Cleveland Indians center fielder Michael Bourn is just 1 1/2 seasons into a four-year contract, but it may be worth exploring what the Tribe could get for the leadoff hitter in return as the trade deadline nears.
Entering June 30, the Indians were third in the Central, 6 1/2 games behind Detroit, and 4 1/2 games out of the second Wild Card spot. As losers of seven of their last 10, it’s fair to wonder if this year’s team can play consistent enough to win.
Trading Bourn isn’t a disappointed writer reacting to ho-hum season. This idea comes from Fox Sports Ohio analyst and former Tribe pitcher Jensen Lewis:
Probably too easy to say Cabby, Masty as trade chips. I'd investigate what Bourn's worth would be to move payroll $$
— Jensen Lewis (@JLEWFifty) June 29, 2014
A hamstring injury caused Bourn to miss some time earlier this year, but he is having decent year at the plate (.272/.319/377). His range isn’t as great as it used to be in center (-6.4 UZR), and he hasn’t been the base stealer fans expected, either.
The Indians are paying him $13.5 million in 2014, and owe him $26 million over the next two years, according to Baseball Reference. The Tribe owns the sixth lowest payroll in baseball this year, just north of $81 million.
Bourn, along with Nick Swisher, were the front office’s big-splash signings entering the 2013 campaign. Swisher will count for $29 million on the books between 2015 and 2016. He struggled last year, but had a great September and started to climb toward his career norms. This year, Swish is struggling to stay at the Mendoza Line.
When Bourn was signed the Indians were looking to move past the failed Grady Sizemore experiment of 2012. Michael Brantley was pressed into action in center that year, while the Aaron Cunningham‘s, Zeke Carrera’s and Johnny Damon‘s of the world took up space in left field.
With no outfield prospects to speak of, general manager Chris Antonetti had to make a move, and signed Swisher, who could play both corner outfield spots. Drew Stubbs and Ryan Raburn were also acquired, while Bourn was signed just before Spring Training.
Alas, the Indians do have a prospect who has shown some ability in 2012 first-round pick Tyler Naquin. The 23 year-old recently fell on some rough luck by breaking his hand, but he had swung a hot bat at Class AA Akron before the injury.
Naquin is a real prospect who could one day help the Indians.
From Wahoo’s On First:
Naquin has put together a fantastic season posting a triple slash line of .313/.371/.424 with four homers, 3o runs driven in (out of the leadoff spot), stealing 14 bases while being caught only three times.
Besides being the prototypical leadoff hitter he has played excellent defense in centerfield making just one error in 185 chances adding nine outfield assists.
Granted, if the Indians deal Bourn, Naquin won’t be able to contribute this year, but as an advanced college prospect, he may be closer to the The Show than you think. The Indians could get creative for the rest of the season by relying on Mike Aviles in left field, with Brantley going back to center.
Last year’s team won 92 games and made the postseason. History doesn’t look like it’s going to be repeated, as this roster looks like a .500 team at best.
If adding assets and freeing up money comes at the cost of moving Bourn, it’s something the Tribe front office should consider.