The All-Star Break is an excellent time to take a sneak peek ahead to next season. There is a long way to go this season, and the Giants have a lot of work to do in order to overcome the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks in the National League West. However, with no games to play until Friday, now is a good time to look to the future.
Bourn, 29, has broken out since being acquired by the Braves. He's hitting a career-best .311/.366/.451 with a career-high seven home runs so far this season. He's also an excellent baserunner who stole 61 bases last season, and he is 25/33 in stolen base attempts this season.
Bourn would also be a huge defensive upgrade over Angel Pagan in centerfield if the Giants were to sign him in free agency. According to FanGraphs, Bourn is the best defensive center fielder in baseball this season with an Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) of +12. Pagan is towards the bottom of the league with an UZR of -6.4.
Cumulatively, Bourn has been worth 4.5 Wins Above Replacement compared to 1.7 for Pagan.
There is no question that Bourn would be an upgrade over Pagan if he can maintain something similar to his current level of performance going forward. However, the Giants also need to keep room in the budget for impending free agent Melky Cabrera.
The good news is that the Giants can afford both Bourn and Cabrera. The Giants have approximately $97 million committed to 18 players next season including Barry Zito ($20 million), Tim Lincecum ($22 million), Matt Cain ($20 million), Pablo Sandoval ($5.7 million), Ryan Vogelsong ($5 million) and Javier Lopez ($4.25 million).
Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Brandon Belt, Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla, Brandon Crawford, Gregor Blanco, Nate Schierholtz, Hector Sanchez, Clay Hensley, Joaquin Arias and Manny Burriss will all be under team control or in their arbitration-eligible seasons, keeping their prices down.
If payroll remains flat at $130 million, the Giants would have about $33 million to re-sign Cabrera, acquire Bourn and fill out the rest of the roster. The Giants also will have Lincecum and Zito coming off of the books after next season, so they could back-load any new contracts to save additional money next season.
Signing Bourn as a free agent this winter would give the Giants a sizeable upgrade in centerfield, and it would not prevent them from re-signing Cabrera. It would also allow them to use their top prospect, center fielder Gary Brown, as trade bait to upgrade the middle infield. Or, they could keep Brown and use him in a corner alongside Bourn and Cabrera, which would be an outstanding defensive outfield.
Bourn's hitting ability, speed and defense would be an excellent fit at AT&T Park in future seasons. There is a long way to go before free agency begins, but it's never too soon to plan for the future.