What is a fair contract for the Mets to give Michael Bourn?

The offseason is winding down, and the Mets still have a small bit of business to deal with. Michael Bourn still remains unsigned, and the Mets are one of the only suitors. The problem is that if the Mets sign Bourn, they may have to surrender their eleventh overall pick because of the new draft-pick compensation system. However, the Mets, The Major League Baseball Players Association or Boras could file a grievance that would be ruled on by an arbitrator in the event that the Mets wish to sign Bourn. Since the Mets were truly the 10th worst team in baseball their pick should be protected. If the Mets do get the grant it becomes more of a question of how much they should they pay for Bourn than whether or not they should sign him.

Bourn has a lot of value wrapped up in his legs. He’s a monster on the base paths, and he’s arguably one of the best defensive center fielders in the game. When a player ages, it seems as though the first thing that goes is their legs. For a one-dimensional player like Bourn, losing his legs would probably result in diminishing any of the value he has as a player. However, being 30 years old doesn’t mean that he’s automatically going to be terrible, and we can probably expect Bourn to have at least two highly productive years from his legs, and then probably start to decline.

Mets fans shouldn’t be vehemently opposed to signing Bourn because of fear of a massive decline. Bourn will still be an effective player in 2013, and at least until 2014. However, the other problem is how much money the Mets should pay for him. Luckily, the San Francisco Giants may have set the price for the Mets in signing Angel Pagan. In the table below are Angel Pagan’s stats and Bourn’s stats from 2010 to 2012.

Player AVG OBP SLG wRC+ FLD BsR WAR
Pagan .281 .334 .415 105 1.2 21.5 11.2
Bourn .279 .346 .376 99 35.3 28.6 15.2

When we look at the basic statistics, we can see that Bourn and Pagan aren’t really that much different offensively; Pagan has a little bit more power and somehow Bourn is a little more selective. However, their offensive profiles are really not that different in the sense that they’re both speed oriented. We can most likely attribute the difference in WAR to Bourn being a significantly better fielder than Pagan. Since they have the same basic skill set, there really should be no reason to worry about Bourn performing. Most observers don’t worry about Pagan under-performing his contract, and since Bourn is very similar to Pagan statistically, they shouldn’t worry about Bourn declining, either. Given that Pagan signed a four-year, $40 million deal with the Giants, that could be a good starting point for the Mets to consider in negotiations with Bourn.

A five-year, $75 million deal like the one that B.J. Upton got may seem like a justifiable contract for Bourn. However, there are a few differences between Upton and Bourn. Upton is two years younger than Bourn, and therefore probably has more value since he’s going to be able to produce more prime years for the Braves than Michael Bourn would for the Mets. Unlike the Mets, the Braves don’t need to worry about surrendering a draft pick since they have been a winning team for the past four years, and therefore the qualifying offer was never really needed as leverage to sign Upton. The combination of age and a lack of interest due to the qualifying offer is what makes Upton more expensive than Bourn. Therefore, the Mets should be able to get Bourn at a cheaper price than Upton.

Unfortunately, Bourn probably isn’t going to get the same exact contract as Pagan. Rumor has it that Scott Boras, Bourn’s agent, wants $15 million per year, but since there hasn’t been much of a market for Bourn, the Mets may be able to meet them halfway at $12.5 million per year. It seems as though Boras is between a rock and a hard place, in that spring training is starting and his client is still not signed. It’s probably likely that the Mets get Bourn for a heck of a price because of the leverage they have in the situation. Given the lack of market for Bourn, and the season starting right around the corner, it wouldn’t be unlikely that the Mets get a bargain price for Bourn.

A deal for four years, between $40-55 million, would be ideal. Then again, Boras does have a long history of signing clients to one-year deals, but that seems pointless because it does not permanently fill the Mets’ void in the outfield. However, one of Boras’ bargain multi-year deals with an opt-out clause, is the most probable — as much as I would hate to see it.

