The Philadelphia Phillies have signed free agent outfielder Peter Bourjos.
Bourjos had been left unprotected by the Saint Louis Cardinals, and Phillies’ GM Matt Klentak had intimate knowledge of the players’ talents and personality from their days with the Los Angeles Angels, with whom Bourjos began his professional career.
As reported by Zach Links at MLBTradeRumors.com: “…I think very highly of Peter Bourjos the person and that is something that I’ve been talking about since I first started here six weeks ago, which is the importance of building an environment,” Klentak said, per Links. “I happen to have first-hand knowledge of knowing Peter, knowing what a great human being he is, and how he fits into a roster.”
Bourjos, who will turn 29 years of age at the end of spring training in 2016, was the 10th round selection of the Halos in the 2005 MLB Amateur Draft out of high school at Notre Dame Prep in Scottsdale, Arizona.
A speedy baserunner and hustling outfielder, Bourjos stole 141 bases as he rose incrementally through the Angels’ minor league system from 2006-2010, becoming a Baseball America Top 100 Prospect prior to that 2010 season.
He finally made his big league debut at the beginning of August in 2010, taking over the Angels’ starting job in center field, a job he would continue to hold in a battle with Mike Trout in 2012.
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Over parts of four seasons in Los Angeles, Bourjos hit just .251 with a .306 on-base percentage that kept him from being able to fully utilize his speed on the base paths in Major League Baseball. He swiped just 41 total bags in that time with the Angels.
In November of 2013, the Cardinals acquired Bourjos along with fellow outfielder Randall Grichuk in exchange for David Freese and Fernando Salas. His inconsistencies continued in Saint Louis, where he hit just .218 with a .292 on-base percentage across 519 plate appearances in the 2014 and 2015 seasons combined.
In announcing the signing, the Phillies emphasized his defensive value. As reported by Philly.com’s Ryan Lawrence, that official statement included the following: “According to FanGraphs, since Bourjos made his major league debut in 2010, he is averaging a 16.1 ultimate zone rating per 150 defensive games (UZR/150). That ranks third among all major league outfielders with at least 3,500 defensive innings played in that span, trailing only Lorenzo Cain (19.0) and Jason Heyward (18.3).“
It’s hard to imagine that Bourjos can be considered as anything more than a backup outfield candidate, though Klentak obviously believes enough in his defensive profile and his personality to feel that he can make a difference in the locker room. Jerry Crasnick also believes there will be playing time available to him.
Klentak moved quickly to sign Bourjos to a one-year, $2 million dollar deal yesterday, something necessitated by the fact that he was arbitration eligible, and had to be tendered a contract prior to midnight last night.
The big question now involves the popular Jeff Francoeur, who many fans hoped would return for the 2016 season. While Klentak claimed that the Bourjos signing does not preclude bringing Frenchy back, there would not seem to be room for both players, who fit a similar profile.