The Tigers have been relatively silent this off-season since the signing of Torii Hunter to bolster both their corner outfield defense and their corner outfield offense. Hunter should be a strong acquisition, but the Tigers do still have some needs. Mainly, those are another corner outfielder, particularly a right handed one that is okay with a one year contract. The Tigers could stand to have another reliever, and maybe a SS for the future. Essentially the roster is down to the luxury things, and not really any major needs.
It’s the quiet that has got me thinking about free agent Michael Bourn however. The Tigers seem to like to come out of nowhere in January and sign someone that nobody expects. Do the Tigers need Bourn? Absolutely not. Would he help them in their quest to win a World Series? Most likely he would.
There are some obvious issues with signing Bourn that jump right out at you as a Tigers fan. One, he plays center. The Tigers obviously have Austin Jackson, one of the brightest young center fielders in the game today. However, Michael Bourn plays himself a pretty mean center as well, and last season, posted a fWAR 6.4, while Austin Jackson posted an fWAR of 5.5. The main reasons behind that? Defense and base running. While Jackson is an above average defender, Bourn has been elite two of the last three seasons, and in general well above average most of his career. Would Jackson be comfortable in left field?
The second issue would be length of contract for Bourn. Bourn’s greatest asset is his speed. He can hit for average, and in general is a pretty good lead off hitter, but speed diminishes with age, and since he has little thunder in his bat, what would be left three years down the road? The Tigers wouldn’t even be looking for a guy for more than one year anyway given that Avisail Garcia, Nick Castellanos and Andy Dirks are all developing nicely. Given that Bourn’s agent is Scott Boras, I am not sure he would settle for a one year deal, which is the only scenario I could see Bourn fitting in with the Tigers.
The third issue in signing Michael Bourn is the draft pick compensation. The Tigers would yet again have to give up their first round pick to sign Bourn. This would probably help the length of contract issue, because it appears this is affecting Boras’ ability to get Bourn signed. The Tigers haven’t had a first round pick since 2009, though they have gotten quite a bit of mileage out of the guys they have signed instead. Jose Valverde was good for Detroit, as was Prince Fielder last year, and Victor Martinez the year before.
The positive, and the whole reason for bringing this up to begin with, is that Michael Bourn is a good player. He could positively affect the Tigers lineup. If the Tigers could get together with Boras and agree on a one year deal, the outfield defense would be light years better than it was in 2012, assuming that Jackson would take nicely to left field. It would also allow the Tigers to move Jackson down in the order and use some of that burgeoning power to drive in some runs down the order. Potentially, he could be the number two hitter, moving Torii Hunter into the sixth spot in the order.
Lastly, if the Tigers got Bourn on a one year deal, it would give them some flexibility on the trade market. All of a sudden a guy like Dirks, or even Avisail Garcia could be paired with Porcello to get a shortstop of the future, or perhaps some more arms for 2015 when the Tigers current starters start hitting the market.
I do want to go on record as saying I don’t think signing Michael Bourn will happen, but there are some reasons to do so, and Mike Iltich’s desire to win a World Series is well known. That might in fact trump all of the concerns that would come with the signing.
Strangely enough, I just wouldn’t want to give up the draft pick. Losing that first rounder will take away from the Tigers overall pool. I wouldn’t hate a Bourn signing on a one year deal, but wouldn’t love it.
How about you?