24 comments for “What is a fair contract for the Mets to give Michael Bourn?

  1. Name
    February 10, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    I didn’t know how close Bourn and Pagan were offensively. Now that 4/40 contract that Pagan doesn’t seem that bad to me. A little bit long on the years, but he has put up 4+ WAR in 2 of the last 3 years.

    And looking at all 3 players, the Upton contract looks even worse to me. He hasn’t posted a WAR above 3 since… 2008, while Bourn has done it 4/5 times and Pagan 3/5 times. What were the Braves thinking?

    As for his “fair” price, i think anything between 12 and 18 would be fair(depending on the years), but at this point i don’t see the market being that high. After all, mlb isn’t really an open market where fair contracts are handed out. I think the next week will be interesting. I don’t remember the last time such a high profile free agent wasn’t signed by the time pitchers and catcher report. I suspect he will want to sign by the time position players report though.

  2. Craig
    February 10, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    I have been saying sign Bourne for over a month now! I have read a lot of comments not to sign Bourne but I guess these people forgot what it was like when Reyes was our lead off
    hitter for years and how he put pressure on the pitchers and catchers to make mastakes and
    how he was on base all the time and stealing bases and scoring runs! I’m not saying Bourne
    is as good as Reyes but he will give us the same kind of results! Bourne had a 177 hits last year while stealing 42 bases and almost scoring 100 runs so he will make the mets a better team not to mention giving Wright and Davis more chances to drive in runs! He’s not perfect and struck out 155 times but the good out way the bad! With our young talented pitching staff
    including Wheeler when he gets here will benefit greatly with a golden glove CF in the as will Duda and who ever’s playing RF!! He just turned 30 in august so he should be fine for
    at least 3 years of a 4 year contract and if he stays healthy maybe even all 4 years!!

    • Name
      February 10, 2013 at 2:25 pm

      I don’t think anyone would deny that Bourn makes the team better right now. The question is if he would be worth it after this year. Since payroll’s aren’t unlimited, signing Bourn now could preclude the Mets from signing another player in the future. Thus, that is the paradox of complexity of long term contracts. You want the security of someone entrenched in a position, but you also want the financial flexibility later on.

      • February 10, 2013 at 3:07 pm

        Bourn’s not going to decline as fast as we all think he is. Jeff Zimmerman of beyond the box score conducted a study and here’s what he said:
        ” Fast players age extremely well from their peaks at 26 to 31, then they lose on average fewer then five runs over five seasons.”
        So the common notion that Bourn is only going to give the Mets one good year is more of a myth. Just because he’s thirty doesn’t mean that by the time he turns 32 he’s going to be the worst player on the Mets.

        • Name
          February 10, 2013 at 3:18 pm

          I probably didn’t phrase what i was saying well. Most likely Bourn will probably still be the best option(but it’s not guarnateed) next year. However, with Each passing year, it is less certain that he will be the best option. That doesn’t mean he won’t be a good player but there could be others(prospects/other Free agents/trades) who are better than him.

    • Ryan
      February 10, 2013 at 10:35 pm

      He actually didn’t turn 30 till December 27th so he’s even younger than that. All the more reason to sign him. Plus Reyes has 2 full seasons worth of playing time in his legs so I would even go so far as to say Bourn is a young 30. Look, any signing is a risk but quite simply this risk makes sense for the Mets. If Bourn had been demanding the 15-18 mil range I would say it’s a waste of money but at 12.5-15 mil you have to say do it. This is exactly the type of player the mets would be looking for beginning next season when the young pitching staff and young catcher are combining with Wright, Davis et all and forming a solid squad moving forward. Think Carter in the ’80′s. Nice veteran piece, probably adding him a year early but shouldn’t be passed up.

  3. February 10, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    Fun with small samples alert!

    On August 2nd, Angel Pagan had a .706 OPS after 409 PA. Recall that he had a .694 OPS in 2011 and we couldn’t wait to get rid of him.

