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Bourn on the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario

Bourn on the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario
February 12, 2013
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I can't help but feel a bit like I'm "Bourn Free" standing here at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario. Why, you ask? Do you really have to?

The Cleveland Indians just signed Michael Bourn, and with it, we'll be stuck with every bad Bourn pun on the planet, and I'll be happy to oblige you with a few more in 2013, and 2014, and 2015, and 2016, and if everything goes well, in 2017 too.

That’s a hard statement to fathom.

What’s even harder to fathom is that the Indians signed Michael Bourn to a four-year, $48 million deal, with a vesting option for a fifth year to the tune of another $12 million.

That’s on top of the $6 million that the Indians used to sign Mark Reynolds.

That’s on top of the $11 million that the Indians will pay Nick Swisher this year (and the potential $59 million afterwards).

That’s on top of the $7 million that the Indians will pay Brett Myers this year.

That’s $36 million for the top four free agent signings that the Indians made this season, to go along with many more millions and millions of dollars over the course of the next several years.

That’s not even counting the multitude of players that the Indians have signed to smaller deals, minor league deals and acquired in trades. The Indians were abundantly aggressive, and on paper, it has paid off.

There isn’t a bigger free agent signing than Terry Francona. Without the new Indians manager, you have to believe that none of this happens. Take Bourn for example. He reportedly chose the Indians over the Mets after both reportedly offered him the same base deal. The Indians did offer him an option year, while the Mets reportedly didn’t, and the Mets also seemed to be hedging based on the loss of their draft pick, but in the past, it would have been a lock that the Indians would have lost out on the All-Star centerfielder.

Something would have happened.

Again, it didn’t. The stars all aligned, and the Scott Boras client became a member of the Cleveland Indians, and for a sizeable contract.

The Indians signed two of the top three free-agent outfielders in baseball. Welcome to the twilight zone.

Michael Bourn is a fantastic baseball player. Bourn, 30, had a .274/.348/.391 slash last season, with 26 doubles, 10 triples, nine homers, 57 RBI, 96 runs and 42 stolen bases last season for the Atlanta Braves. He was an all-star last year in Atlanta for the second time in his career, and is a two time gold-glove player.

Bourn will be the Indians brand new lead-off hitter, and the signing fundamentally changes the line-up of this baseball team. The versatility of what the Indians can now do with their line-up is extremely interesting. There are three base scenarios defensively that the Indians may utilize now that the fleet outfielder is in the fold:

  1. Bourn plays center, Stubbs moves to right, with Brantley moving to left. Swisher moves to first base, while Mark Reynolds becomes the primary DH. This works on several levels, and gives the Indians perhaps the best defensive outfield in baseball. It certainly allows them the ability to cover the entire outfield, and perhaps the entire East Coast.
  2. Bourn plays center, making Stubbs an uber-utility fourth outfielder for the Indians. Bourn, Brantley and Swisher all hit righties at a much better clip than Stubbs, and the Indians could now pick and choose when the speedy Stubbs plays. In this situation, Stubbs would play multiple games every week, either moving one of the outfielders to another position (DH or in Swisher’s case, 1B), or give them an off day. Stubbs can be protected, giving him an outstanding opportunity to succeed.
  3. The Indians could be gearing up to flip Stubbs for their biggest need right now, starting pitching. The Mets were clearly trying to acquire Bourn, and would be interested in Stubbs because of his defensive ability and manageable price. In return, the Indians would be looking at a Mets starting pitcher. The Mets have been hedging on dealing their prospects, but there are starters that are at least intriguing, including Dillon Gee.

Personally, Drew Stubbs shouldn’t go anywhere yet. He provides the Indians with exactly what they didn’t have last season in the outfield, and that’s depth. Last season, the Indians not only didn’t have depth, but barely enough to start. Hold on to Stubbs for now, give him his chances to succeed, then perhaps swing a trade for him at the trade deadline when his demand is magnified. At the very least, this gives the Indians protection against injury throughout the start of the year. At most, the Indians will have an opportunity to pick up a better starter than is available now when a team that’s out of the playoff chase is looking to dump salary.

As versatile as this team is defensively, the offensive side of things really does get interesting. The only given right now is Bourn leading off. Past that, the Indians and Terry Francona have a multitude of options, depending on who’s in the lineup.

