When the Phillies traded Shane Victorino at the trade deadline earlier this season, it left them with a gaping hole in center field -- and unlike when they said goodbye to Aaron Rowand in 2007 -- one that couldn't be easily filled. Despite John Mayberry Jr.'s ability to play the position, the Phillies aren't likely to fill that spot from inside the organization.
Michael Bourn, the speedy outfielder who cut his teeth with the Phillies before being traded to the Astros in the Brad Lidge deal following the 2007 season, will likely be one of the most sought-after free agents this winter, thanks to his speed, his ability to hit for average and his great defense. And thanks to that void in center, he figures to be a fine choice to replace Victorino...right?
Wrong. At least, if what CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury says is true, in that Bourn (and his agent, Scott Boras) is looking for a $100-million contract.
So, yeah, you can go ahead mark this one under the "slim to none and slim left town and was promptly crushed by an avalanche" header. Although he had as much to do with the Phillies winning the World Series as, say, Adam Eaton (due in part to the trade that brought Lidge and The Unhittable Slider to Philly for one glorious season), Bourn's not worth the cost. At all.
This is not an unexpected turn of events, given that Boras has a penchant for striking very lucrative deals for his clients. In light of that, it's a buyer's market for teams needing outfielders, and he isn't the only talented outfielder that will be available. Sure, he can get on base at a decent clip (.348 OBP since 2009) and steal bags (at least 40 a season since 2008), but he can't hit for power (22 homers lifetime). But, as a leadoff hitter, he doesn't really need to, so long as he saves those runs with his glove.
That being said, please, Ruben Amaro Jr., stay away. Far, far away. I like Bourn, and it would be swell to have a leadoff man who can actually take a pitch, but not at that cost. Plus, he's knocking on 30, and the last thing the Phillies need to do is hand out another huge contract to a player who won't provide fair value over the life of the deal.
On a team where age didn't matter and where money was unlimited, then, yeah, Bourn would be a nice player to have in your lineup for the first two or three years of what is expected to be six- or seven-year deal. But on this planet, where the Phillies have a need to get younger and more cost effective, Bourn is just another player who is going to get a lot of money to play baseball. Let's just hope it's not the Phillies who are signing the checks.
Update: As if the thought of overpaying a speedy centerfielder with no power for the next five-plus years wasn't reason enough to not sign him, maybe this will be: The Atlanta Braves have made a $13.3-million qualifying offer to Bourn, meaning the Phillies would have to forfeit their first-round pick if they were to sign the free-agent outfielder.