The Phillies didn't exactly bring Peter Bourjos to Philadelphia for his prowess at the plate. His defensive aptitude has earned him playing time throughout his career, and whether you're using the eye test or advanced metrics, there is enough evidence to show that has been deserved playing time.
Lately, though, Bourjos has let his bat do more of the talking. A career-high 14-game hitting streak ended Wednesday afternoon, a stretch that saw the right fielder hit .463/.508/.759. His low watermark OPS of .508 seems like eons ago. As a matter of fact, it was only a month ago, June 7, but here we are one month later and Bourjos has raised his OPS to .744 with his hot hitting. He is slowly earning the trust of Pete Mackanin to be a top-of-the-order option as of late.
The Phillies could have DFAed or released Bourjos right before his hot streak began and it wouldn't have been a complete surprise. Bourjos survived due in part to thin outfield depth, but now that Cody Asche has returned the outfield has actually looked more than competent. It certainly did not look that way just about six weeks ago.
Bourjos is just a small part of this resurgent outfield, but he's finally showing he has at least some value at the plate. Will this type of pace last? No, of course not. Bourjos has a .471 BABIP since the beginning of June, something that screams "unsustainable." He has a .353 BABIP overall this season. Regression will come at some point, much like it did a few weeks ago when it came to the standings, but it has been a nice ride that the Phillies aren't complaining about at the moment.
Here are two major issues for Bourjos: His walk rate of 4.9% would be the lowest since his first year in the league, 2010, and he sees just 3.43 pitches per plate appearance, lowest of any position player on the current 25-man roster.
He has swung at 53.3% of pitches this season, which would be a career-high mark by a longshot. (He has averaged a 46.3% mark in his career.) So yes, Bourjos has been doing his fair share of hacking at the plate, and right now, a lot of balls are falling in for him. It's incredibly hard to see this type of pace continuing.
Bourjos is currently sitting with a line of .278/.317/.427. It's surely been a nice surprise, particularly after the start he had. That slash line would be hard to expect out of Bourjos come the end of the year, but it would be his best season since 2011 with the Angels, when he had a similar line of .271/.327/.438. That was the player Matt Klentak and company hoped they were getting when they took a chance on him this past December when they claimed him on waivers and gave him a modest deal for 2016 at $2 million.
Defensively, the Phillies moved Bourjos to right field, a position he had not previously played in the Majors. Moving Odubel Herrera away from center didn't really seem like much of a discussion, so Bourjos knew by the time the season began that most of his action would be in the corner spots. By Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating metrics, Bourjos has just about broken even in right field. He is not putting up the stellar defensive numbers he had in center field (he was one of the best defensive outfielders in the game in 2012), but it has been far from disaster.
Bourjos will be a free agent after this season, and if this were the NBA, I guess teams would be lining up to hand out a nice 4-year, $64 million deal for no apparent reason. There's still some sanity in Major League Baseball when it comes to average or slightly above average players, so that doesn't seem to be in the cards.
But where exactly does Bourjos fit into the Phillies' future? There is that trade deadline cloud hanging over everyone just about three weeks from now, and the Phillies will have some names that interest other teams. Bourjos could be one of them.
Projecting the future of the Phillies outfield certainly isn't an easy task, to say the least. However, if Aaron Altherr comes back and shows he has the power he did last year, and the Phillies move forward with a Nick Williams promotion, you could make a quick case that 2017 includes Altherr, Williams, Herrera, Asche and Tyler Goeddel. Not much space for Bourjos, eh?
On the flip side, you could also make the case that Altherr doesn't find the same power stroke, Asche is moved in a trade, and Goeddel goes back down to the minors at the end of the season as his Rule V status would allow the Phillies to move him off the 25-man roster.
Klentak will be getting many calls over the coming weeks. Jeremy Hellickson will be discussed. David Hernandez could probably help a bullpen. Andres Blanco could bolster a bench. But if a team calls about Bourjos, the Phillies should be all ears if a team is willing to overpay a bit to find a fourth outfielder/fringe starter in Bourjos.
It's easy to forget Bourjos was a 4.2 fWAR player in 2011 and 2.1 fWAR player in 2012. He hasn't matched that type of production in the last few seasons, but teams become suddenly desperate when the deadline rolls around. They could probably do worse than Bourjos as a fourth outfielder.
If the Phillies don't find a trade partner in the coming weeks, the front office still did their job in plucking a guy off waivers and getting a moderately productive season out of him. Should he still be on the roster past July 31, Bourjos knows keeping himself here past this season won't be an easy battle.