A batting lineup with Bourn, Kipnis, ACab, Santana, Swisher, Brantley, Reynolds, Chisenhall, and Stubbs/Aviles seems to be the most logical looking ahead, but I could see alterations from the #2 slot all the way to #9, depending on what Francona wants to do. The new Indians’ skipper was pretty adamant in early press conferences that he wanted a stable line-up going forward, so he’ll find what works and stick with it. It will be interesting to watch this develop over the next 1 ½ months. I’m sure there will be some fluidity with regards to the batting order, but this offense has everything that you could possibly want.

There’s power, speed, and most important, depth. Stubbs and Mike Aviles become the primary utility guys off the bench, and the competition for the final three bench slots should be fierce. The Indians will no longer be picking off the scrap heap for players. There will be a true competition, and with Francona at the helm, the 25-man roster should be solid, offensively anyways.

The Indians most definitely aren’t done this offseason, and inevitably, the name Kyle Lohse will pop up. I jokingly commented on the Indians being “in play” for Kyle Lohse, but the more I thought about it, the more a reality that the chances are. I spent a good amount of time talking to site owner and senior editor, Tony Lastoria last night, and a comment he made really stuck with me. “There’s no way the Indians didn’t talk to Scott Boras about Michael Bourn, without also talking about Kyle Lohse.”

That’s definitively true.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Indians’ conversations didn’t begin with Lohse, before turning to Bourn. So, why would the Indians sign Bourn, where they would have a surplus of players, instead of Lohse?

There’s no doubt that years and age played a massive part of this. This is likely Kyle Lohse’s last big contract, and I have to believe he’s looking for at least a three-year deal, if not more. I think the Indians would be on board with anything less than three at this point, and while I think money still matters, I have to believe that if he can be had on a one or two-year deal, the Indians would be in play.

The funny thing about it is that if you really squint your eyes at the Tribe rotation, there’s some potential there. I’ve already talked ad nauseum about this staff, but do think they could be a very good, consistent group. Is Lohse a #1 guy? That’s actually debatable, but at worst, he fits right in.

I think that at this point, I don’t have to prove to anyone that the Indians are in play with every free agent out there that isn’t trying to make $200 million dollars.

The Indians are no doubt talking trades with teams. While I’m not an insider by any stretch, when you work with Tony and IBI, you bump into several different people that “hear things.” Everything I’m hearing this morning is saying the while the Indians aren’t actively shopping anyone, they are listening to offers, and we aren’t just talking the obvious candidate.

Drew Stubbs immediately became “expendable” in the eyes of a few experts, but I actually believe the reports that the Indians plan on keeping him. As I mentioned before, his value will increase exponentially if he plays well by the trade deadline, but that’s only if the Indians feel they can get a need. I’d personally keep him, but it would be hard to pass up a quality starter, or even a top prospect you can stash in Columbus.

Could Bourn make even Asdrubal Cabrera a little more expendable? Again, I say no to that question. The Indians lineup is as full as it’s been in many years, and part of that is how, as Tony and I have been talking about for the past year, the Indians have extended the order. There are weaknesses, but not many, and Cabrera in the front of the midde-of-the-order is a key to it. Cabrera has never had the opportunity to be a part of a lineup in which he won’t necessarily be the focus. With less stress, he could have the type of season that many predicted for him last year.

With that said, if a team comes knocking with a deal that could give the Indians a top-of-the-rotation starter, could they pass it up? They could, but with Bourn added to the lineup, Cabrera leaving wouldn’t decimate the offense. Mike Aviles, is a capable back-up, and with a two-year deal, could bridge this team to pipeline of shortstops behind him.

I don’t want to see it happen, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world.

Don’t forget about Chris Perez either. I could see a scenario in which the Indians acquire another pitcher, then try and move Perez so that Myers could potentially be moved to the bullpen. Again, I don’t think there is a front-burner type of move out there, but now the Indians are actually playing with an abundance of talent at the big league level, and a move could definitely be had.

I’ve never been a fan of the Dolans, and whether or not that’s fair or not isn’t really the point. What is the point is that they are dishing out money this season to win baseball games. At this point, there can be no doubt about it. I’m not sure how it happened. I’m not sure what happened, but something did. Perhaps it was a fleeting chance thanks to one Terry Francona. Perhaps bringing in a guy that was with one of the best organizations in baseball in the past decade was enough to change the entire mentality of the organization. Perhaps there is more to it than that, but I have to give the Dolans props here. They are spending the money they need to spend to win. One hot stove season won’t fix my overall feelings, but has some faith been restored?

You bet.

