This is the frustration for small market teams every winter.
Let’s preface this by saying that there is little, if any, chance that the Pittsburgh Pirates end up signing Michael Bourn.
But there is a better chance now than there was a few months ago, when there was literally no shot.
The market for Bourn has collapsed upon itself. What began the off-season as a great market for center fielders turned into a game of musical chairs, with Bourn playing the part of the fat kid left standing without a seat when the music stops. There were a certain number of center fielders available and a certain number of teams looking for solutions, but teams like the Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia Phillies made trades to fill their needs instead of signing free agents.
The off-season development has left Bourn, who entered the winter asking for a $100 million-plus deal, possibly considering a one-year deal so that he can try his hand at free agency again next year. And if that’s the case, the Pirates have a chance.
Bourn’s agent Scott Boras has a history of finding a “mystery team” for his clients, which tends to be a team that no one expected to be in the running. No team would better fit that mold than the Pirates.
The Pirates are not going to commit $100 to Bourn, or anybody else for that matter, but a one-year deal for $15 million is a contract that the Pirates could easily take on if they were willing to raise their payroll above the $50-55 million range. Long-term commitments to free agents aren’t what the Pirates do. But they have a chance to add their missing piece at a low-risk but high-priced deal.
But we know they won’t take it.
Bourn would be such a good fit in Pittsburgh, a team in desperate need of a leadoff hitter to get on base in front of MVP candidate Andrew McCutchen. He should play center, but he wouldn’t, in difference to the status of McCutchen. Instead he would slide into left field, Starling Marte would man right field every day, and Pirates pitchers would enjoy watching every fly ball they throw fall into the glove of one of their fleet-footed outfielders.
But alas, it is all for naught. Even with the diminished leverage of the free agent Bourn, the Pirates will not pull the trigger. Even without the risk of a long-term contract, the Pirates will not go for it. Sure, it would be a deal for only 2013, but with the progress their organization has made, the impact of a player like Bourn could be the difference between the playoffs and simply getting over .500.