Michael Bourn's offseason hasn't gone exactly how the free agent center fielder dreamed of at the beginning of October. Bourn was looking for a nine figure, six year deal from a team to man center field for the majority of the rest of the decade, but hasn't found any takers. In fact, many of the top suitors for Bourn have gone in other directions, including three NL East teams (Braves, Phillies, Nationals) and a pair of NL division winners (Reds, Giants). Bourn's potential homes for 2013 have now been extremely limited, and it's anyone's best guess as to where he'll end up. Here are the few remaining possibilities for him.
Texas Rangers: Josh Hamilton's future is still in question, and while most signs point to him re-signing with Texas, there's still a possibility he could sign elsewhere (Seattle? Philadelphia?). The Rangers don't desperately need a center fielder with prospect Leonys Martin on the horizon, butboth David Murphy and Nelson Cruz will hit the free agent market next winter and signing Bourn could at least give Texas a bit of a contingency plan in case both abandon ship following Hamilton leaving town.
Seattle Mariners: Seattle could be the most likely destination for Bourn as a team that needs a solid outfielder. However, after the Chone Figgins contract went so bad for the Mariners (a player with a similar skillset as Bourn) and the Franklin Gutierrez extension went bust (same deal), Seattle might be a little wary about signing a defensive-minded, speed-based player to a long contract.
New York Mets: OK, hear me out. I don't think the Mets want anything to do with Bourn. They're paying Jason Bay $18 million to play in Seattle this year, and the disaster that was that contract is still fresh in their minds. But the Mets primary center fielder last season was Andres Torres, who had a .664 OPS. They're going into 2013 with Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who had a .691 OPS and a strikeout rate over 30% last season, as the starter. Even at the likely cost, Bourn would come as a huge upgrade to the Mets. I doubt it'll happen, but it makes sense for them to at least at a little bit of stability and defensive prowess to an outfield that was a dumpster fire on both offense and defense last season.
Chicago Cubs: The Cubs essentially didn't have a center fielder last season. Six players were regulars in center in 2012 for the club, with none logging fewer than 100 innings or more than 350 innings in the heart of the outfield. The team still really doesn't have a center fielder, despite signing Nate Schierholtz and still having David DeJesus under contract. Prospect Brett Jackson looked lost in the majors, and needs to get his swing fixed if he'll be a solid major leaguer. If the Cubs are able to trade Alfonso Soriano (who they're rumored to be shopping this winter), they could sign Bourn to replace him in the outfield and take their time with Jackson.
See what I mean? None of those four teams are a perfect fit for Bourn at all. Every team that looked like they could be a great match for Bourn went in a different direction this winter, and all that he has left are a bunch of teams who might or might not see him as a fit. Bourn and Boras might have to go the Ryan Madson route this winter, taking a one-year deal from a team and try to jump into the market again next winter. But the gamble Madson and Boras put together fell apart when Madson blew his elbow out before throwing a pitch in 2013, forcing him to sign yet another below market one-year deal this winter and probably killing any chance of him getting a Papelbon-esque contract. What if the same thing happens to Bourn in 2013, as a player whose skills are known to erode with age? If Bourn signs a one-year, $10 million contract with a team, steals under 40 bases, and takes a step back defensively, he's not going to get a six-year contract at age 31 after a season like that. However, if he has another season like 2012 next year, maybe a team will be willing to give him the contract he desires. Bourn has been a tough sell this winter, and based on what's left for him on the market, he's probably not going to get what he wants.
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