San Francisco Giants v Atlanta Braves

So much for Drew Stubbs! According to Jon Heyman, public face of Boras Corp, Scott Boras client Michael Bourn agrees to terms with the Cleveland Indians on a four-year deal worth $48 million, with an option for a fifth year that would push the deal to $60 million total.

Scott Boras always gets his man even if it is for less than previous anticipated.

There is a lot to like about this deal for Cleveland. First and foremost, they receive the services of a very good player for the next four years (with an option for a fifth.) Michael Bourn is something of a throwback player in that he has no power of which to speak. Even though he has only 16 home runs over the last four seasons, only five Major League outfielders put up more fWAR than Bourn: Ben Zobrist, Ryan Braun, Matt Holliday, Andrew McCutchen, and Jose Bautista.

Cleveland did not sign Bourn for the last four years, they signed him for the next four years. What kind of player do they get? A speedy on-base machine who runs down plenty of balls in the outfield and runs the bases alertly and effectively.

Bourn enters his age 30 season with concerns over the rate at which speedy contact hitters age floating around him. His stolen base totals are sure to decline, but as discussed earlier today, stolen bases are an insignificant piece of the total package.

Of note for Cleveland fans: since the strike, only six outfielders managed to post an ISO under .110 and a BABIP over .320 between their age-30 and age-35 seasons. Bourn’s career BABIP is .343 and his career ISO is just .093 (.349/.117 in 2012.) Only two of those players, Ichiro! and Stan Javier, managed to most more than 5 fWAR over that time. Five Wins total, that is.

As with most longish term free agent contract, the back half of the deal is much scarier than the front. In spite of the scary precedents noted above, getting Bourn at this seemingly reduced rate is a good deal for Cleveland. Bourn originally sought a B.J. Upton-type deal, instead he “settled” for a contract worth $12 million less than the total value of Upton’s contract with Atlanta.

To Cleveland’s credit, they get an additional discount as their top ten first round pick is protected AND they already signed a qualified free agent in Nick Swisher, meaning the pick Cleveland loses is only 71st overall. Compared to the Mets situation, where they stood to lose the eleventh overall pick in the draft, this must be considered a bonus for Cleveland.

Does this make the Tribe better in 2013? Of course. Drew Stubbs is a lot of things, better than Michael Bourn is not one of them. If Stubbs falls back to fourth outfielder or becomes trade fodder once again, Cleveland at least enters the season 2-3 wins better than they looked this morning.

Are they as good as the Tigers? Probably closer than we think. Are they better than the Royals? Probably. Pitching remains a question mark for the Tribe but they make another adept move to improve the club without sacrificing the financial flexibility they need as a mid-market club. Hanging on to their high draft picks is just the icing on the surprising cake that has been the free agent spending this winter.