For Michael Bourn, Kyle Lohse, freedom is overrated

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Cheers and Jeers,Sports,MLB,Brian McNally

A long winter for some top baseball free agents shows no signs of ending even with reporting dates for spring training just a week away.

Outfielder Michael Bourn and right-hander Kyle Lohse -- both clients of agent Scott Boras -- remain on the open market. And while clubs such as the New York Mets have admitted they are in negotiations with Bourn, that doesn't mean Boras will panic over the next seven days and simply take a deal. That never has been his style.

Bourn found the market for his services curtailed when teams such as the Nationals (trade for Denard Span) and the Phillies (trade for Ben Revere) found cheaper alternatives. The Braves, likewise, struck quickly with a five-year, $75.25 million deal for B.J. Upton, the former Tampa Bay Rays center fielder. The teams left were a batch of likely noncontenders such as the Mets, Mariners, Indians or Cubs.

It is unlikely that Bourn would turn any of those clubs into playoff contenders on his own. He is an excellent leadoff hitter and an exceptional defensive player. But at age 30, how much longer will that defensive value last? That has teams shying away from four- or five-year contracts.

Still -- when a team is as close to contention as the Texas Rangers and has an opening, it usually bites the bullet. Josh Hamilton signed with the rival Angels, after all.

Lohse may get bailed out by the possible retirement of Chris Carpenter, the veteran rock of the St. Louis Cardinals' rotation, because of injury. That theoretically could push the Cardinals into matching offers for Lohse. But according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, it doesn't appear they want to do so.

It doesn't help that -- as with Bourn -- teams will have to give up a first-round draft pick unless that pick is in the top 10. At age 34, is Lohse willing to take money from mid-market teams like Baltimore or Milwaukee that at least have a shot at contending next season? Or will he go after every last dollar from a team like the Mets? Such complicated decisions take time, but it's almost up for Bourn and Lohse.

- Brian McNally

bmcnally@washingtonexaminer.com

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