One of the biggest decisions that face the Atlanta Braves this offseason is what to do in center field. As of right now, general manager Frank Wren is faced with two options. Either unload gobs of money on Michael Bourn or look elsewhere in the free agent market.
Bourn made $6.845 million in 2012, but he's also a Scott Boras client, who will probably ask for $15-18 million a year in a long term contract. The Braves would almost certainly push for a lower number, given Bourn's lowly second-half performance.
Bourn also showed signs of slowing down. After leading the National League in stolen bases from 2009-2011, he finished second in the league with 42 steals (still not a skimpy number). But he also got caught stealing 13 times, the second most in his career.
The main decline lies in Bourn's ability just to get on base. He entered the All-Star break with a .311 average and .817 OPS. The second half saw Bourn hit .225 with a .636 OPS. For a lead-off man, he also struck out 155 times on the season.
A better option for the Braves could be current San Francisco Giants center fielder Angel Pagan. Pagan hit .288 in the regular season while leading the league with 15 triples. His power numbers are comparable to Bourn's with eight homers this year, and he set a new career-high with 38 doubles.
Pagan also stole 29 bases in 36 attempts in 2012 after stealing 32 and 37 in 2011 and 2010, respectively. So the threat on the basepaths wouldn't really be diminished.
Tack on the fact that he put up those numbers in his first year in one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in the Major Leagues in AT&T Park. Pagan even spent the previous four years playing in Citi Field before they moved in the fences.
Wren will also obviously take the cost into account. Pagan made just $4.85 million in 2012. Even if he makes twice that, the Braves would get similar production out of far less money than Bourn.
Everyone's getting a good look at Pagan while the Giants are still in the playoffs. Braves fans should hope the front office is paying attention.
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