The club agreed to terms Monday with outfielder Michael Bourn on a four-year, $48 million contract. It's the second major deal this winter for the Indians, who signed free agent Nick Swisher to a four-year, $56 million contract in January.
Bourn, who was an All-Star with Atlanta last season, must pass a physical later this week in Goodyear, Ariz., before the deal can be completed. Bourn batted .274 with nine homers, 57 RBIs and 42 steals last season for the Braves. It's not yet known when Bourn will have his medical exam.
As long as there isn't a hang-up, the 30-year-old Bourn, who has remained on the market all winter, will move into the Indians' starting lineup. The speedster played centre field last season and would give an immediate boost to a Cleveland team that has reloaded with the acquisition of Swisher, manager Terry Francona and starter Brett Myers.
Fox Sports first reported Bourn's deal.
Bourn, a two-time All-Star, Gold Glove winner and three-time steals leader in the NL, had also been pursued by the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs.
Getting Bourn will cost the Indians picks in June's amateur draft. But it's a small price for a player who will help them score more runs, improve their attendance — Cleveland averaged just 19,797 fans at home — and maybe even close the gap on Detroit in the AL Central.
The surprise signing caught one of Bourn's new teammates off guard.
"Did we just sign Michael Bourn?" second baseman Jason Kipnis asked on his Twitter page.
Bourn, a .272 career hitter in seven seasons with Philadelphia, Houston and Atlanta, could wind up in a starting outfield alongside Swisher and Michael Brantley. The Indians also acquired centre fielder Drew Stubbs in a trade with Cincinnati, giving Francona options and depth. It's possible Swisher could be moved to first or even be used as the club's designated hitter. Mark Reynolds, also signed during the off-season, can play first or DH.
The deal for Bourn also comes after the Indians signed slugger Jason Giambi and pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka to minor league deals this last weekend. Matsuzaka must still pass a physical with the club.
The Indians collapsed in the second half last season, finishing 68-94 and 20 games behind the first-place Tigers. Manager Manny Acta was fired after Cleveland lost at least 90 games for the third time in four seasons.
But beginning with the hiring of Francona, the Indians have shown they're not going to sit around and wait for things to improve.