The Toronto Blue Jays have added outfield depth to their roster by signing veteran speedster Michael Bourn to a minor league deal, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
Bourn, 33, was designated for assignment in late Spring Training and subsequently released by the Atlanta Braves. The Arizona Diamondbacks were believed to have an interest, especially with All-Star outfielder AJ Pollock expected to miss most of the season with an elbow fracture, but ultimately decided against signing Bourn.
If Bourn reaches the Blue Jays’ major league roster, the team will be responsible for just the pro-rated league minimum. The Braves are on the hook for most of Bourn’s $14 million salary for the 2016 season.
Entering the final year of the original four-year, $48 million deal he signed with the Cleveland Indians, Bourn is looking to re-establish himself after three consecutive disappointing seasons. The Houston, Texas, native has not posted a batting average north of 0.250 since the 2014 campaign, his second year with the Indians. Also, injuries have limited Bourn’s once dynamic skillset.
From 2008 to 2012, Bourn averaged 51 stolen bases per season, twice amassing 60+ SB’s in one season (2009, 2011). However, from 2013 to 2015, Bourne has stolen just 50 bases in 75 attempts.
Bourn was also one of the game’s premiere defenders in center field, winning back-to-back Gold Gloves in 2009 and 2010. Fangraphs, however, shows that Bourn’s defense has slipped in recent seasons. Injuries to his hamstring have cost Bourn significant time in recent years, eroding the dynamic skills that allowed him to make two All-Star teams: the 2010 Houston Astros and the 2012 Atlanta Braves.
Entering his 11th MLB season, Bourn has a lot of experiences that can help younger players. He sounded content with being a mentor to the younger players this season when he was still with Atlanta earlier this year.
“I always said that, somebody helped me along the way, man, I’m going to help somebody out along the way,” Bourn said to FOX Sports about his expected role with the Braves entering 2016. “I’m good. I’ll do it again.”
It was especially puzzling that the Braves elected to part with not just Bourn, but fellow veteran outfielder Nick Swisher. The team acquired both players in a salary dump trade with the Indians last year, as the Inquisitr reported. Swisher signed a minor-league deal with the Yankees, returning to the team he spent four seasons with from 2009 to 2012. He has a June 15 opt-out date if he does not reach with major league squad.
As mentioned, the D-Backs had an interest in Bourn last week. However, general manager Dave Stewart indicated that the team would likely not pursue Bourn, citing that several other teams are interested in him.
“We’ve talked about it internally and haven’t really made any decision which direction we’re going to go and what we’re going to do,” Stewart said to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. “We’re kind of on hold right now. “If we’re going to have an opportunity to get the player – and, believe me, I don’t think we’re the only fish in the water – if we want to have a chance to get the player we’re going to have a make a decision pretty swiftly.”
Now, in regards to cracking the Blue Jays’ roster, Bourn seems to have a good chance. Michael Saunders, Kevin Pillar, and Jose Bautista currently comprise the starting core with Ezequiel Carrera serving as the lone backup. Also, Saunders and Bautista do have an injury history, so if those issues arise, Bourn could find himself back in majors shortly.
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