Michael Bourn has finally found a home, however it may not have been the one many expected. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that the Cleveland Indians have come to an agreement with Bourn on a four-year deal:
Source: Bourn with #Indians: Four years, $48M with $12M vesting option for fifth year if he reaches 550 plate appearances.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) February 12, 2013
Bourn had been tied to the Mariners since December, but Seattle would have had to give up the 12th overall pick in the upcoming 2013 draft in order to sign him. Opinions have differed all offseason on whether or not the Mariners should have signed the speedy leadoff hitter. Some critics were worried that Bourn would turn out to be another Chone Figgins disaster, while others including myself, pointed out the positives of bringing Bourn to the Pacific Northwest.
Mariners fans will now be left wondering what Bourn would have meant to the Mariners as he spends the next four years at the top of the Cleveland Indians lineup. With Bourn in Cleveland, the Mariners now appear to be finished this offseason, but what does this mean for Seattle?
General Manager Jack Zduriencik Valued the Draft Pick
After looking at Michael Bourn's contract, one has to wonder why Seattle was not willing to sign Michael Bourn at a reasonable $12 million per year.
This contract looks like even more of a discount when you compare it to the likes of Shane Victorino, who received a three-year, $39 million deal from the Red Sox earlier this offseason. In a way, the deal pales in comparison to the five-year, $75 million deal BJ Upton received from the same Atlanta Braves who let Bourn walk away in the first place.
If Seattle had wanted to bring in Bourn, they would have had to forfeit the 12th overall pick in the upcoming 2013 draft which was apparently too much for the Mariners brass to stomach. By not signing Bourn, General Manager Jack Zduriencik may have set a precedent moving forward for free agents who come attached with draft pick compensation.
Sure, many could make the argument that Seattle was willing to give up a draft pick for Josh Hamilton, but Hamilton is a much different player than Michael Bourn. Nothing against Bourn, but Josh Hamilton is a player who could change the fortunes of a franchise. Bourn is great in his own right, but he was obviously not the player Zduriencik wanted to forfeit a first-round pick for.
Ownership is Confident in Franklin Gutierrez' Health
By not signing Bourn, Seattle has made it clear that they are confident in Franklin Gutierrez returning to his 2009 form. In 2009, Gutierrez was one of the premier outfielders in the game, posting a .283/.339/.425 line with a 6.2 WAR. However, after 2009 Gutierrez has struggled to stay healthy, battling a slew of injuries that have caused him to miss 162 games in the last three seasons.
However, Gutierrez appeared to be healthy and ready for the 2013 season by batting .349 in the Venezuelan Winter League. One has to think that Gutierrez' performance this offseason helped the Mariners organization decide not to sign Michael Bourn. Seattle very well could see Gutierrez as their own cheaper version of Bourn, feeling that they could advocate their resources elsewhere.
Putting faith in Gutierrez' health may be risky, but last season's development of Michael Saunders may have also eased the minds of Mariners ownership as well. Either way, the decision to sign or not to sign Bourn may come down to the health and success of Franklin Gutierrez. If Guti can't return to his 2009 form, Seattle may regret letting Bourn get away.
The Leadoff Spot is Still Open
Some people may think that Dustin Ackley has the leadoff spot sewn up, but his numbers last season should leave some doubt in the minds of Mariners fans. In the leadoff spot last season, Ackley batted .233/.296/.355 with only nine stolen bases. Those numbers should not be enough to fill the fanbase with confidence.
Dustin Ackley did have offseason surgery in which he had a bone spur removed from his left ankle, the same ankle that Ackley pivots on when he finishes his swing. It is very possible that the surgery could help Ackley regain his form from his rookie season in which he batted .273/.348/.417. But the problem with those numbers is that Ackley never batted in the leadoff position when he was a rookie. It very well could be that Ackley is just not a fit as a leadoff hitter.
The leadoff spot may be Ackley's to lose, but the Mariners are still without a true leadoff hitter as Ackley is a better fit elsewhere in the lineup. If Seattle had signed Bourn, Ackley could have slid to the second spot in the lineup where he would have benefitted from batting in front of sluggers Kendrys Morales and Mike Morse.
With all things said, the Mariners will not have Michael Bourn in their outfield this season and that is a choice they will have to live with. If Franklin Gutierrez and Dustin Ackley can progress, the Mariners may look very wise for not investing a long-term deal and a draft pick in Bourn, but their progression isn't a certainty. The Mariners will still have questions heading into the 2013 season, but Michael Bourn will not be one of them.
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