The Phillies announced this afternoon that that have claimed Peter Bourjos off waivers from the St. Louis Cardinals. This offseason, Matt Klentak has taken advantage of the Phillies high waiver priority to grab any and all players that he likes at least a little bit. The rumor for the past four years has been that the Phillies were high on Bourjos, and now they got their man.
If, like most fans of professional sports teams, you are acquainted with the game exclusively through the lens of your home team, it is very possible that, as a Phillies fan, you are not very familiar with Bourjos. Luckily, you can quickly gain and feign familiarity with his abilities by simply saying, "elite defensive outfielder, no bat."
Entering his age-29 season, it seems highly unlikely that the latter part of that curt description will ever change. But, that doesn't mean he's a bad player. Far from it. When he's at his best, his defense alone makes him a valuable player. From the Phillies press release (via Ryan Lawrence on Twitter):
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, trailing only Kansas City's Lorenzo Cain (19.0) and Jason Hayward (18.3).
Unfortunately, UZR and other defensive metrics weren't as enthralled with Bourjos' defensive performance for the Cardinals in 2015. In 476.2 defensive inning in centerfield last year, UZR says that he cost the Cardinals 3.4 runs compared to the average centerfielder. There are two things we know about defensive metrics, though: 1) They aren't particularly accurate gauges of fielding ability and value and 2) they are borderline useless in non-gigantic samples. Given those facts and that Bourjos hasn't turned 29 yet, it is hard to justify rejecting the null hypothesis that he is an elite defensive centerfielder.
Regarding the "no bat" part of that description, that really isn't much of an exaggeration. He's a career .241/.302/.380 hitter, which grades out as 10% worse than league average. Last year, in an admittedly small sample of 225 plate appearances, Bourjos hit a paltry .200/.290/.333, 30% worse than the average hitter.
One can dream that his bat will come around a bit and approximate average, hell, I've been dreaming about that for the last four years, but that same individual should be well aware that his or her dream is stupid.
But the good news is that Bourjos' value doesn't hinge on the rationality of that dream. Unless he falls to Michael Martinez levels of offensive ineptitude, Bourjos figures to be the second-best outfielder on the Phillies after Odubel Herrera thanks to his defensive chops.
As it stands, the Phillies starting outfield projects to be some alignment of Aaron Altherr, Peter Bourjos, and Odubel Herrera which, after years of watching the likes of Darin Ruf, Dom Brown, and Delmon Young patrol the corner outfield spots, will be an odd display of defensive competence, nay, excellence, to behold.
Of the waiver claims the Phillies have made in the last month, this is by far the most exciting. Bourjos, provided his 2015 defensive numbers were a flukey small sample thing (very likely) and that his bat rebounds to his career line (probable), is a legitimate starting outfielder. In 2015, players who are actual starters were a rarity on the Phillies, so Bourjos' addition is certainly cause for joy around these parts.
The Peter Bourjos era, which was inevitable for years now, has finally begun. Hopefully he remembers to pack his socks.
Phillies Lose Nefi Ogando to Marlins
In other Phillies-related waiver news, the Marlins claimed receiver Nefi Ogando. The Phillies acquired Ogando in the John McDonald trade in 2013. He has the makings of a mid-late innings right-handed reliever with a 96-98 mph fastball and a developing slider. This description should sound familiar to Phillies fans. He was an intriguing prospect as a sort of hipster pick, but with the glut of right-handed relievers the have acquired so far this offseason in addition to the surplus already in the organization, he just didn't really have a place anymore. Losing a player who flash the potential of Ogando is sad, but, for the Phillies at this stage of the rebuild, it is far from the end of the world.