Philadelphia Phillies: Who Is Your Center Fielder? B.J. Upton or Michael Bourn?

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Philadelphia Phillies: Who Is Your Center Fielder? B.J. Upton or Michael Bourn?
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With the 2012 offseason only a week or so away, Ruben Amaro Jr. and his staff will be looking to make a big offseason splash through free agency. Their number one priority being a top-tier center fielder.

When the Phillies shipped Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence out of town this past July, they did so to free up some money to rebuild their outfield for 2013 with players who display more consistency. After leaving Philadelphia, Victorino hit .245 and Pence hit .219—numbers that are anything but consistent.  

With center field being the Phillies' biggest concern, they have their eyes set on the two of the most prized players at the position: former Phillie Michael Bourn and free-agent-to-be B.J. Upton. 

Bourn is a player who can bring excitement to the top of a batting order and also plays exceptional defense. He won Gold Glove awards in 2009 and 2010. If acquired, Charlie Manuel's love affair with Jimmy Rollins batting leadoff will hopefully come to an end.

Bourn had a 2012 season that was mostly consistent with all of his career offensive numbers. He hit .274 while scoring 96 runs and led the NL in stolen bases with 42. He also finished the season seventh in walks with 70.

There are two major concerns with the Phillies acquiring Bourn. One being his amount of strikeouts.

Bourn struck out a career-high 155 times in 2012—not really an admirable quality for a leadoff hitter. However, his amount of walks somewhat balanced out his on-base percentage (.348).

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The other concern is the amount of dollars Bourn is going to cost on the open market. Super agent Scott Boras represents Bourn and has a reputation for relentlessly pursuing top dollar for all of his clients. He and Ruben Amaro also don't have the best history since the Ryan Madson deal blew up last offseason.

Bourn will turn 30 in December, and the Phillies don't want to have another long contract with an aging player attached to it added to their ever-expanding payroll. The Phillies will seek a four- to five-year deal for Bourn, from anywhere between $10 and $15 million. 

Another top choice to man the center of the Phillies' outfield in 2013 is 28-year-old former Tampa Bay Ray, B.J. Upton.

The two major differences between Upton and Bourn are Upton's power and Bourn's Gold Glove defense. Both have good speed, strike out a lot and can bring a ton of energy to a team.

Upton hit 28 home runs in 2012 while batting just .242. Upton has not hit over .270 since 2008 and has consistently struck out at or around 160 times a season over his career. He has also never driven in more than 82 runs in a given season.

Could he produce more in Citizens Bank Park? Only time will tell.  

The Phillies are in desperate need of a right-handed power bat, but what they don't need is another player with a low on-base percentage. Upton's was only .298 in 2012, after only walking 45 times all season.

The Phillies have a lot of options to weigh. If they want right-handed, long-ball power and RBI production, the choice would be Upton.

If they want Gold Glove-caliber defense, with speed and a true leadoff hitter, the choice is Bourn.

Or they can go a totally different way and try to sign a player such as Angel Pagan.

My choice would be to bring back Michael Bourn and let him set the table for Utley, Howard and hopefully Darin Ruf. The Phillies are most likely going to overpay for him, but at the end of the day he may be the best fit for the Phillies.

He plays Gold Glove-caliber defense, hits for a decent average and is among the league leaders in walks and stolen bases. If the Phillies can help Bourn cut down on his strikeouts, Bourn could be an All-Star in 2013 and hopefully lead the Phillies back to the playoffs. 

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