Bourn: Focus on preparing for season, not contract

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – A contract extension wasn’t high on the priority list for Michael Bourn when the Braves center fielder reported to spring training on Wednesday.

“Playing and getting ready for the season is pretty much all I’m focused on,” said Bourn, who’s eligible for free agency after the 2012 season and represented by hard-driving agent Scott Boras.

Bourn said he’ll concentrate on preparing for the season and that Boras would let him know if there was anything brewing in a potential contract offer.

“You know, [Boras] is pretty good at his craft so we’ll see,” Bourn said, smiling. “I’ve got to take care of my business first, though.”

The National League’s stolen-base leader each of the past three seasons, Bourn is in first Braves spring training after being traded from Houston at the July 31 trade deadline. He hit .294 with a .349 on-base percentage and 61 stolen bases in 2011, including .278 with a .321 OBP and 22 steals in 53 games for the Braves.

Bourn avoided arbitration by agreeing last month to a one-year contract worth $6.845 million. He has set no deadlines for negotiating a new contract, either during spring training or the season.

He’s looking forward to starting the season with a playoff contender, something he didn’t do often in his years in Houston.

“I feel like we have a real good team,” he said of the Braves, who lost 20 of the last 30 games to blow a 10-1/2-game wild-card lead over St. Louis and miss the playoffs. “I felt like we had a real good team last year. I didn’t feel like anything was wrong with our team, we just had some breaks, had a couple of injuries…

“I’ve never been on a team where the pitching is that deep, where you have six or seven starters that really can start anywhere in the big leagues. It’s a good thing to be part of, and with the bullpen we have – if we can just score for them, we’ll be all right.”

The Braves have maintained they are interested in signing Bourn to an extension, but it’s unclear if they’ve had any discussions yet or when they plan to.

Boras made it clear he thinks Bourn, who has one All-Star appearance and two Gold Gloves, is a special player who will command a sizeable contract at a time when many teams have put a renewed emphasis on speed and defense.

There is speculation Boras will ask for well over $10 million annually in a long-term deal for Bourn, 29, who has a .271 career average, .336 OBP and 234 stolen bases in a little over five seasons, including 174 steals in 456 games over the past three seasons.

Boras is known for taking most clients to free agency once they’ve earned the right to test the open market.

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez looks forward to penciling in Bourn’s name atop his lineup for 2012. He’s the first accomplished leadoff man the Braves have had since Rafael Furcal left after the 2005 season.

“It’s fun to watch him put pressure on the defense,” Gonzalez said. “A ground ball to the left side, he’s got a chance to beat it out. Ball in the gap, he can get a triple. It’s going to be fun watching him play.

“He’s a plus-defender, plus-runner, playing a position where he can use his speed.”

In Baseball America’s  Tools Issue last summer, a survey of NL managers ranked Bourn as the best and fastest baserunner in the league, ahead of Jose Reyes. Bourn was also rated the best defensive outfielder and No. 2 hit-and-run artist.

Like most other Braves, Bourn struggled during the team’s 10-20 slide that began Aug. 26. In that stretch he hit just .254 with a .295 OBP and seven RBIs in 30 games.

“When I came here I thought we were playing good,” Bourn said. “Just some mishaps there at the end. Things like that happen. You’ve got to forget about that. This is pretty much the same team, and chemistry plays a big part. I think we’re going to be all right.”

59 comments Add your comment

BeeGee

February 22nd, 2012
5:02 pm

Truefan

February 22nd, 2012
5:16 pm

Open up the checkbook, break the bank,Bourn is worth every dime!!!!

Chipper

February 22nd, 2012
5:24 pm

My favorite burger:
1/2 pound paddy loaded with cheese,chili, and fried onions stuck between two krimpy kreme doughnuts.

Yeah man! That’s some good eatin!

Bob in SF

February 22nd, 2012
5:26 pm

You don’t give a speed guy about to hit his 30’s a big money, long term contract; see Juan Pierre.

