The Indians were only able to sign Michael Bourn because he was in something of a no man's land; the team that signed him would have to forfeit a draft pick, and he wasn't quite appealing enough a target for most teams to want to lose their 1st round pick. The Mets wanted him, and were willing to outbid the Indians, but would have lost the #11 overall pick, and decided against it. The Indians' top pick was protected, and they'd already given up their next pick when the signed Nick Swisher, and so for them the penalty was not as severe. The consensus at the time of the deal was that the Indians had done very well.
In 2012 with Atlanta, Bourn had been an above average hitter, he'd stolen 42 bases (his fifth straight year with 40+ steals), and he'd played tremendous defense in center field. FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference both had him as a 6-win player, and he'd been worth an average of ~4.5 wins a season during the three years before that. He'd just turned 30, so there was reason to believe he'd be in decline before the 4-year, $48 million deal ended, but seemed likely to remain above average for the duration, which would make the price tag a bargain.
Two and a half years later, that's not the way things have played out. His bat dropped from a little above average to somewhat below average. That on its own wouldn't have been a real problem, but Bourn stole only 23 bases in 2013, and then stole only 23 combined between 2014 and when he was traded two days ago. His defense suddenly went from elite to something like average, maybe even a touch below for his position.
All told he was roughly league average in 2013, and played a not insignificant part in helping the Indians win 92 games and a spot in the postseason. He's been only a little above replacement level since then though.
It wasn't enough to help the Indians turn their season around, but Bourn actually played very well in his final few weeks with the team, batting .360/.407/.420 in 16 games between the All-Star break and the trade, with 3 doubles and 6 stolen bases.
I expect that for many Tribe fans, the most indelible image of Bourn will be the pained look that appeared on his face after many of his 322 strikeouts with the team. I'd like to remember some of the good times too.
There were some great catches during his time, like this one, where he charged hard, covered a ton of ground, and made a great diving play:
Or this one from earlier this week, when he went way back and then up to make the play:
I want to remember those catches.
In 2014 Bourn hit 10 triples, became the first Indians hitter to reach double figures since Grady Sizemore in 2006, and the first to lead the American League since Kenny Lofton in 1995. I want to remember that.
A week before he was traded, Bourn hit a ground-rule double in the 11th inning against Oakland, knocking in what proved to be the game-winning run. I want to remember that too.
And I certainly want to remember what Bourn did on June 1, 2014, with the game tied in the bottom of the 9th:
Bourn's time with the Indians had more downs than ups, and the trade that sends him away was one I think the team was wise to make. Even if the good times were outnumbered though, they're the ones I want to remember.