The Nationals and Phillies seemed like the most logical potential suitors for free agent center fielder Michael Bourn when this offseason got underway.
But the Nats traded for Denard Span and the Phils traded for Ben Revere, both from the Twins. Which has everybody wondering where Bourn will now land.
Here’s one theory — if we can call it that — from the well-connected Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe:
It will be interesting to see where Bourn’s market goes. Some believe the Yankees are quietly interested and will pounce if the price comes down, which would give them the leadoff hitter they have wanted for some time.
Cafardo also mentions the Rangers — who are desperate for some kind of splash — as a “possibility.”
The Yankees are trying to get their payroll under $189 million by the start of the 2014 season to avoid another luxury tax hit and haven’t seriously engaged any free agents who are thought to be seeking long-term deals. But Bourn might ultimately come pretty cheap, and he does fit one of the Bombers’ primary needs.
Bourn batted .274/.348/.391 with a career-high nine home runs and 57 RBI across 703 plate appearances this past season for the Braves. The fleet-footed 29-year-old also stole 42 bases in 55 attempts.
The Angels’ bench is looking woefully thin this winter — so thin, in fact, that manager Mike Scioscia says he’s considering utilizing starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani as a pinch-hitter and pinch-runner on the days he’s not scheduled to pitch.
I’ve never had a pitcher pinch-run,” Scioscia told reporters Saturday. “There’s more bad than good that can come out of it. But Shohei is not just a pitcher. He’s a guy that has the ability to do some of the things coming off the bench, whether it’s pinch-hit or pinch-run, and we’re definitely going to tap into that if it’s necessary, because we feel we’re not putting him at risk. It’s something he’s able to do.
Granted, spring training allows for a certain amount of experimentation before managers and players decide what works best for them, so this may not be the strategy the Angels employ for the entire season. In addition to coming off the bench between starts, Ohtani is also expected to see 2-3 days at DH every week, forcing Albert Pujols to shift over to first base to accommodate the new two-way star.
Ohtani’s hitting prowess has already been well-documented — he has a lifetime .286/.358/.500 batting line from NPB and crushed a batting practice home run during his initial workouts with the team this week — but his skills on the basepaths have received less attention so far. MLB Pipeline describes the 23-year-old phenom as a “well-above average runner” whose speed has yet to manifest stolen bases: he’s nabbed just 13 bases in 17 chances over the last five years. That’s a number Scioscia hopes to see increased this season, though he doesn’t want his ace pitcher making any head-first slides on the basepaths to do so.
To be sure, it’s an unorthodox role for any young player to step into, but if anyone can pull it off, Ohtani can.