Wednesday, December 12, 2012

0 comments Terence Moore Does Scott Boras' Job for Him

Scott Boras is a very successful agent for MLB players. He's probably the most successful in the history of baseball, at least in terms of the amount of money he has been able to get for his players on the free agent market. Think of a big name player and the odds are reasonably good that Scott Boras is the agent for this player. He has what is known as the "Boras Binder" of statistics which makes any of his potential free agents sound like future Hall of Famers and he routinely gets at least one MLB team to bite on a (crazy) contract for his clients. So knowing all of this, you wouldn't expect Scott Boras to need help finding his players a job and a multi-year contract, but Terence Moore is willing to help him anyway. Michael Bourn is a free agent and Scott Boras is his agent. Terence Moore writes about Michael Bourn and how teams (specifically the Atlanta Braves) should sign him to a contract. It seems Terence can't understand why the Braves don't sign Bourn to a big, multi-year contract immediately. Terence only mentions Scott Boras once in this column, despite Boras' demands on a multi-year deal being the biggest impediment to the Braves or any team signing Bourn. Terence also doesn't seem to care for any type of projecting to see if Bourn would even be worth $15 million per year next year, much less four years down the road.

I'm not trying to do a hack job on Bourn, but Boras is going to want $100 million for him and speedy centerfielders without power have a habit of not getting better as they get further away from the age of 30. 

I love center fielders, so I love Michael Bourn. 

How about crappy center fielders? Do you like crappy center fielders simply because they are center fielders? Actually, don't answer that.

Those old black-and-white films of Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays doing their things are intoxicating. 

I've got bad news. Michael Bourn isn't Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays.

Remember Paul Blair? He was hitting challenged, but his glove, legs and arm were among the primary reasons the Baltimore Orioles had those four 20-game winners in 1971. 

A less mature person would take this opportunity to mention that wins are an overrated statistic, because as Terence Moore states here, how many wins a pitcher has partially depends on him having great center fielders like Paul Blair. I'm more mature than that though and won't mention my feelings on wins.  

There also were those magic center fielders before Blair, ranging from Ty Cobb to Tris Speaker to Joe DiMaggio. Then there were those after Blair, ranging from Kirby Puckett to Ken Griffey Jr. to Torii Hunter. And there are those now that include rookie sensation Mike Trout, Adam Jones, Josh Hamilton and Bourn. 

Three of those names don't belong in this discussion quite yet. I'll allow you to guess which three names those are.

So this is just me: If you have a center fielder of note these days, you should keep him no matter what. 

If a team has a budget they need to stick to, then this strategy is probably the best way to spend valuable payroll space on a player who is overpaid. There are very few players who should be kept "no matter what" and the fact Michael Bourn is a center fielder doesn't automatically put him in this discussion. Even Albert Pujols was allowed by the Cardinals to depart in free agency last year. Blind loyalty to a player and an open checkbook to pay that player is an easy and fast way to put a non-winning team on the field. I think this is especially true when a player has hit free agency and a team is bidding against other MLB teams for that player's services.

So no, Michael Bourn should not be kept no matter what. His salary demands and how he projects during the length of his contract are very important matters to be considered.

Gold Glove-caliber defense? That's a given for the kind of center fielder I'm talking about. And if the guy can hit a little, while providing you with some zip on the basepaths and spark in the clubhouse -- well, you really need to make sure he doesn't leave anytime soon.

I have three separate issues with this statement:

1. Yes, Michael Bourn provides great defense and is fast on the base paths. Bourn also can hit a little. He hit just a little in the second half of the season...meaning he didn't hit very well in the second half of his contract year. Bourn hit .225/.325/.311 in the second half of the 2012 season. Bourn's splits are very even over his entire career between the first and second half of the season, so maybe the second half of the 2012 season was an outlier.

Terence also doesn't project Bourn's performance into the later years of his four or five year contract. This link from NBC Sports sums it up very well. 

Bourn strikes out a lot for a leadoff hitter and whichever team that signs him will have to get their value out of him in the early part of his contract, because his proficiency for striking out and lack of power don't seem like they will project well into the future. Bourn will always be a fast guy (probably) on the base paths and play very good defense, but his value as a player depends on what kind of contract he signs this offseason. Speaking of which...

2. Terence Moore blindly saying a team should re-sign a center fielder without even discussing that player's salary demands is very poor writing, as well as a very elementary way to write a column. Salary demands have to be in the forefront of a writer's mind when deciding to write a team "must" keep a pending free agent who plays center field or any position on the baseball field.