    Basically, Pagan had a one-month hot stretch where he posted a 1.023 OPS in 137 PA where he earned himself a four-year deal. Before it he wasn’t very good and after it, he had a solid, if unspectacular, .749 OPS. Without that 137-PA stretch, would he really have gotten 4/$40? Without that key stretch, he’s an older Bourn without the defense.

    • Jerry Grote
      February 10, 2013 at 7:32 pm

      Thank you Brian. For what its worth, wipe out another 100 ABs in August of 2009 and you’ve taken out the entirety of Angel’s value. Certainly we’ve seen he hasn’t the defensive chops of Michael Bourn.

      Anyone using the Pagan contract as some sort of justification for other actions is copying off of the classroom idiot on a test. Lest we forget, Sabean also signed Marco Scutaro this offseason.

      • February 10, 2013 at 8:40 pm

        In both 2010 and 2012 Pagan had 600+ PA’s and a WAR of 4.5+ so I don’t think that’s the work of a small sample size. Also if you look at the above table Bourn and Pagan are similar players offensively. And when you take away Bourn’s fielding chops you pretty much get Angel Pagan’s WAR. So the Mets will probably have to pay more for the defense, but paying Bourn 15 million a year is overpaying.

    • HarryDoyle
      February 10, 2013 at 8:29 pm

      How to lie with statistics alert!

      If you’re gonna disregard Pagan’s best month, the least you could do is throw out his worst month for the sake of balance. Park factors might be worth a mention, too, when talking about Pagan. He’s played almost his entire career in two of the worst hitter’s parks in baseball. Anyway, Bourn’s huge second half drop off last season looks much more troubling to me than Pagan’s 2-month midsummer swoon.

      On a related note, and I thought this would be right up Mets360′s alley to look into, I wonder if there’s any anecdotal evidence of notable free agents having a down season when they don’t sign a big contract until some time around mid-February or later.

      • steevy
        February 10, 2013 at 9:18 pm

        Yeah,not many players hit consistently well over the entire season.A hot month is often the difference between a good or a mediocre/poor season.

    • February 11, 2013 at 9:14 am

      From what I heard, Pagan was a sulky guy who went deep internally for long stretches — he just wasn’t reliable as a teammate. I really believe that Collins and Alderson got sick of him and decided, “Not our kind of guy.” He could disappear at any moment.

      With Bourn, supposedly he’s a play-hard-every-day type player. And in that respect, he’s a much safer bet than Pagan ever was. I don’t think there’s any comparison, provided that Angel doesn’t undergo a complete makeover.

  4. HarryDoyle
    February 10, 2013 at 8:51 pm

    I thought of one late free agent signing from Mets’ history:

    Oliver Perez was awful, and I mean off the charts bad, after the Mets signed him in February of 2009 for 3/36M.

    Now that’s fun with small sample sizes! Actually, scratch that. Thinking of Oliver Perez was not fun at all. Congrats to him though on making it back to the bigs. I’m sure Seattle suits him much better than NYC.

  5. February 11, 2013 at 12:14 am

    Well here we go again. Bourn doesn’t need the Mets. I cannot see him signing for 10 million when he could of signed for 13 million. Why? Why do you guys insist upon comparing stats of players to justify a salary offer? Pagan was given a chance to show what he could do on a fairly decent team with aspirations of making the playoffs. Good for motivation. Yes? I wonder if Pagan was playing for the Mets if he would of produced the same numbers? Offer 4 years 56 million but give him 10 million for 2013. Fair to both sides and I don’t think Boras can hold the Mets hostage to any other teams pending offers. I don’t think there are too many potential suitors remaining. Bourn is a better defensive center fielder than Pagan. Maybe Angel was just happy to be able to re-sign with the Giants and have another shot at a World Series.

