|Veteran center fielder Michael Bourn has a new team. (Getty Images)|
Free-agent center fielder Michael Bourn has agreed to a four-year, $48 million deal with the Cleveland Indians, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Heyman also reports that there's a vesting option for a fifth year worth $12 million if Bourn reaches 550 plate appearances in 2016.
The Indians pick fifth in the 2013 draft, so their first-rounder is protected and they'll only lose a second-round pick for signing Bourn. If a team outside the top 10 in the draft signed Bourn, it would have lost its first-round selection. So this is a relative coup for the Indians.
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The Mets made a four-year, $48 million offer to Bourn, too, but didn't include a vesting option like Cleveland did, Heyman reports. Also, the Mets pick 11th in the draft, so their pick isn't protected. They were going to file a grievance to see if they could keep their first-round pick, if they signed Bourn, on the basis that the Pirates get a compensation pick in the top 10 due to not signing draftee Mark Appel last season. Had they done so, the Mets would have picked 10th and possibly would have ended up signing Bourn. Instead, the Mets would have faced weeks of waiting on MLB to resolve the situation and Bourn elected to sign with the Indians before they pulled back their offer. The Mets did not want to forfeit a first-rounder to sign Bourn.
Bourn, 30, hit .274/.348/.391 with 26 doubles, 10 triples, nine homers, 57 RBI, 96 runs and 42 stolen bases last season for the Braves, making his second All-Star Game. He's a two-time Gold Glover who displays excellent defensive range in center.
This signing is the second high-profile addition that the normally frugal Indians have made this offseason. They also signed Nick Swisher to a four-year, $56 million deal. So it would appear the Tribe are already enjoying the fruits of a lucrative local TV deal.
So, with Bourn on the club, the Indians lineup projects as follows:
Also note that the Indians could DH Reynolds, play Swisher at first base and use Drew Stubbs in the outfield alongside Bourn and Brantley, which would easily be the best outfield in baseball in terms of range.
Obviously, there will be arguments with where I slotted certain hitters, but we're just jotting it down to get the basic idea of how they'll look. It may not be enough to seriously challenge the Tigers in the AL Central, but that's a marked improvement over last season -- especially if one figures improvement from youngsters like Kipnis and Chisenhall -- and there's reason for optimism from the good folks of Cleveland.
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