The Texas Rangers might just be the team Scott Boras was waiting for.
Free agent outfielder Michael Bourn was thought to be the best natural center fielder in a market deep with center field talent. Projections had him finding a deal likely in the range of five years and $100 million. With just three shopping days left before Christmas, however, Bourn and his agent, Boras, have been left on the sidelines watching as team after team filled their center field needs with trades and signings to acquire less expensive options.
It’s not unusual for a Boras client to wait to sign a big contract, but Bourn is an unusual player. Typically, power gets the big dollars and players relying on speed, like Bourn, are viewed more cautiously in longer-term deals. While Bourn is an elite defender in center field and routinely steals 40-50 bases per season, he doesn’t bring the presence that a middle-of-the-order bat would bring.
And though he’s drawn interest from several teams this season, the only one that seems legitimately interested is the Seattle Mariners, and even their interest is tempered by the sting of their last speedy free agent signing, Chone Figgins; a deal that went horribly bad for the M’s.
Boras and Bourn had been counting on the Phillies or the Nationals, or maybe the Braves to step up and start a bidding war to see which of them would get to sign the player. Instead, Bourn’s most recent employer, Atlanta, opted for B.J. Upton, a younger and cheaper center fielder who offers more power but lacks lead-off skills. Philly landed Ben Revere to fill their center field void and Washington traded for another Twin, Denard Span.
It’s the same situation that faced Boras and his client, Prince Fielder, last Winter. By the time January rolled around, Fielder was still on the market, but there didn’t appear to be a big contract coming his way. All the supposedly interested parties had moved on and obtained other players to fill their first base openings. The price tag for Fielder was too high. He’d be forced to take a one-year deal and try his luck on the market again the following year.
All of a sudden, Victor Martinez came up with an injured knee and the Detroit Tigers had a hole in the middle of their order. Before long, Fielder was the owner of a nine-year, $214 million contract to play in Motown. Prior to VMart’s injury, Detroit wasn’t even interested in adding Fielder. Boras waited for an opportunity arose and he got a little lucky with a big market team suddenly having a desperate need for a power bat.
In order to get bourn the contract he wants, Boras will have to get a little lucky again.
This time, the big market Texas Rangers suddenly have a desperate need for offense after missing out on Justin Upton, and losing Mike Napoli and Josh Hamilton to free agency. According to Jon Heyman, the Rangers have begun to show preliminary interest in the free agent center fielder. They had not previously been linked to Bourn.
Texas has met with Cody Ross as well and they’ve been rumored to in on Nick Swisher. Both of those players fit the needs of the Rangers a bit more than Bourn does in terms of a middle-of-the-order bat. Texas also lacks an established center fielder, however, and the addition of a guy like Bourn could allow Ian Kinsler to hit deeper in the order.
He’s not the same type of player as Hamilton, but Bourn could provide the Rangers enough of a boost to keep pace in the AL West. Meanwhile, the Rangers sudden interest might just mean another face-saving contract for Boras late in the off-season and maintain his reputation as the best agent in baseball.