3. Terence is advocating pretty hard for Michael Bourn in this column. Is Terence Moore working for AND getting commissions from Scott Boras? If so, that seems to be some sort of a conflict of interest. Granted, it hasn't ever hurt Jon Heyman, but that's beside the point.

I'm talking about Bourn. That's why I cringe whenever I hear a few measly millions (OK, a bunch of millions) could prohibit the Atlanta Braves from re-signing the free agent for a second full season. 

The Braves, or any other team, wouldn't be re-signing him for a second full season, but for four or five more full seasons. Therein lies the issue. Terence Moore wanted the Braves to sign a washed up Ken Griffey Jr a few seasons ago, so he clearly has no concept of salary versus the value of a player. The Braves have a fixed payroll, which Terence should know well from writing for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for quite a few years. They have about $25 million to spend this offseason, depending on who you believe, so why would they spend $16-$20 million of this money on a center fielder when they need a left fielder/third baseman as well? More importantly, with the Uggla contract albatross on the books for three more years, why would the Braves saddle themselves with another player making $10 million or more who doesn't project to age well?

So why cringe when you learn a bunch of millions separate Bourn from the Braves? Smart teams don't blow their budget for nostalgia purposes. It makes sense to be smart on whether to offer Bourn the contract he and Scott Boras want.

As for Gold Gloves, Bourn has two of them, and he was close to snatching his third in four years this season.

I'm not going to argue his value on defense. I have seen him play quite enough to believe he is a valuable defensive center fielder and is fast on the base paths. Bourn did lead the majors for the second year in a row in being caught stealing. His steal percentage for 2012 was 76%.

He can hit, too. Despite his career batting average of .272, he was around .300 for more than a year as the definitive leadoff hitter, before he slumped in the second half of last season.

Bourn WAS around .300, before he went down to a .274 average for the season. I like how Terence acts as if Bourn's career average of .272 is some sort of outlier or doesn't reflect Bourn's true hitting ability because he hit .300 for a three month span this season. Bourn's batting average per year for his career are as follows:

2007: .277
2008: .229
2009: .285
2010: .265
2011: .294
2012: .274

These were his batting averages from age 24-29. I don't know if I can see him starting to become a .300 hitter on a consistent basis after the age of 30. So there is no "despite" his career batting average, because .274 is his career average and is a number he has always hovered around.

If that isn't enough, Bourn is a clubhouse favorite, and going back to the start of Bobby Cox's second reign with the Braves in 1991, chemistry has been as important to this franchise as pitching. 

You don't pay $15 million per year for chemistry. You pay $15 million per year for Chipper Jones or a great player who isn't an asshole in the locker room. Teams pay for chemistry plus performance.

He also keeps mentioning he prefers to stay with the Braves, and Braves officials keep saying the feeling was mutual. 

Terence Moore is a real gem. He tells us that Michael Bourn "prefers" to stay with the Braves. Of course he doesn't "prefer" this enough to sign a long term contract and forgo free agency does he? Bourn isn't dumb enough to rule out any teams he could play for as he becomes a free agent. So actions speak louder than words. If Bourn really preferred to stay in Atlanta, he would get a deal done. Instead, Bourn has Scott Boras as his agent and hasn't made this fictional "preference" known through his actions. 

Sounds like a perfect match. 

It's perfect unless you consider Bourn's financial demands and the Braves budget, as well as whether Bourn's demands match up with his skill set now and in the future. If you blindly don't consider any variables other than where Bourn claims to prefer to play, it is a perfect fit.

Bourn told me over the phone on Tuesday. "That [loss to the Cardinals in the NL Wild Card game] was tough, because I thought we had a good team. No, a great team, with all of the aspects of the game that you need. But there are a few teams out there that are likeable, and I can't put my finger on just one. So I can't narrow it down right now to just one." 

You can obviously see Bourn "prefers" the Braves if the statement "there are a few teams there that are likeable, and I can't put my finger on just one" means anything. Clearly, he doesn't necessarily want to be back in Atlanta. It's a perfect match as long as you ignore all of the variables that could potentially make it not a perfect match, like salary demands, budget constraints and Bourn's future production based on his salary.

Either way, the fact Bourn can't narrow down which team he wants to play for next year means he definitely "prefers" Atlanta.

The Braves offered Bourn a qualifying offer of $13.3 million last week, but Bourn rejected it.

He rejected the offer of $13.3 million. Again, that should tell Terence Moore something, but it doesn't.