So, how will the fans turn out? I honestly don’t know. I’m a rabid fan, and there’s no doubt that if I lived back in the area, I’d be at 20-30 games a year at least, regardless of how good or bad this team is. I can safely say that now, I’d buy season tickets. I’m still in shock and awe that the Indians got Bourn. If you remember, last week, I spent a good piece of the Corner saying that the only way it would happen is if they signed him to a ridiculously low deal…under $5 million. While the Indians got him at a “deal,” they didn’t get him cheaply.

I’m utterly shocked.

Now, I know us Cleveland fans well enough to know that the Bourn signing, or any of the signings, isn’t going to be enough for some. Inevitably, there are always going to be naysayers.

I won’t be one of them.

I do remember, however, that they haven’t won a game yet. They still have to play the game on the field, and ultimately, that will be the deciding factor. But, this team should be fun to watch.

Don’t forget about Lonnie Chisenhall. You want to talk about a guy with no pressure, batting seventh or eighth, who could put up big numbers? Look no further than the Indians third baseman. This lineup now provides Chisenhall with so much protection, that whatever he gives the Indians is icing on the cake. I really think about Jason Kipnis in much the same way. The focus on the team is now Bourn, Cabrera, Swisher, Santana, Brantley and Reynolds. While the focus may be on the visible stars, the key to the lineup may be the youngsters we’ve been following for years. Now, they are a bit protected.

For Kipnis, he’s not carrying the team.

For Chisenhall, he has Aviles to give him off days against particularly tough pitchers.

The offense has a ridiculous amount of riches at this point. No, it’s not the ’27 Yankees, but it certainly is a top ten line-up in baseball, or at least could be.

By the way, have you looked at the outfield lately? When's the next free agent year for any of the four potential starters? Yeah...crazy...

Shelly who?

Aaron "Freakin" what?

I could go on forever about the Bourn deal, as the impact of this deal goes far beyond the team on the field, but will end it here before it turns into another 4,000 word diatribe about the daily musings of this team. What I will say is that it’s a pretty good day to be an Indians’ fan. So soak it all in folks, because the 2013 season is upon us. Pitchers and catchers reported on Sunday, while the rest of the team reports tomorrow, and this is a team that has a whole lot more in the cupboard than they did last September.

The hell with Punxatawny Phil...Titletown Terry is predicting a sunny 2013...

Ten days until the Indians play their first spring training game in Arizona, against the Cincinnati Reds…

 

Jim is currently the senior editor and Columnist, as well as  the host of IBI's weekly online radio shows, Smoke Signals and Cleveland Sports Insiders. You can follow Jim on Twitter @Jim_IBI, or contact him via e-mail at jpete@indiansprospectinsider.com.

User Comments

Budi
February 14, 2013 - 7:03 PM EST
Now it is time to dance with a trade to get a good pitcher to solidify rotation. Look forward for the Dolans to sell the Indians to a much richer buyer. Investing in good players is a way for the Dolans to increase the selling price.
Rich
February 13, 2013 - 4:43 PM EST
Let me just flesh out that Boss song lyric:

Someday fans, I don't know when (but I'm guessing 2015)
We're gonna get to that place where we really want to go (the World Series)
But til then tramps like us, baby we were Bourn to run.
Jwahoo
February 12, 2013 - 5:49 PM EST
What they have done is amazing.

We already had a solid young core of an infield with Chisenhall, Asdrubal, Kipnis and Santana now we have added Swisher as our 1st baseman a huge hole is now plugged for at least 4 years. When you add in Aviles, Raburn and Marson thats an awesome infield with depth.

We had huge holes in the outfield with no hope in sight except Naquin and Washington. Now our outfield is set for at least the next 3 years with Brantley, Bourn and Stubbs. Stubbs could eventually end up in a platoon with Tyler Naquin. Plus, you have you could always move Swisher back to Right Field and find some vet to play 1st. Levon Washington does not have to be the next Lofton now and can perhaps become the 4th outfield guy at some point. A role that I think would suite him rather wel.

With Hafner leaving we also had a major hole at DH. Now we have an awesome rotation for DH. Reynolds can play there most of the time but we also picked up Chris McGuiness who might be the long term solution at DH. He can also play 1st and Left Field. Then you can sit guys and have Aviles or Raburn sub for them in the field as well as have Marson catch and Santana move to DH to keep him healthy and in shape. We just have an awesome and diverse lineup that is set for the next 3 years. Only Asdrubal is a FA in 2015 but we have Lindor, Wolters, and Ronnie all waiting in the wings. Plus, I have to think we move Asdrubal for young starting pitching at some point next offseaon.


