Michael Bourn and Cleveland Indians Agree to Four-Year, $48 Million Contract

Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIIFebruary 11, 2013

Prized free-agent outfielder Michael Bourn has agreed to a contract with the Cleveland Indians. CBS Sports' Jon Heyman first broke the news Monday night:

Heyman also provided the terms of the deal:

The signing was later confirmed by the official team site.   

The Atlanta Braves made a qualifying offer of $13.3 million to keep Bourn back in November (via MLB.com), but the two-time All-Star turned it down in favor of testing the free-agent market.

According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the Mets were also in on Bourn, but were unable to seal the deal because of the lack of the options in their proposal.

Bourn is primarily known for his speed on the basepaths and his outstanding fielding ability, as he was the National League leader in stolen bases from 2009 through 2011 and has won two Gold Glove Awards for his efforts in center. 

The downside to Bourn is that he is a below-average contact hitter for a leadoff man. He has struck out no fewer than 109 times in a season since becoming an everyday player with the Houston Astros back in 2008.

Although he was called out on strikes a career-high 155 times in 2012, some improvements were made at the plate that make Bourn a valuable long-term commodity. The 30-year-old jacked nine home runs and 57 RBI while drawing 70 walks—all personal bests. 

Should those numbers prove to be a fluke rather than a trend, though, the Indians might not get a full return on their investment in Bourn. With a game heavily reliant on speed and athleticism, it's possible that he will experience a sharp decline before the end of his deal if he loses a step with age.

The buzz prior to this offseason was that the Tribe would go back into rebuilding mode after taking a step back last season, finishing second to last in the AL Central with a 68-94 record. 

Instead, Cleveland went out and acquired several proven bats in Nick Swisher, Mark Reynolds, Mike Aviles and Drew Stubbs. They also added a number of pitchers, highlighted by top prospect Trevor Bauer, who was acquired in a blockbuster three-team deal

With the Tribe looking the part of a contender, Bourn could be the player that propels them into the postseason. There are good reasons for Cleveland to have reservations, but this signing could end up being a steal if Bourn can keep up his well-rounded production.