Big Chief

February 22nd, 2012
5:31 pm

The Braves stand no chance of signing Bourn…absolutely zero. No point in even discussing it

Wil

February 22nd, 2012
5:34 pm

Bob, Juan Pierre is an outlier. Speed guys age pretty well usually, and speed is usually one of the last tools to diminish. Just look at Ichiro at age 38/39.

dap01

February 22nd, 2012
5:34 pm

He is a gold glove CF, his defense is championship level, his lead off abilities are championship levels.
For what other players can we say that for on the Braves team?

Sign him.

Stinger2

February 22nd, 2012
5:35 pm

Bourn will be gone unless he has a bad year or he is injured. The Braves will not give him a long term 10 million per year deal the Boras will ask for. Since he is 29 now, he will start losing some speed in the next couple of years. May be wise to not give too much anyway.

bschro3000

February 22nd, 2012
5:51 pm

If the braves had had Bourn all year long in 2011 they would have gone deep into the playoffs . . . all of those one run / extra inning games he could have helped us avoid by manufacturing runs would have taken a huge strain off of our bullpen . . . ohh well . . . a mid-season trade was all we could have afforded re: prospects, anyway. 2012 is going to be a great year to be a Braves fan!

Frank from Ks (now in CO)

February 22nd, 2012
5:52 pm

HEY there Big Cheif….stop and think about THIS for one sec

IF this does end up being Chipper’s last season…then his money could go very nicely toward signing Bourn.

Give that a thought…bucko

Frank from Ks (now in CO)

February 22nd, 2012
5:53 pm

opps…..Big Chief

TheAntiMe

February 22nd, 2012
6:12 pm

Michael Bourn would sure look good with a tomahawk across his chest for the next five years or so.

NickB

February 22nd, 2012
6:19 pm

4 years at $38 mill with a team option for a 5th year at $12 mill (with $2mill buyout) that gives him an avg of a 4 yr $10 mill deal and will also allow him to hit FA again at age 33… I wouldn’t go any more in years or dollars than that.

wayn-o

February 22nd, 2012
7:09 pm

Boras feels this way about all of his clients … “special player who will command a sizeable contract”

Mike from the coast

February 22nd, 2012
7:34 pm

Don’t we have another 10 million freed up after this year, because we won’t have to pay any more on Derek Lowe?

nick p.

February 22nd, 2012
7:35 pm

i wish i could say i was optimistic about keeping him, heck i know if this was the 90s braves he would have been locked down for a 4 year with an option for a fifth year, but the modern braves just dont do things like that anymore, boras being his agent wont help either, but still boras is not the problem, its the front office that will not pull the trigger on really good players for the long run, they almost have the attitude that a player should want to play for the braves for a big discount, good luck with that braves, i think they will probably move this pastornichy guy to lead off if he works out and put together a last second band aid laine up together, braves only pay for the long haul for pitching and nothing else!

least of the east

February 22nd, 2012
8:22 pm

Bourn isn’t concverned about a contract for a while because he knows it won’t come until he becomes a free agent.

Braves will do their usual and let him walk away for nothing. It’s now almost a tradition.

Mark (another one)

February 22nd, 2012
9:32 pm

I expect Wren will do his own calculations of Bourn’s worth to the Braves and make an offer. If its too low for Bourn, he will go to free agency, and the Braves should get a compensation pick. If its okay, he will sign. It will be done in private and we may never know the details.

What is a player of his caliber demanding on the open market and what do the Braves have behind him to fill the hole. With most players stolen bases come at too high a price because the percentages are too low. Bourn has a high success rate, and a great OBP. The only tool missing is power.

Fastball

February 22nd, 2012
10:34 pm

Don’t sign this guy

Braveoneastside

February 22nd, 2012
11:43 pm

It’s Feb. – not yet Spring please don’t worry about next year. Hudson will be gone next year, JJ maybe traded – plenty of money to resign MB for next year.
Let’s be positive for NOW! The game is played one year at time.

Mr. Enigma

February 23rd, 2012
4:45 am

Mark (another one)

Draft pick compensation is gone now with the new CBA. The only way a team can get a draft pick from a team is if the leaving player is offered a deal of at least $12 million and declines.