After all, given his still-potent skills at age 29, he is expected to do much better than that in the pocketbook.

Exactly, and Bourn very well may not be worth more than $13.3 million in a season.

It also doesn't hurt his financial prospects that his agent is Scott Boras, noted for squeezing more than a few pennies out of owners. 

This is the first and only mention of Scott Boras in this column. That's not a sign of a well-written column given the subject matter discussed by Terence Moore. Scott Boras needs to be a major part of any discussion when it comes to signing Michael Bourn as a free agent.

Whatever Bourn gets, he deserves.

Not necessarily. It's good to see Terence Moore is looking at this situation from a purely neutral point of view though. He thinks a MLB team should give Michael Bourn whatever he asks for because Bourn is a fast center fielder. Whatever other criteria could be required for a $100 million contract?

I mean, given what he provides for a team, you can't overpay for his services,

No, you actually can overpay for a 30 year old center fielder who strikes out a lot, has little power, and doesn't project well into the future. Bourn's main strengths, his speed and defense are really good, but he isn't getting younger and I doubt his hitting will trend upwards as he gets older. It's entirely possible to overpay for him. Just stay tuned to find out if I am right.

and that applies to just about any other superlative center fielder -- past, present or future. 

No, it doesn't. Why can't you overpay for the services of a great center fielder, but you can overpay for the services of a great third baseman or right fielder? Why am I arguing logic when Terence Moore clearly isn't using logic?

Bourn laughed.

He agreed, of course. 

You mean a pending free agent doesn't disagree you can't overpay for his services? This is breaking news. The next thing Terence will tell us is that Michael Bourn's agent thinks he is worth as much money as a baseball team is willing to pay him.

"I think it's 1A and 1B between those two positions. The shortstop is going to get more action than the center fielder, but I'll tell you what -- you save a whole lot of runs in center field. And because of all the running you do, you have to be in great shape. 

Which is why it is important to not overpay for a center fielder. Otherwise a team would have an expensive, underachieving center fielder in one of the most important positions on defense. Checkmate! Your turn now, Bourn!

"You look at what Mike Trout did this year for [the Los Angeles Angels] as a center fielder and as a leadoff hitter. It was tremendous. He has more power than I do, but we do some of the same things." 

If by "do the same things," Michael Bourn means, "We both are center fielders, are fast, and play the game of baseball," then yes, he is correct. If Michael Bourn means anything else by this statement then he is incredibly wrong. Mike Trout is a completely different offensive player from Michael Bourn. Granted, they both steal bases and hold a bat in their hands when trying to hit the baseball, but the comparison ends there. Trout stole more bases, hit more home runs, drove in more runs, got on-base more often, hit for a higher average, and nearly doubled Bourn's OPS+. I know OPS+ isn't the end-all of statistics, but Bourn's was 90 and Trout's was 171. They aren't close to being the same player right now.

No question there.

No, no, no, big question there. When has a baseball player's self-evaluation ever been off? Never. Baseball players are always able to have a reasonable evaluation of their own skill set.

It's just that Bourn has been doing them longer than Trout -- 

So Mike Trouth is a decade younger and still plays at the level of a six year veteran...and this makes Michael Bourn's value increase how? Michael Bourn is maybe, maybe, like Mike Trout in two phases of the game. Bourn steals bases (though not as frequently or as successfully) as Trout and they both play great defense. Bourn is older, strikes out nearly as often and has less power. Those are the three major concerns a team should have when signing Bourn to a $90-$100 million contract. Of course, Terence Moore thinks Bourn is worth $200 million over five years.

and Bourn hopes to keep doing those things as long as he can without jumping from team to team. 

Well, signing a long term deal no other MLB team will want to take on through a trade is certainly a way to make sure Bourn doesn't jump from team-to-team. Again, Bourn could possibly stay in Atlanta if he wanted $10 million per year. Of course the fact Bourn's actions don't match up with his words are irrelevant to Terence Moore apparently. 

Bourn said. "As a player, you would like to get comfortable in one spot, but I'm not sure where that spot is for me right now." 

I am guessing that spot will end up being whichever team ends up offering Bourn the most money. Such a coincidence that is.

Wherever it is for Bourn, the pitchers on his team will be happy -- along with the rest of his teammates, the team's fans and everybody else.

Scott Boras gives this article a stamp of approval. You can never overpay for a player like Michael Bourn. Let's fast forward to 2015 and see if that axiom is still true.