On Michael Bourn: The Terry Francona Effect Continues To Pay Dividends

Michael Bourn

Michael BournBaseball season is getting closer and closer. I for one am thankful. These are the dog days: no Football, a month away from the NCAA Tournament, and I’m NBA Free. But pitchers and catchers reported to Goodyear on Sunday, so that means the good stuff – Tribe games 6-7 nights a week – is coming.

That was the open to the piece that I was going to write about the Jason Giambi DH possibility. Well, I’m sorry Jason, your potential roster spot was just taken by….Michael Bourn. Wait…what? Did I just read that correctly? Michael Bourn? You mean the two time-All Star CF, with the speed and two-time gold glove? You mean the durable 30-year old leadoff man who will make the Indians outfield the place where fly balls and line drives go to die? Nah, the Indians couldn’t…The Dolan family wouldn’t pay a second free agent in the same winter…Not a chance…

It happened folks. This is not a test. This is the real thing. Your Cleveland Indians are players.

To me, this is very simple. The Indians had a serious image problem with its fan base. The Dolan family ownership knew it and knew they had to do something big. Firing Manny Acta was a no brainer. When they decided to stick with President Mark Shapiro and GM Chris Antonetti to run the front office, it seemed like we would see more of the same. But as we know now, they played their trump card. Its like they had four aces up their collective sleeve. They pulled in Terry Francona as their new manager, something NOBODY, me especially, thought was possible. Francona was said to have brought instant credibility to the organization, but there was plenty of concern that the Dolan’s still wouldn’t spend money on free agents.

Well here we are on February 12th and the Indians makeover as as stunning as that old reality show “The Swan.”

Talk about a face lift. Manny Acta, Shin-Soo Choo, Travis Hafner, Grady Sizemore, Casey Kotchman, Jason Donald, and Tony Sipp are out. Trevor Bauer, Drew Stubbs, Matt Albers, David Shaw, and Mark Reynolds are in. The Nick Swisher free agent signing on the heels of the Choo trade was move that showed Tribe fans the power of Francona’s reach. More importantly, Swisher’s energy and big contract were great signs to Tribe fans everywhere.

And then tonight, after hearing the Tribe didn’t want to give a major league contract to potential DH’s Hafner and Jim Thome and settling for a minor league deal with the 42-year old Giambi, the front office completed an off-season Grand Slam. Bourn, a Scott Boras client, had been waiting in the wings for the dust to settle. He and fellow big name free agent Kyle Lohse still were looking for a team. But as Boras always does, he pulled a 11th hour rabbit out of his hat and found a home and  big money for one of his star clients.

Bourn (.274/.348/.391/42 steals in 2012), however, landed in a spot that nobody saw coming. He is your newest Cleveland Indian. The perfect fit to start the Wahoo offensive attack, which all of a sudden looks beastly. Antonetti gave the left-handed hitting all-star Center fielder four years and $48 million, with a vesting fifth year option. This is a contract that we thought we would never see under the Dolan ownership. Now it has happened twice in one off-season. And you know who you can thank for this?

Terry Francona.

If you think the Indians would be this serious about winning now with Sandy Alomar Jr. as their manager, you are nuts. Francona won’t admit to it, but you have to think he wasn’t taking this job unless he received some sort of assurances that ownership would spend money. Well, I’d say they answered that question pretty well, didn’t they? Don’t forget they also paid Hafner $2.75 million to go away.

Think about this – 12 months ago, the Indians gave Sizemore $5 million, Derek Lowe $5 million (via trade), and Casey Kotchman $3 million. That was it.

Now here we are, with a new top pitching prospect in Bauer, two new all-star outfielders signed for the next four years in Bourn and Swisher, all-star shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera reportedly arriving in Goodyear in tip top shape, rising young studs Carlos Santana, Michael Brantley and Jason Kipnis, former top prospect Lonnie Chisenhall finally ready to take over full time at third base, the answer for the utility man hole in Mike Aviles, and a loaded bullpen.

The options are for Francona are plentiful. Bourn undoubtedly will take over in center. Brantley has played plenty of left field and should have no troubles moving there. Swisher was signed to play right field, but can play first base as well. Will Stubbs and Brantley platoon in left? Will Stubbs play some right field with Swisher getting ABs at first? Will Reynolds become the DH or stay at first? Will Stubbs be used as trade bait to possibly lure another starting pitcher? Aviles, who at one point was thought to be the guy playing every day with a rotating DH spot, will assume the utility roll that the front office wanted him to be.

Whatever way Francona wants to go, we are all going to be on board.  You could be looking at a lineup like this on certain days:

CF Michael Bourn

SS Asdrubal Cabrera

1B Nick Swisher

C Carlos Santana

DH Mark Reynolds

2B Jason Kipnis

LF Michael Brantley

3B Lonnie Chisenhall

RF Drew Stubbs

I know Swisher be in right most of the time, but the thought of a Brantley-Bourn-Stubbs defensive outfield is incredible. That’s about as fast of a group as you will find in the majors. Meanwhile the Indians team speed, which has been all but zero these past few years, all of a sudden looks like a group that will be running on everyone.