Then you look at the bench and just the guys we have brought in on minor league deals to ensure we have healthy and productive bench that is an extension of the starting 9. Aviles is obviously the big guy. He could start for alot of teams and can play multiple positions making sure everyone stays rested. Lou Marson is a solid back up catcher who I feel still has upside. I think he calls a good game, started to show some discipline last year and if he can just develop a little power could become one of the games better back up catchers. Ryan Raburn might be the steal of the offseason. When healthy is basically your solid average everyday grinder. He could hit around .270 with 15 homers. He can play both infield and outfield and gives us a very nice utility player. They also brought in McGuiness a young guy with some nice pop from the left side. Exactly the type of guy you want to back up Stubbs and Reynolds and give us some pop off the bench.

Thats not all though. We also brought in Ben Francisco, Jeremy Herrridea, Jason Giambi, Mike Mcade and still have Chord Phelps and Z Carrera. Thats a nice mix of playrers to provide depth and some competition for the last bench spots. Maybe we will even bring in Ryan Theriot as well. Its a nice mix of young gus like Mcade and Phelps, a former blue chip prospect in Herridea, a guy with past success here in Cisco and a true veteran leader who just a few years ago had massive left handed power. Who knows the team has changed so much maybe Giambi has enough left in the tank to pinch hit and take over DH vs tought righties for Reynolds. Probably not but we have added tons of leadership and on field experiance to the team. As well as players who have been on winning teams in the past.

And thats just the lineup. I will take a look at what we have done with the pitching staff in my next post.
discollama
February 12, 2013 - 5:44 PM EST
Jim:

I'm kind of shocked that the obvious Springsteen quote was overlooked for all of the Jason Bourne puns in the headlines.
Jim
February 12, 2013 - 4:56 PM EST
Discollama--

You know castrovince was taking notes on that one...
Discollama
February 12, 2013 - 4:52 PM EST
Baby we were Bourn to run!
Rich
February 12, 2013 - 4:03 PM EST
Just when everyone was saying that the Tribe had maxed out their budget, that there would be no more signings except a few minor league deals, this bomb comes out of nowhere.

Wow.

They've added tons of speed, power, and defense, as well as starting pitching with Myers, Bauer, and Carrasco.

One thing, though, Tribe games are going to take a long, long time this year. There's going to be a lot of strikeouts, slowing down the game. There's going to be millions of tosses to first base in an attempt to prevent Bourn, Kipnis, Brantley, and Stubbs from stealing. A lot of bluffs to second base. The games are going to consist of a lot of waiting punctuated by bursts of action - a stolen base, home run, double or triple, or a running catch in the gap or leaping against the fence.

Tribe pitchers are going to love that speed in the OF. Is there time to move the fences back 30 feet before the season starts? Ubaldo might be a decent starter if we could do that.
Joe
February 12, 2013 - 2:43 PM EST
Boy, the Indians are sure the talk of the sports world these days. Funny how Cunningham, Duncan, Lopez et. al. didn't generate this kind of buzz. Guess this makes the Indians relevant again !!! Been a long time.
Hawk1228
February 12, 2013 - 2:42 PM EST
No bigger signing than Francona. I have always been a believer in the front office. I have always felt that they understood the metrics and how it relates to payroll. With that said I have also felt that those years from 05-08 was a waste as we had the wrong manager. How many teams have lost in a 7 game series once they were leading up 3 games to 1? But to further my point, Upton did waive his no trade clause to Cleveland when talks with the DBacks this winter, that same Upton nixed the trade to Seattle. We all know who is sitting in that dugout in Seattle
brianm
February 12, 2013 - 1:46 PM EST
The Bourne signing is great, but I will never forget Aaron freakin Cunningham.
Joe
February 12, 2013 - 12:23 PM EST
Great article Jim, and a lot of solid points. This team appears to be set up now for the long run, with good contracts and good young prospects. The 25 man roster is as strong as it has been in years. The only short coming I see, albeit in the short term are the starters. Another year or two, and Bauer, Carrasco, Salazar and a few others will fill that void quite nicely. In the mean time, a few will have to step it up if we are to contend. I also have to think Lohse is still in the equation. I love the direction the team has taken, and hats off to the FO and Francona for giving them the makeover that was so badly needed.
Mike
February 12, 2013 - 11:40 AM EST
I wonder what the Mets would ask in return for Lima's Jon Niese? A left-handed starter, young and with a good contract, whose already good year last year was dampened considerably by the poor Mets team defense and offense. The Mets need an outfielder, but they want prospects: We could offer players like Danny Salazar, Ronny Rodriguez, Stubbs and more....What would it take?

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