As the offseason has gone on, and as his market has seemingly shrunk, the connections between Michael Bourn and the Chicago Cubs have increased. Not by way of rumors, mind you, but by fans, pundits, and analysts. We heard about the Cubs reaching out to Bourn’s agent (Scott Boras) on the free agent center fielder a month ago, but have not heard a single credible rumor attaching the two since then.
Still, the fans, pundits, and analysts churn.
Baseball Prospectus’ Ben Lindbergh took a look at the dwindling Bourn market, and concluded that there are three teams that can afford Bourn AND would benefit the most from his services: the Mariners, the Rangers, and the Cubs.
The article is of the premium variety, so I won’t offer too much of the content, but the gist, as far as the Cubs are concerned, is this: the Cubs have been aggressive in the free agent market, and, although they may be a couple years away from being competitive, Bourn’s asking price could drop such that he presents value to the Cubs. Adding Bourn also gives the Cubs even more flexibility to trade either Alfonso Soriano or David DeJesus without an overall performance drop in 2013.
For the Rangers and Mariners, the allure of Bourn is simply adding a quality player, given that each team has largely missed out on their offseason targets thus far.
My bet is that a team we’re not even thinking much about – the Brewers? the Braves? – comes out of nowhere with a deal that goes over the top on other teams. That would be an awfully Boras move, as it was last year with Prince Fielder and the Detroit Tigers.
It’s worth reiterating that, if the Cubs sign Bourn, they lose their second round pick. If the Mariners, Rangers, or Brewers sign Bourn, however, they lose their first round pick. That pain could be particularly severe for the Mariners and Brewers, who are currently slated to pick 12th and 17th, respectively.
Eno Sarris over at FanGraphs took up a similar topic (why can’t Bourn find a job?), and also listed the Cubs among many other teams (Mariners, Rangers, Astros, Mets) that could use Bourn’s services. The problem for Bourn, says Sarris, is that most of those teams aren’t really in the market for a big money center fielder, given their circumstance or adequate in-house options.
As the offseason goes on, and Bourn remains without a job (and the Cubs don’t make a move in the outfield), you’re going to continue to hear the Cubs attached to Bourn – whether you like it or not, and whether there’s meat there or not.
My position on Bourn and the Cubs remains unchanged: if his market so completely collapses that he has to settle for a deal at which point the Cubs can easily view him as an asset with surplus value (no more than four years and $50 to $60 million), then sure. Let’s see what can happen. But I would be shocked if he does have to settle for such a deal (and, if he does, the Cubs would be competing with a number of other teams).