MLB Rumors: Michael Bourn Would Keep Texas' Title Hopes Alive

Andrew GouldFeatured ColumnistDecember 21, 2012

Signing free-agent outfielder Michael Bourn would salvage a rough offseason for the Texas Rangers.
Signing free-agent outfielder Michael Bourn would salvage a rough offseason for the Texas Rangers.Winslow Townson/Getty Images

The Texas Rangers should strongly pursue outfielder Michael Bourn if they want to remain relevant in the American League this season.

According to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman, the Rangers are beginning to chase Bourn, the top prize left in the free-agent market:

A possible run at Bourn seems to be more in the infancy stages, with Texas people asking around about Bourn, who has an impeccable reputation but mostly a mystery market thus far. 

This offseason has not treated the Rangers kindly. They will voyage into the 2013 season without Mike Napoli, Michael Young, Mike Adams, Koji Uehara and Josh Hamilton, who stayed in the division to join forces with Albert Pujols and the Los Angeles Angels.

Signing Bourn would heal some of the scars inflicted during this past month and save the ship from sinking.

Hamilton's polar opposite, Bourn will not come anywhere close to replicating Hamilton's power production. He can, however, bring a bevy of speed and defense to the table.

Bourn has swiped 276 bases over his career at a 81.18 percent success rate. Although his steals decreased to 41 last season, he still posted a .348 on-base percentage, and 41 stolen bases is plenty.

He also represents a massive upgrade in center field—a position not suited for Hamilton.

According to FanGraphs, Bourn posted a 22.4 ultimate zone rating (UZR) last season—the second highest score among all outfielders. This led to Bourn tallying a 6.4 WAR, which ranked the 13th highest in baseball.

Hamilton, who fared much better in left and right field, accumulated a minus-12.6 UZR in center field last season. That's a 35-run swing between the two.

If Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz can stay healthy, they still possess a sturdy middle of the order alongside dependable third baseman Adrian Beltre. Not only would adding Bourn give them a constant baserunner to drive home, but it would allow the Rangers to further bolster their lineup through a trade.

Landing Bourn would present Texas with ample reason to aggressively shop Elvis Andrus. With Bourn setting the table, Andrus' speed becomes less of a necessity, allowing the Rangers to trade him for a burly first baseman or young starting pitcher.

The Rangers seem content with moving Kinsler to first base to clear the way for rookie sensation Jurickson Profar at second base, but they need to consider how much a valuable young shortstop can net on the trading block. The Cleveland Indians turned shortstop prospect Didi Gregorius into Trevor Bauer, and Gregorius can barely hit.

Texas won't finish second in slugging percentage again by replacing Hamilton with Bourn, but it should still gather enough runs playing in the Ballpark in Arlington's hitter-friendly dimensions.  

Granted, signing a 30-year-old speedster to a long-term contract is risky, but it's a move Texas might need in the short-term to compete with the Angels, Toronto Blue Jays and Detroit Tigers in a fiercely competitive American League.