Andres

February 23rd, 2012
5:10 am

i think we still have to sign him. no one in the minors is even close to take over center field. the free agents next year are gonna command just as much or even more money aka victorino,hamilton,upton,quentin.. so who in hek will replace him. unless we do the cheap skate route and find some washed up veteran…..

Arkie Brave

February 23rd, 2012
6:34 am

Bourn should be signed – unless salary demands get rediculous. He will have an impact on many games. His defense is great, will steal mbases, makes the number two hitter better, etc. Speed is a special gift. He does not need to hit home runs. He will turn many hits inro extra bases. Our Braves have been lacking speed and defense. Wren, keep Bourn. Go Braves!

Swede

February 23rd, 2012
6:39 am

Mr. Enigma, ist that $12 million per year or in total?

T-Bone

February 23rd, 2012
7:48 am

Anybody know when Kawakami’s money drops off?

JoeFan

February 23rd, 2012
8:21 am

The days of the Braves throwing money at just anyone are over. The return they have gotten for past binges is dismal. The Braves are building internally and cheaply.

Jefferson

February 23rd, 2012
8:45 am

Don’t we have another 10 million freed up after this year, because we won’t have to pay any more on Derek Lowe?

The braves are paying 10 million of Dereks 15 Million this year

Jefferson

February 23rd, 2012
8:46 am

Anybody know when Kawakami’s money drops off?

It already has

tulsabravo

February 23rd, 2012
9:26 am

Two reasons why Bourn won’t be resigning with the Braves: Scott Boras. My guess is he’ll be here half a year, and then be gone. Too bad, because he’d be great to have around for a few years.

Cecil Upshaw's Ghost

February 23rd, 2012
9:42 am

Get another CF ready. This guy is gone by season’s end. Braves start to fail and he will be gone by July 31st trade deadline.

where have you gone bartlett giamatti

February 23rd, 2012
9:45 am

I wish Schafer was still in camp. Still think he’ll have above average career in CF before its all said and done.

Kevin

February 23rd, 2012
9:59 am

Hard to commit to Bourn when you see some of the players that will potentially become FA’s by seasons end. Andre Ethier, Josh Hamilton, BJ Upton, David Wright (16M club option for 2013), and Brian McCann to name a few. With Lowe’s contract coming off the books and possibly even Chipper’s, the Braves could have a lot of money to spend. Depending on the season that Jurrjens has, he could also be a candidate to be non-tendered in 2013 if he isn’t traded. Just a few things to think on.

Miles

February 23rd, 2012
10:05 am

It would be idiotic to not re-sign Bourn…the Braves are notoriously known for not re-signing their minority players….in a city like Atlanta where the population is majority black…the Braves management should get off their own arses and re-sign Bourn

David O'Brien

February 23rd, 2012
10:06 am

Anybody know when Kawakami’s money drops off? — T-Bone

That contract is done and off the books.

kreedham

February 23rd, 2012
10:26 am

I hate it that Bourn is a Boras client. Boras is good at his job but he’s not good for his clients. I know it doesn’t make sense but the way he negotitates seems to drive a bit of a wedge between client and team even if they resign.

Lemsanity (Lemke)

February 23rd, 2012
10:38 am

Here’s a thought for $6.845 million Bourn and the other Braves…Try not going into the tank and choking the last month of the season like you did last year. Sure his overall stats look good, and Boras will get Bourn his money. But when it comes to crunch time, do you really want a 10 million dollar player who folds under pressure?

cowdogit

February 23rd, 2012
10:48 am

If you were spending your own money, no way in hell would you spend ten million a year for a two seventy hitter.Ten million would buy a lot of great AAA prospects.Liberty provide,s plenty of money if it’s spent wisely.

Lemsanity (Lemke)

February 23rd, 2012
10:49 am

More thoughts on the Braves.

Matt Diaz on the roster, really? I remember when he had a good couple of weeks hitting maybe 2 or 3 years ago..That’s the best the Braves could do for a reserve outfielder ?

Will Uggla show up before August this season?

J-Hey was a total mess last year. I’ll take baby steps improvements from him.

TB

February 23rd, 2012
11:16 am

If Tyler P. tears it up on the base paths this season, there will be no need to sign Bourn. Maybe then we can go looking for that big power bat they’ve been looking for.

