It is easy to look at the positives; Bourn plays a very good defensive centerfield and will steal several bases. Bourn has won two Gold Gloves and led the NL in stolen bases from 2009 through 2011. He also nearly doubled his career high with 9 HR playing his home games in Atlanta. He also drew a career high 70 bases on balls. Put that together with the Mets current OF situation and it is difficult to spin a signing of Bourn as negative.
Prior to the 2002 season, the Mets brought back Roger Cedeno on a 4 year contract for about $18 million. Cedeno stole 66 bases for the Mets in the 1999 season and was coming off a 55 SB season with Detroit in 2001. Cedeno was 27 at the time, and quickly fell off his base stealing pace, finishing with 25 in 2002 and 14 in 2003, playing in 149 and 148 games, respectively. After spring training in 2004, he was traded to St Louis, where the Mets were on the hook for a good amount of his 2004 salary of over $5 million. However, the Cardinals picked up the tab for the last season of his contract.
Of course, we all remember the story of Vince Coleman. From the day he arrived in St Louis, he was the premier leadoff hitter in the National League. He led the NL in stolen bases every season from 1985 to 1990, the latter season in just 124 games. As a free agent after the 1990 season, he signed a four year deal with the Mets for about $13 million. Though he had off the field issues as well, Coleman would miss 251 games over the next three seasons with the Mets. He was traded to the Royals before the 1994 season for Kevin McReynolds with the Mets paying a portion of his 1994 salary.
Look at the stats, Bourn is very similar player to that of Coleman, who would have been a centerfielder had the Cardinals not had Willie McGee. Both players had high strikeout totals for leadoff batters. Coleman also doubled his career high in HRs on his walk year. Bourn has had a higher OBP than Coleman, particularly because of his 2012 season, but not by much. Bourn's recent run of stolen base crowns reminds me very much Coleman's track record.
I still don't feel the Mets will end up with Bourn, especially with teams like Texas and Baltimore needing outfielders. But, if they do, it would be hard for the Mets to explain how they could sign Bourn, a leadoff hitter considered to be a step below Jose Reyes, and let Reyes walk last offseason without making an offer. The first round draft pick aside, I would prefer to see the Mets pursue another outfielder rather than Bourn. However, if Bourn signed with the Mets, I acknowledge that it is an upgrade from what they have right now. And, if they surrender a 2nd round pick in this year's draft, it is much less of a loss than moving valuable minor league players to make a trade. But still, looking at past signings of Cedeno and Coleman, it is hard to have confidence it will turn out better. Even if it doesn't, Bourn is much better than any OF the Mets have right now.