Among the last free agents to find work, outfielder Michael Bourn has agreed to terms with the Cleveland Indians on a four-year, $48 million contract, according to baseball sources. A fifth-year option that vests with 550 plate appearances in 2016 could make the contract worth another $12 million.
The Indians have added Nick Swisher, Mark Reynolds, Brett Myers, Trevor Bauer, Mike Aviles, Drew Stubbs and Bourn, and hired Terry Francona to manage them. In the AL Central, where second place appears up for grabs behind the Detroit Tigers, the Indians just might have gotten interesting again.
The signing of Bourn, first reported by CBS Sports, brings a defense-first center fielder and leadoff hitter who has stolen 216 bases in the past four seasons. In recent weeks Bourn had appeared to have fallen into the arms of the New York Mets, which also offered a four-year contract. On the day many pitchers and catchers reported for spring training, however, the Indians made a bold move for the third-best free agent available, behind Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke.
The Indians were slipping again toward irrelevance and perhaps in all-out free fall. They'd lost at least 93 games for the third time in four seasons. So little was working for a franchise that seems to get it together just often enough that its irrelevance, on the national landscape, is somewhat relevant.
An aggressive offseason was necessary, and general manager Chris Antonetti, backed by owner Larry Dolan, has improved a club that folded in the second half of 2012. The Indians have committed $104 million over the next four years to Swisher and Bourn alone, acquired a potential ace by trading Shin-Soo Choo for Trevor Bauer, and took one-year shots on veterans Reynolds and Myers.
The Indians still aren't the Tigers, and might not be close. But, they're better. A solid winter makes them so. And Bourn makes them so, particularly at what is a very reasonable price.
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