Brave New World

February 23rd, 2012
11:28 am

If Bourne focuses on having a great season, the big contract will come.

Futch

February 23rd, 2012
11:38 am

Hunter Pence is better than Michael Bourne. Wren should have got him when he had the chance.

invictus mon

February 23rd, 2012
11:45 am

Might end up eating my words, but this guy was everything we needed and more last year. Seriously, since we sent Furcal away, we really haven’t had a true leadoff hitter. This guy is the real deal, and a rare commodity. He’s right to hold off to test the waters, but the braves need to sign him to whatever he wants! With him, and our other hitters come around we’re a World Series baseball team. Without him, we don’t make the playoffs.

invictus mon

February 23rd, 2012
11:47 am

Call me nastalgic, but I LOVE Matt Diaz! The man is a ball player! The man shows up every day and puts his heart into every at bat, every step around the base, every fly ball. The man works! Gotta have those guys on your team. And let’s remember last year, and in years past that when the team went cold, Diaz put us on his back and took off! He’s earned his spot so stop dogging him!

invictus mon

February 23rd, 2012
11:53 am

Kevin, I’d bet you almost every dime that comes off the books once Chipper is outa here goes to keeping McCann. He’s in the all star game every year. 2 years ago he won it for the NL. He’s a leader in the clubhouse, every pitcher on what is arguably the best staff in the major leagues LOVES to have him catch them, we’re sitting a guy in Ross who could start on almost any other roster. Heck we let go another all star in Salty because there just wasn’t any room for him to move up and we were so deep. Point being, McCann loves being a Brave, but the man is good enough he’s going to get PAID. I wouldn’t count on Chipper’s salary freeing up anything other than keeping our stars with expiring contracts.

invictus mon

February 23rd, 2012
11:54 am

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Braves plan all along is to allow Chipper to stay on as long as he wants, or until McCann’s contract comes up.

invictus mon

February 23rd, 2012
11:58 am

And for you guys dreaming about other high priced guys who’re going to be on the market, I think there’s a 3 fold reason you stick with Bourne. Even if someone is better, it’s too marginal shake up dugout chemistry. Second, if the man loves being a Brave and he believes this could be a WS team, there’s a likelihood he would take a discount to stay. 3rd, again the point of the marginality of the upgrade. I would argue that continuity is more important than 10 points on your batting average 29 isn’t that old.

Braves rooter

February 23rd, 2012
12:14 pm

Sorry but I don’t believe any player is worth 10 million per year long term. Usually ends up with a Hampton contract (useless). If they don’t want to play for a winner and earn a great paycheck then so be it. Don’t let the door hit them in the ass. Born is not a fan puller anyway. Keep the money

Spud

February 23rd, 2012
12:49 pm

With Boras as his agent, there’s about a 98% chance that he is as good as gone after this season. With the speed that Bourn has, some team will pay more than the Braves.

Lemsanity

February 23rd, 2012
1:03 pm

Looks good on paper, but ???

Mike
Marteeen
Larry
Big Mac Attack
Dan Cooley Uggla
Frederick
Jason Ironhead Heyward
The Pastornicky .

1eyedJack

February 23rd, 2012
1:04 pm

No chance to resign him. Same with Jurrjens.

1eyedJack

February 23rd, 2012
1:05 pm

Picture him in Yankee pinstripes.

Mark's for the Braves

February 23rd, 2012
1:15 pm

We will free up a lot of cash after 2012–especially if Chipper does retire. We should be able to sign some offensive threats in LF and CF as well as keep some of our young guns. Of course, Prado will probably need to go to 3B if Chipper retires, but we’ll be able to get a big bat for LF then.

We could even save some cash by letting mostly the kids start in the rotation in 13–Delgado, Tehran, Medlen, Beachy and Minor along with Hudson–and not sign Jurrjens or Hanson and have even more cash for big boppers.

