What is Michael Bourn worth? What is a steady defensive centerfielder with great speed worth on the free agent market? We’re about to find out, and it could be a lot.
The talk is that he’ll command a $100 million deal in the off-season, with Scott Boras, his agent, doing the dirty work. After seeing Boras suck $142 million out of the Red Sox for free agent outfielder Carl Crawford, perhaps nine-figures is a possibility. I have a hard time seeing that large a number come to fruition, but anything is possible, and it only takes one team to do it.
But what exactly is his value in dollars? Does he deserve to be paid like one of the top outfielders in all of baseball?
According to Fangraphs, Bourn’s WAR since 2008 – the year he became a full-time player – is 18.5. That places him 12th among all outfielders, ahead of guys like Hunter Pence, Carlos Gonzalez, Justin Upton, and the aforementioned Crawford. Since 1.0 WAR is equal to roughly $4.5 million, Bourn would be worth about $20 million-per-season using that metric. Since we all know that’s not true and teams don’t operate that way (although maybe Boras can use this as leverage) let’s compare him to some guys with similar numbers.
In the four seasons leading up to Reyes’ free agency, he hit .302/.354/.460 with an average of 26 doubles, 12 triples, nine homers and 34 steals per season. He also missed a total of 194 games with various injuries.
A more apt comparison is Chone Figgins, who signed a four-year, $36 million deal to play third base with the Seattle Mariners in the winter of 2009, the same off-season the Phillies signed Placido Polanco. Take a look at how similar the production between Bourn and Figgins was in their four seasons leading into free agency:
BA OBP SLG XBH SB Michael Bourn
Unless he breaks both legs or doesn’t get a hit the rest of the season, it’s safe to assume Bourn will get plenty more than $36 million. Reaching Reyes’ territory also seems like a long shot in my estimation, but I guess we all thought it would be impossible for Jayson Werth to get $126 million. But it happened.
It’s entirely possible Bourn gets himself a five-year deal, but what about the money? If you split the difference between Reyes and Figgins, you get $71 million over five seasons, which actually seems like a pretty fair assessment of what Bourn is worth.
Is that a number the Phillies should go to? In my opinion, I stay away. It’s not that I’m not a Bourn fan – I am – but he’ll soon be 30 and is it smart to give a guy on the other side of 30 a long-term deal? Especially with the rapidly aging roster?
There will be other outfielders on the market once the winter hits. How about B.J. Upton? Maybe he takes a lesser deal, as he’s been unable to put up steady numbers throughout his career. The talent is there, but the production has never quite matched it, at least at the plate.
Would it be crazy to think Shane Victorino returns? He never really wanted to leave and loves Philadelphia. I find it hard to believe he’ll get a five-year contract, or even a four-year deal, which is what he so desires. But Victorino at three years for a reasonable dollar figure? Might entice both sides.
Whatever the case may be, Bourn will likely get a very large offer from someone. I don’t think he’ll get $100 million, but $85 million-plus is possible. At that price, it’s best to steer clear.