  6. Metsense
    February 11, 2013 at 7:20 am

    Over the last 4 years Bourn’s avg WAR value is 5.0 or 22M a year. Assuming a regression of .5 WAR a year his WAR value would be
    for a 1 year contract (4.5 WAR) 20.25M
    for a 2 year contract (8.5 War) 38.25M
    for a 3 year contract (12.0 WAR) 54 M
    for a 4 year contract (15.0 WAR) 67.5M
    for a 5 year contract (17.5 WAR) 78.75M

    So if Sandy signs for less on any of those years he should be getting a bargain.Alderson has an advantage though. Bourn was offered 1 year at 13.1M and turned it down. The rest of baseball would not give Bourn a multi year contract above 13.1M per year. Signing him screws up your draft pick and draft money therefore Sandy should offer him 13.1M a year and let Bourne pick the amount of years , up to 4, that he will sign for. The ball is in Sandy’s court. I want Bourne but I want him at a bargain so it should be somewhere in between.

    • Metsense
      February 11, 2013 at 7:22 am

      between his WAR value and qualifying offer value. (edit)

      • Name
        February 11, 2013 at 12:21 pm

        Most people look at these practical or best case scenerios when evaluating a player’s contract. I’m going to do a worse case scenerio with Bourn.
        His worst WAR in the last couple of years was 3. So i’m going to start with that. We will again assume a .5 reduction per year

        1 yr(3WAR) 13.2 mil
        2 yr(5.5WAR) 24.2 mil
        3 yr(7.5WAR) 33 mil
        4 yr(9WAR) 39.6 mil

        In reality, i think these numbers should be what Sandy is shooting for. At this point, there is no reason to pay for “potential” with Bourn because he has no (seemingly) other suitors. Pay for what you know he should give, not what he might produce.

  7. J
    February 11, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    Bourn offer: 3 years plus mutual option, $11 mil first year $14 mil second and third year, option year $11 mil. Opt out clause after first season.
    This would read like a three year deal unless Bourn is good but not great in his third season. If he opts out after the first year, we offer him a qualifying offer. Bourn walks, we get our draft pick back. Otherwise we have Bourn better or worse for the next three years.

    Thoughts?

  8. February 11, 2013 at 11:33 pm

    To Metsense,Bourn just signed with the Indians for 48 million. I can’t understand why the Mets couldn’t have made a competitive offer unless they felt they were going to lose their draft pick. It’s inept and downright pathetic to all of the Sandy Alderson fans that are out there.

    • Name
      February 11, 2013 at 11:47 pm

      They made the almost the same offer as the Indians, except they didn’t include the option for the 5th year.
      Saw a report that Bourn prefered NY, but Boras didn’t want to wait in the draft pick issue so they chose the Indians.

  9. February 12, 2013 at 1:07 am

    I think it was a knee-jerk reaction on Boras’ part. I don’t think Bourn is going to have to many outside endorsement opportunities in Cleveland. The chances in signing with local and national sponsors in New York would of supplemented his salary. What’s he going to endorse in Cleveland?

  10. Dan Stack
    February 12, 2013 at 4:44 am

    Now that Bourn appears om his way to Cleveland, does Sandy reach out to the Indians about the availability of either and or/ Michael Brantley and Drew Stubbs?

  11. February 12, 2013 at 6:53 am

    I don’t think Francona is going to let either one go. Can YOU let it go? The Mets lose Bourn and you’re looking for a silver lining. When are you going to realize that Sandy is not going to how can I say give in to temptation and change how he perceives how the Mets should be run.

    • Jerry Grote
      February 12, 2013 at 7:13 am

      “not going to … given in to temptation”

      And I like that. Look, he has a plan. He got Marcum for less than what anyone on this website would have suggested. He got more in trades for our stars than anyone in baseball wanted. He nearly landed one of the top outfielders for less than what I think market value was … *but he didn’t want to destroy his draft*.

      Stick to the plan. The whole point of the plan is not to cave when temptation comes along.

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