In addition to having an offensive new t-shirt for sale, the Indians also have a new center fielder: former Brave Michael Bourn, who agreed to a four-year, $48 million deal with the team on Monday night. The contract also has a vesting option for a fifth season that can make the total contract worth $60 million.
Bourn's signing comes much later than anyone expected coming into the offseason, and to a team that no one expected him to go to. The Indians already signed Nick Swisher this winter, and with Bourn now in the fold, Michael Brantley is their only returning outfielder from 2012. Cleveland dealt Shin-Soo Choo to the Reds earlier this offseason for a package that netted them center fielder Drew Stubbs and pitcher Trevor Bauer (from the Diamondbacks in the three-team trade), and now, it appears that Stubbs will be relegated to the bench with Bourn in the fold.
One thing that Bourn's signing does is give the Indians much better defensive flexibility with Stubbs already on the team. Late in games, the team can bring Stubbs into the outfield as a defensive replacement and move Swisher to first, relegating Mark Reynolds to the bench. The team could also give Reynolds plenty of at bats at DH, where the Tribe really doesn't have a definitive option going into Spring Training, and start Swisher at first while playing three center fielders in the outfield.
I'm not sure if Bourn is really a great fit for Cleveland, but he *is* an offensive improvement over Stubbs, and the two are probably a wash on defense. The Indians are now without their competitive balance pick and second round pick after the signings of both Bourn and Swisher, but still keep their first round pick, which is fifth overall. They're a better team after bringing in Bourn, and $12 million per year is less than what everyone expected he'd get coming in…but I have a feeling that his contract might not work out well for them. But hey, Swisher's contract is the same way, and Cleveland will have a pair of sellable assets if the team isn't progressing the way they need to in 2014 and beyond.