- Ben Lindbergh, Baseball Prospectus
Michael Bourn turns 30 on Thursday, but barring a buzzer-beating offer, he won't get the gift of a new contract until after his birthday. Bourn, the highest-ranked free agent remaining on the market, hasn't attracted the widespread interest that he and agent Scott Boras had hoped for.
Some teams may be concerned that the center fielder's speed-based skill set could suffer once he loses a step; others might be reluctant or unwilling to forfeit the draft pick Bourn would cost them because of the qualifying offer he received from the Atlanta Braves. Regardless of their reasons for looking elsewhere, several potential buyers for Bourn have already removed themselves from the running by making other moves: the Washington Nationals, Philadelphia Phillies, Cincinnati Reds, and Oakland Athletics have landed center fielders via trade, while the San Francisco Giants and Braves have invested in other free agents, re-signing Angel Pagan and bringing in B.J. Upton, respectively.
It's still too soon for Bourn to panic or consider seeking new representation. While it's possible he'll have to settle for the one-year "pillow contract" some Boras clients have had to swallow when their expected megadeals never materialized, Boras has often wangled the biggest possible payday by waiting until late in the offseason, when some teams are desperate for an upgrade and there are few attractive alternatives to his high-profile clients.
While the pool of potential suitors has shrunk, several destinations are still in play. Of course, some teams with vacancies in center probably aren't realistic possibilities: Bourn would improve teams like the New York Mets or Houston Astros as much as anyone, but those clubs are too strapped for cash or too far from competition to consider signing such a big-ticket item. Assuming he'll eventually land a five-year, $75 million deal in neighborhood of Upton's -- or at least a contract of equivalent annual value over fewer years -- the following three teams would both be able to afford Bourn and benefit most from his services.
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1dAndrew Marchand and Wallace Matthews