How can a MLB franchise retain fan interest during a rebuilding period? While the Chicago Cubs wait on Jorge Soler, management has considered adding one high-priced free agent this offseason. Since Brett Jackson will start 2013 at Triple-A Iowa and Soler is a couple years away, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are reportedly interested in free-agent center fielder Michael Bourn. Bourn wants no less than $100 million.
Let’s consider some of the pros and cons with a $100-million type of contract for Bourn.
Pro: Wrigley Field
Bourn has good career numbers at Wrigley Field. In 142 career at-bats, Bourn has a .324 batting average with a .405 on-base percentage (OBP). He has been successful on 16 of his 20 steal attempts (80 percent). Seven of his 46 hits were extra-base hits (doubles or triples).
Con: $100 Million For Speed?
$100-million contracts are typically rewarded to five-tool outfielders. That’s not Bourn. In 3,015 career at-bats, Bourn has 22 home runs. He has hit more than five home runs in just one season since 2006. He hit nine home runs in 2012.
Bourn is a speed guy. Even then, he has a career .272 batting average and .339 OBP. That’s a huge investment in a player with limited skills.
Pro: Great Fielder
In 2012, Bourn led the National League with 383 putouts. He also had a .995 fielding percentage. He had a defensive wins above replacement score (dWAR) of 3.0. His defense was almost as solid as his base-running skills, which helped him get an offensive WAR (oWAR) of 3.2.
Con: Speed Trending Downward?
Stealing bases are a key part of Bourn’s game. In the last few seasons, his success rate has trended mostly downward. From 2009-12, here are his success rates (percentages): 83.56, 81.25, 81.33, 76.36.
As players age, speed often goes with it. Bourn turns 30-years-old in December. He doesn’t have a power game to fall back on. Once his speed goes, Bourn is a liability. This franchise can’t afford another $100-million liability.
Pro: Left-Handed Hitter
The Cubs like to balance their lineups with left-handed hitters and right-handed hitters. Bourn offers a left-handed bat at the top of the lineup. Imagine a 1-3 with Bourn, Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo. It’s a start.
Why does Bourn have issues with OBP? He strikes out too much. His strikeout totals have increased in each of the last three seasons. They’ve increased from 109 to 140 to 155. His career strikeout-to-walk ratio is 679-to-296.
Conclusion: Anyone Else Thinking Juan Pierre? Chone Figgins?
Bourn is an upgrade over any outfielder candidate who’s in the organization. That doesn’t mean that he’s worth $100 million; not even close. Let’s consider the poor man’s version of Bourn: Tony Campana. Campana could give this team more stolen bases and similar outfield range for about $1 million.
How wise is it to give $100 million to a leadoff hitter on the wrong side of 30? A leadoff hitter who offers fewer than 10 home runs per season? A leadoff hitter with a career .339 OBP? A leadoff hitter who has a poor strikeout-to-walk ratio?
In 2006, Alfonso Soriano was a 40-40 man. Soriano hit 46 homers and stole 41 bases. The following offseason, the Cubs gave him a $136-million contract. While Soriano has never hit fewer than 20 homers in any season in Chicago, his contract is considered among the worst in franchise history.
Give Bourn $100 million? That’s worse than a Jim Hendry-esque mistake. There’s a reason that the Atlanta Braves replaced him with B.J. Upton this offseason. That much money for steals and OBP is not wise. And if anything happens to his legs, enjoy that contract.
If the price goes down, then it’s worth considering. Maybe. Otherwise, no thanks. For $100 million, the Cubs must get an elite player. And while I like Bourn, “Good” isn’t good enough for that type of contract.
Joshua Huffman grew up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula as a Green Bay Packers and Chicago Cubs enthusiast. He immediately gained an admiration for Cubs fans after watching numerous games on WGN during the mid-90s. His favorite Cubs moment was Kerry Wood’s(notes) 1-hitter, 20K extravaganza that was only denied of a no-hitter by Kevin Orie’s defensive blunder. As a Packers and Cubs fan, he suffered through Steve Bartman and “4th & 26” in a span of three months. Twitter HERE.
More from Yahoo! Contributor Network
Jeff Keppinger Would Fit Nicely at Third Base for Chicago Cubs: Fan’s Take
Chicago Cubs Add Pitching Depth with Scott Feldman: Fan’s Take
Chicago Cubs’ Opening Day Results Since 2001: Fan’s Observation
Bryan LaHair’s MLB Career Possibly Ends with Chicago Cubs, Designated for Assignment: Fan’s Take
Chicago Cubs Are Taking Many Risks in 2013 Starting Rotation: Fan’s Take