Reporting Matt Loede
CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Monday night the Indians laid an uppercut on the rest of the AL Central and the American League for that matter, handing over $48 million dollars for a four-year deal to outfielder Michael Bourn.
It was a deal that many didn’t see coming, but for others the writing was on the wall after the Mets stood around and twiddled their thumbs about trying to contact MLB to see if they would lose a draft pick if they inked Bourn.
Instead of waiting, Bourn took the best offer from an up and coming team who suddenly are taking on the look of a contender with a manager with a chip on his shoulder in Terry Francona.
Make no mistake, the Bourn signing puts others in the AL on notice, and there’s plenty that the speedster will bring to the Indians upon his arrival to the Tribe.
1. Speed - The Indians had already put together a much faster team with adding Drew Stubbs, who last season stole 30 bases, and over the last three seasons has stolen 100 bases. With Manny Acta, the Indians didn’t really have that much speed in the lineup, but with Bourn aboard, all that changes.
All Bourn has done is led the NL in steals in each season from 2009 to 2011. With Bourn, Stubbs, and Michael Brantley, the Indians now boast an outfield that last season stole 84 bases.
Consider the three players the Tribe trotted out last season in the outfield – Brantley, Shin-Soo Choo and a rotation of Shelly Duncan, Aaron Cunningham and Johnny Damon, the outfield stole a total of just 38 bases.
Pitchers will have to account for Bourn, and his speed will remind Indian fans of the days of Kenny Lofton.
Another nugget – Since 2008, Bourn leads MLB with 257 stolen bases. Most by an Indian over that span? Choo with 80. The days of running are back for the Tribe.
2. A True Leadoff Hitter – Remember last season when the leadoff spot for the Indians seemed like the black hole? Brantley, Choo, Damon and others tried their shot to being the leadoff guy, and all basically failed.
Choo thrived early in the role once he took over the spot in May, but by the end of the season, his average dropped nearly 20 points and the role didn’t seem to suite him very well.
So now with Bourn, Francona can simply write his name in the #1 spot daily, and never have to think about it.
Last season Bourn hit .274 with a .348 on-base percentage and a .391 slugging percentage in 155 games. He has some power (9 homers) but will be counted on to be the table setter for guys like Nick Swisher, Mark Reynolds and Carlos Santana.
3. Versatility – Francona has to be drooling over the prospect of what the lineup can look like for the Indians now night in and night out. He can have a speedy outfield with Brantley, Bourn and Stubbs, or go with Swisher in RF and sit Stubbs or even DH him.
The bottom line is Bourn is a solid All-Star player, and while fans for years have complained that the Indians build All-Star players only to trade him, getting Bourn, a two-time All-Star with two gold gloves, should tell fans and the rest of the division that the Tribe has arrived.
The team filled all the holes they had in terms of the field – getting Bourn as a leadoff guy to play CF, Swisher as a power hitter to play RF, DH or 1B, Reynolds as another power guy to play 1B or DH, and Stubbs to play OF or be a fourth OF.