Broun to a multiyear contract if possible and hopefully he will make 2012 look like an off year. Meanwhile in the Rays camp, we will be on our knees hoping the gang that couldn’t hit strait ( Rodriguez, Roberts, K. Johnson, Escobar, and Loney) comes through in their strength areas across the board and carries us over the top. Such is the life of a Rays fan. Hey last year we almost go there with absolutely no offense for a major portion of the season. It’s smoke and mirrors, go Rays.

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