Michael Bourn‘s long national nightmare is finally over.
And his destination is a surprise.
Bourn and the Cleveland Indians have agreed on a four-year contract worth $48 million, with a vesting option worth $12 million for the 2017 season.
And while it certainly was a shock that Cleveland was the team that signed the speedy center fielder (all signs had been pointing to the Mets), Bourn’s signing with the Indians could have ripple affects that might affect the Phillies.
Because, after all, who gives a crap about the Indians? HOW DOES THIS AFFECT THE PHILLIES???? An entire nation wants to know.
Major League Baseball says you’re only allowed to play three outfielders at a time.
It’s just simple math, friends.
Three of those players, Swisher, Bourn and Stubbs have yet to play a game in Cleveland, all joining the team this off-season, either as free agents or as part of a trade.
Swisher and Bourn aren’t going anywhere, obviously. Which leaves Stubbs and Brantley battling it out for one spot in the outfield.
Of course, the Indians could decide to go with an outfield of Stubbs and Brantley in the corners and Bourn in center, pushing Swisher to first base full-time and Mark Reynolds to DH. However, as ESPN’s Keith Law points out, that devalues the defensive contributions Stubbs, Brantley and Swisher provide.
It may be in the Indians’ best interest to trade Stubbs or Brantley in order to get some value in another area.
Might the Phillies and Indians be a match?
Both Brantley and Stubbs offer some positives and some negatives for any team looking for outfield help.
Both are young (Brantley is 26 this year, Stubbs is 28), both are athletic, and both can play a very good center field, as well as other corner outfield spots.
Brantley, a left-handed hitter, is the more consistent of the two players, posting a career slash line of .274/.329/.376 for an OPS of .705 in 363 career games. Last year was the first in which he played virtually every day, posting a bWAR of 2.9 while hitting .288/.348/.402 for an OPS of .750, with 6 HRs, 37 doubles, and 12 stolen bases, all while playing above average defense in left and center field.
He also has decent splits against lefties for his career, hitting .246/.309/.311 in 461 plate appearances, but has hit only one home run in his career against lefties.
Brantley doesn’t strike out much, but he’s left-handed, doesn’t hit for much power and still walked only 53 times in 609 plate appearances last year.
However, he enters the 2013 season at just 26 years old and cannot become a free agent until after the 2017 season, keeping him under team control for another four years. His best days are likely ahead of him.
Stubbs is a right-handed hitter with more power and speed potential, and has more of a track record than Brantley, having been an everyday player for the last three years. But he’s also a wild swinger who has regressed two years in a row, leading to a terrible 2012 season for Cincinnati.
Last year, in 133 games, he hit just .213/.277/.333 for a woeful OPS of .610, with 14 HRs and 13 doubles. However, he did steal 30 bases, so when he did manage to get on, he was as dangerous a base-stealer as there is in the game. Still, he was a below-replacement level player last year, posting a WAR of -0.2.
A couple years ago, Stubbs was a rising star for the Reds, posting a WAR of 2.8 with an OPS of .773, 22 HRs and 30 stolen bases in 2010. However, he slipped a bit in 2011, leading the NL in strikeouts with 205, while seeing his OPS drop to .686, and his home run totals shrink to 15. However, he did steal 40 bases that year, and played solid defense in center field.
Still, at just 28 years old, he’s still young enough to turn things around.
Neither player is perfect. And neither player would solve all the Phillies’ outfield problems. But both would be an upgrade over Delmon Young and Laynce Nix, and both wouldn’t cost that much (Stubbs is due to make a little over $2.8 million this year, while Brantley will probably get a raise up to about $1.5-2 million).
However, both players have enough flaws that a trade revolving around a Phils’ starter might be enough to entice Cleveland.
Editors Note: Yes, I know Cloyd stinks, but some people see those gaudy AAA numbers and get all brain-dead-ey.
The Phillies are likely done tinkering, and I wouldn’t expect them to make a move for Brantley or Stubbs. But the fact that there is an extra outfielder in Cleveland at least allows for some idle speculation.
I know. I really have to start finding something else to do with my time.