Indians continue reshaping outfield with Bourn signing
Perhaps seeing their division as weak and vulnerable -- or the American League as a whole -- the Indians have splurged this offseason, signing Bourn for four years and $48 million to join Nick Swisher (four years, $56 million), starter Brett Myers, corner infielder Mark Reynolds and manager Terry Francona as new additions.
Bourn is a two-time All-Star and Gold Glove winner and leads the Major Leagues in steals over the past four seasons. Last year he hit .274 with nine home runs, 57 RBI and 42 steals.
The Indians now sport one of baseball's most athletic outfields with Bourn, Michael Brantley and Swisher. The team also has flexibility with the speedy Drew Stubbs, acquired in an offseason three-team trade with the Reds and Diamondbacks.
Cleveland is also especially talented up the middle of the field with young catcher Carlos Santana, shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and Bourn.
In order to sign Bourn, the Indians will need to surrender a draft pick, likely a compensatory pick. Apparently the New York Mets wanted to sign Bourn, and Bourn wanted to go to New York, but the Mets were unwilling to give up their No. 11 overall pick to complete the signing.
Now the question is, can Cleveland compete in the AL Central? The Detroit Tigers have to remain the favorites with the likes of Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Prince Fielder in their lineup and a rotation led by Justin Verlander.
But after Detroit, it is slim pickings in the AL Central. If the Tigers falter, Cleveland could be competing with perpetual Central doormat, Kansas City and its young lineup and revamped rotation for the division.
Cleveland's Achilles' heel could prove to be its pitching staff. Their rotation will not be one of the best in baseball. To compete the Indians will likely need a bounceback year from Ubaldo Jimenez and for newly-acquired Trevor Bauer to reach the potential that made him the No. 3 pick in the MLB Draft.
Now that there are two Wild Card spots in each league, Cleveland doesn't need to focus on winning it's division. Instead, thanks to the easier schedule it gets from playing in the Central, the Indians can hope to sneak into the playoffs next to the second place finisher in the highly-competitive AL East or AL West.
Or maybe Cleveland will continue to muddle in the middle of the Central. At worst, the Indians should expect better attendance with the increased spending.