2013 Player Recap: Michael Bourn


Now that the 2013 season is complete, it’s time to take a look back at the team and how each player performed on the field. After focusing on the infield in the first part of our recaps, today we shift our attention to the outfield with Indians’ center fielder, Michael Bourn.

Michael Bourn’s 2013 Projection:

Michael Bourn came to the Indians in a somewhat shocking way. Needing a true lead off hitter in the most desperate of ways, they signed Bourn as a free agent seemingly out of nowhere. The contract, which was for four years and $48-million, was yet another display of spending for an Indians team that had been conservative in recent years.

Sep 2, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians center fielder Michael Bourn (24) strikes out during the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

When the signing happened, the internet went crazy. How could the Indians of all team scoop up Bourn when a team like the Mets, also badly in need of center field help, could have offered him so much more? It’s best not to ask those questions. The bottom line is the Indians scored a gold glove center fielder capable of stealing 40-plus bases and legitimizing their lineup one through nine.

With Bourn at the top of the lineup, it allowed would allow everyone else to fall into more natural positions in the order. On top of that, Bourn would allow Michael Brantley to shift back to left field. While Brantley was a decent center fielder, he could make better use of his talents roaming the less physically demanding corner outfield spot. Not only that, but Bourn’s gold glove caliber defense and speed would remind fans of the days of Kenny Lofton.

After posting a career high 6.0 WAR for the Braves in 2012, Michael Bourn would be one of the key pieces that had been missing from the Indians roster ever since Grady Sizemore‘s injuries caught up with him. Combined with the recent signing of Nick Swisher, fans were beginning to believe in this team heading into the 2013 season. The Indians were spending money for the first time in years and it would be on full display every day at the top of the order and in center field.

Michael Bourn

So What Happened?:

The 2013 season did not go as planned for Michael Bourn or the Indians. While his season started off well, .331/.366/.697 in the month of April, thing began going down hill after that. Each month saw a gradual decline in production at the plate until he finally bottomed out in the month of August. While the Indians were battling their way through the dog days of summer, Bourn was turning in a slash line of .219/.270/.281.

Thing didn’t get that much better from there. Bourn improved during the month of September, but not by much. He ended the season with an abysmal 0 for 4 performance in the AL Wild Card game striking out twice and having two poor at bats in key situations with runners on base. Of course, Bourn had injured his hamstring in the season finale just days earlier and may have played a part in his playoff performance, but for the most part, that one game was a microcosm for his season.

Perhaps the most puzzling part of 2013 for Michael Bourn was the decline in stolen bases. While they may not be the most important part of the game today, they were an important part of Bourn’s game and why the Indians felt he was worth four years and $48-million. As a player coming off a season in which he stole 42 bases and once turned in back to back to back seasons of 61, 52, and 61 stolen bases this decline was a bit alarming. Whatever the reason, whether it be due to injury or adjusting to a new league, Bourn has to be better in 2014.

Michael Bourn 2013

Where Do We Go From Here?:

Bourn has sworn that he will be better in 2014 and the Indians completely agree with him. Both Bourn and the team have come out and said that he was trying to hard to live up to the expectations of the four-year $48-million contract he signed in the offseason. While that is encouraging to hear, that may not necessarily be the case.

The lone criticism of the Michael Bourn contract was that the Indians gave that type of money for that amount of years to a player whose value is predicated on speed and agility. Both are skills that don’t necessarily age well. As we saw with Grady Sizemore and his premature decline, once you begin losing speed and agility, they aren’t coming back. In Bourn’s case, he signed that contract at 30-years old and will be 34 by the time it is finished. That makes the likelihood of a quality return on investment seem next to nil.

That has led many to wonder whether or not Bourn will be on the Opening Day roster in 2014. Could the Indians swing a deal with Bourn as one of the primary pieces in order to bring back a solid package of quality prospects or major league ready talent? Could a team desperate for a legitimate center fielder be willing to pay the Indians a king’s ransom for Bourn’s services? Looking at you, Mets!.

It’s not as if Bourn had an all-star season in 2013. On top of that, Drew Stubbs is capable of playing center and any number of other players showed last season that they could hit in the lead off spot in the order. It seems unlikely that the Indians will actually give serious consideration to trading Bourn. After all, trading him would be a sign of defeat and “more of the same” in the eyes of the fan, but that doesn’t men they shouldn’t look into it.

Key Moment:

There wasn’t one moment in 2013 that jumps out as “the moment” for Michael Bourn. When he was on top of his game he did things like put pressure on defenses, use his legs to turn doubles into triples, and played solid defense. One of the best defensive plays he made all year came against the White Sox in September.