If you were this excited about the season starting BEFORE tonight, I can’t imagine how you are feeling now that the Indians have added Bourn. I’ve already been contacted by two of the people who dropped out of my season ticket group wanting back in. This is a great night to be an Indians fan. I am as jacked as I have been in years. Kudos to Paul Dolan and Chris Antonetti for stepping up larger than any of us could have expected them to.

Now about that rotation…..

  • Kildawg

    Put Swisher at 1B and Reynolds at DH and you get closer to nailing it. Although I see Cabrera hitting 2nd, Kipnis 8th, Swisher 3rd, Reynolds 4th, Brantley 5th, Santana 6th, and Chis 7th. Trying to balance the bats with where hitters would be most successful (and avoiding multiple strings of left-handed bats; saw way too much of that last year).

  • mgbode

    sigh. I disagree with that movement, but at least it’s a move that we can make. Hopefully, Reynold is not peeved about his move back to DH.

  • mgbode

    you forgot the best of them all; 43 games of Lillibridge

  • mgbode

    I want more KIPNIS! as goes Kipnis, so goes the Tribe (see April-July26th vs. July 27th-October splits)

  • Kildawg

    I’m sure that Reynolds will get some action at 1B with ‘platooning’ of Stubbs and Bourn in interleague play or against pitchers like Sabathia and Verlander (Stubbs struggles against righties, Bourn vs LHP).

  • Kildawg

    I like Kipnis too, but Cabrera struggles in the 3 hole but excels in the 2. Unless Kipnis proves he can hit in the 3 or 5 hole, he’ll have to hit near the bottom (and Brantley looked good hitting 5th last year). You can flip Kipnis and Brantley if it makes you feel better.

  • Kildawg

    I like Kipnis too, but Cabrera struggles in the 3 hole but excels in the 2. Unless Kipnis proves he can hit in the 3 or 5 hole, he’ll have to hit near the bottom (and Brantley looked good hitting 5th last year). You can flip Kipnis and Brantley if it makes you feel better.

  • nj0

    True dat…
    Their respective FG WARs…

    CK -1.5
    SD -0.2
    AC -0.5
    JL -0.4
    JD -0.1
    BL -0.8

    Which means that, before even factoring in the value of whoever replaces them, just by not playing these guys our team is 3.5 wins better.

  • mgbode

    ok, so if we also factor in a few of the other guys we didn’t mention that only played a little (Jason Donald, etc.) it gets us to 72 wins (+4 from last year).

    only 18 more to go to be in the wildcard hunt (and while that sounds crazy, we might get a 8-9 game boost from Swish, Bourn, Reynolds, then make up the rest with our youngsters improving and hopefully – deal lord let us hope, a boost from our SPs not being horrific again).

  • Cory

    I have stopped reading NFL mock drafts long enough to realize what the Tribe has been doing.

  • mgbode

    again, I like that we are arguing about how to get enough PAs for all our good young hitters.

  • Woods

    My first thought when I read the news that they signed Bourn was “What? Really?”

    After I saw the financial structure of the deal, I thought “Okay, he is a one year rental that can be moved for prospects next year”.

  • Kildawg

    Sure beats trying to find someone worthy of winning a starting spot on the team (see LF/DH (Hafner hurt often)/1B/3B (without Chis)/2B (before Kipnis), 2009-11(2B)-12).

  • nj0

    One last note: ESPN tracks pitchers per plate appearance as a stat. Unfortunately, only like 140 or so players qualify for the stat so it isn’t all that telling. But still…

    Santana – 5th
    Reynolds – 7th
    Swisher – 9th
    Bourn – 14th
    Stubbs – 47th
    Kipnis – 49th

    That means all the guys we picked up go deep into the count regularly. Yes, that’ll mean more strike outs too, but it also will get starting pitchers out of the game sooner.

  • mgbode

    and imagine if Youk would have listened to his old friend Francona and signed here.

    that particular stat is one of the reasons I thought for sure we would make a hard push for Cody Ross (that and the affordability of his contract). i am happy with how our OF turned out though :)

  • markn95

    To be fair, though, all 3 of those guys are legit up-and-comers. Adding Swish and Bourne to that foundation should make the Tribe a perennial offensive contender for the next 4-5 years.

    As for pitching, well, let’s just hope Bauer figures it out and Carrasco picks up where he left off 2 years ago.

  • NoVA Buckeye

    I like to think that Francona is holding the Dolans hostage until they give him more players to work with.

  • NoVA Buckeye

    My favorite of all the Cleveland teams (and I love all of them) is by far the Indians because I grew up in an open market (DC) when I got in to baseball. Even though football is my favorite sport, the Tribe hold a special place in my heart and anytime big news happens, I’m overflowing with joy.

  • Natedawg86

    what would you rather trade. A first round draft pick, or one of your top prospects that you have developed?