Indians and Michael Bourn agree to a four-year, $48 million contract

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After seeing the market for his services dwindle for nearly the entire offseason, Michael Bourn has finally found a home.

According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, Bourn has agreed to a contract with the Indians. The deal is worth $48 million over four years and includes a vesting option for a fifth year which could push the total to $60 million.

Bourn originally hoped to land a deal north of the five-year, $75.25 million contract B.J. Upton signed with the Braves, so this looks like a relative bargain in comparison. Still, Scott Boras deserves credit for getting a pretty good deal for his client given the circumstances. While the Mets were reluctant to give up their first-round pick (11th overall) and draft pool money to sign Bourn, Cleveland’s first-round pick is protected. The Indians forfeited their second-round pick to sign Nick Swisher, so Jim Callis of Baseball America hears that they’ll give up their competitive balance pick (No. 69 overall) to bring Bourn into the fold.

The Indians were mentioned as a possibility for Bourn as recently as last week, so this doesn’t come completely out of nowhere. However, it seemed like a long shot at the time given that Swisher, Michael Brantley and Drew Stubbs were already in-house for the outfield. It’s a pretty good bet that Bourn, Swisher and Brantley will be in the lineup on most days, though Swisher and Mark Reynolds could alternate between first base/DH duties, opening up a spot for the speedy Stubbs in right. The Indians could also explore trades involving Stubbs. All in all, it’s a pretty nice problem to have. I don’t think the Indians have enough pitching to threaten the Tigers in the AL Central, but it looks like Terry Francona’s first year as skipper will be an interesting one.

UPDATE: According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the Mets also made a four-year, $48 million offer to Bourn. However, they were informed that it would take an arbitrator two to three weeks to decide whether they would be able to keep their first-round pick. And with spring training approaching, Bourn just wasn’t willing to wait that long, so he took the Indians’ deal.

The Cubs are in desperate need of relief

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Tonight in Chicago Yu Darvish of the Dodgers will face off against Kyle Hendricks of the Cubs. If this were Game 1, we’d have a lot to say about the Dodgers’ trade deadline pickup and the Cubs’ budding ace. If this series continues on the way it’s been going, however, each of them will be footnotes because it has been all about the bullpens.

The Cubs, you may have heard, are having tremendous problems with relief pitching. Both their own and with the opposition’s. Cubs relievers have a 7.03 ERA this postseason, and have allowed six runs on eight hits and have walked six batters in seven innings of work. And no, the relief struggles aren’t just a matter of Joe Maddon pushing the wrong buttons (even though, yeah, he has pushed the wrong buttons).

Maddon pushed Wade Davis for 44 pitches in Game 5 of the NLDS, limiting his availability in Games 1 and 2. That pushing is a result of a lack of relief depth on the Cubs. Brian Duensing, Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr. all have talent and all have had their moments, but none of them are the sort of relievers we have come to see in the past few postseasons. The guys who, when your starter tosses 80 pitches in four innings like Jon Lester did the other night, can be relied upon to shut down the opposition for three and a half more until your lights-out closer can get the four-out save.

In contrast, the Dodgers bullpen has been dominant, tossing eight scoreless innings. Indeed, Dodgers relievers have tossed eight almost perfect innings, allowing zero hits and zero walks while striking out nine Cubs batters. The only imperfection came when Kenley Jansen hit Anthony Rizzo in Game 2. That’s it. Compare this to the past couple of postseasons where the only truly reliable arm down there was Jansen, and in which Dodgers managers have had to rely on Clayton Kershaw to come on in relief. That has not been a temptation at all as the revamped L.A. pen, featuring newcomers Brandon Morrow and Tony Watson. Suffice it to say, Joe Blanton is not missed.

Which brings us back to Kyle Hendricks. He has pitched twice this postseason, pitching seven shutout innings in Game 1 of the NLDS but getting touched for four runs on nine hits while allowing a couple of dingers in Game 5. If the good Hendricks shows up, Maddon will be able to ride him until late in the game in which a now-rested Davis and maybe either Strop or Edwards can close things out in conventional fashion, returning this series to competitiveness. If the bad Hendricks does, he’ll have to do what he did in that NLDS Game 5, using multiple relievers and, perhaps, a repurposed starter in relief while grinding Davis into dust again. That was lucky to work there and doing it without Davis didn’t work in Game 2 on Sunday night.

So it all falls to Hendricks. The Dodgers have shown how soft the underbelly of the Cubs pen truly is. If they get to Hendricks early and get into that pen, you have to like L.A’s chances, not just in this game, but for the rest of the series, as bullpen wear-and-tear builds up quickly. It’s pretty simple: Hendricks has to give the Cubs some innings tonight. There is no other option available.

Just ask Joe Maddon. He’s tried.