Brave New World

February 23rd, 2012
2:11 pm

Just looked at Bourn’s career stats. He’s a very good base stealer, but he has never scored 100 runs in a season. The most likely reason for that is his tendency to strike out a lot (140 times in 2011) and have only a decent OBP. He has almost no power, and has never driven in more than 50 runs (ok because he is a lead off hitter). He does play above average defense, but I am not sure tying up $10 million+ annually for Bourn is the right long term move. If we could have a player who could steal 15-20 bases and score 100 runs because of a better OBP, that might be a better way to go. BTW, someone earlier said we should have gotten Hunter Pence instead – an agument could be made for that. GO BRAVES!

Jefferson

February 23rd, 2012
2:17 pm

Hoping if chipper doesnt retire his contract will be 7-9M

Theres atleast 5M extra. Then the 10M from Lowe. Thats 15M. The 6.5M from bourn makes 21.5M. Now, considering raises for arb eli. peeps and the boost in salary others will have (McCann) shouldnt be much left. Unless atlanta get get O’Flaherty & Prado, etc. signed for a reasonable contract to allow some extra funds it doesnt seem atlanta will have 10M to offer bourn.

Perfect scenario, Prado signs for 4-5M for a few years, Bourn takes 8M, McCann takes 10M or less then we could see some extra moves made but atlanta needs to think about when Venters & Kimbrel become arb eli. and how much they’ll command.

First things first sign the important people already on the team. Pitching….

Red Pants

February 23rd, 2012
2:32 pm

To everyone that would rather have a big bopper than Bourn:

The steroid era is just about finished. The 50HR, 130RBI guys were all full of needles. There are probably only 4 or 5 big masher guys remaining in baseball. Guys like Bourn are the new big contract getters. Speed, high average, and great defense are the highest desires now. Bourn may never hit .320, but he is so skilled in the other areas that he is worth $8-9 million per year. The bad news for the Braves is someone will overpay and give him $10mil per year. Either way, home run derby baseball has ended; fundamental baseball has returned.

Disco Stew

February 23rd, 2012
3:07 pm

Pence would have been better in the OF with this team in 2011 and going forward b/c he can drive in runs and steal a base here and there.

Speed is nice if you know how to use it. Bobby didn’t and it remains to be seen if Fredi does.

The Braves need RBI guys, RISP clutch hitters not 50 HR gorillas or guys who steal 50 bases a year.

Bourne would be a nice player to have but I cannot see him staying in ATL due to the cost and their other needs.

A less expensive CF who can steal 25 bases will be fine. They cannot afford the best base stealer in BB (on this payroll) nor should they commit that kind of money to same for a guy hitting 30.

If Chipper goes after this season they will need a 3B, a SS is a given – Pastornicky is a human bookmark and a shaky one at that, a LF (Prado will be gone along with JJ) and a CF.

They will need to have a min a 16mm/yr (over 6-8 yrs) ready for Mac b/c he will see 17-18mm a year offers in FA from AL teams in particular.

With a 90mm payroll cap (more or less) and no AAA position players ready to step into the bigs in 2013 Wren will be hard pressed to make it all work.

Pitching is set for years. You may see your catcher of the future in Bethancourt (back up in 2013, starter in 2014) and possibly SS (Simmons) but again he is a WIP.

Bottom line – given the above Wren will have to trade some arms, Prado and JJ between the summer and year end (barring a legitimate playoff run) to get the position players (near MLB ready) he needs b/c the farm is light in this regard.

@I_R_Human

February 23rd, 2012
4:08 pm

I could understand people saying “Don’t sign him” if he were one of these big outfielders with knee problems. As far as I know he’s never had any knee problems, maybe some ankle issues but his speed will never go into a slump.

The speed will always make him dangerous and with TRUE lead-off hitters hard to find why not try and keep him long term? This Rent-a-Player thing has become pretty old…time to actually invest in some of these guys…

Nick P.

February 23rd, 2012
7:50 pm

to be serious, $10 million a year is really nothing if thats all it takes, i mean its not elite money by any stretch, so if we know that 10 a season it what it takes then do it, but i bet it will be more around 13 to even 15 a year which means we will be out, Braves have a very unbalanced approach to putting a team together, they only think pitching at the cost of a band- aid triple AAA line up!

smallmouth6

February 23rd, 2012
9:12 pm

Draft center fielders and quit paying silly money to baseball players.

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