There have been many debates about the value of a player like Peter Bourjos, many in the comment section of these pages. Bourjos has long been a fan-favorite of many due to his incredible speed and amazing defense. Others point out that injuries have prevented him from playing consistently over the past few years, and that when he has gotten a chance, he has not really hit all that well. Most of the arguments about Peter Bourjos center around what he could do if given the chance and whether he was ever given a fair shot in St. Louis for the Cardinals. For better or worse, many of these arguments are now rendered moot in the coming days as Peter Bourjos has been claimed by the Phillies on waivers, per Derrick Goold.
This is a disappointing end to Bourjos' tenure in St. Louis. He was brought to St. Louis in the trade that saw World Series hero David Freese sent to the Angels. At the time, Bourjos was seen as a potential starting center fielder after Jon Jay had a disappointing 2013 season at the plate and in the field. During the postseason he looked particularly exposed. Bourjos as starter or even part of a platoon in center field lasted less than a month as Mike Matheny installed Jon Jay as his everyday starter early on in the 2014 season.
Bourjos saw sporadic playing time the rest of the season as Jay hit well and regained his old role. Bourjos' defense was never an issue although his health was and after the 2014 season, Bourjos had surgery for hip impingement. He came into the 2015 season clearly behind Jon Jay as backup. When Jon Jay came up hurt and ineffective, Bourjos still did not see much playing time as Matheny eventually installed Randal Grichuk—the other player who came to the Cardinals in the David Freese trade—as the starting center fielder. Grichuk hit well and Bourjos sat some more. When injuries continued to decimate the outfield Bourjos did not slide up the depth chart, instead remaining a defensive replacement.
Bourjos received more than 2 plate appearances in a game just five times in the second half of this past season and just two of those took place in August and September. After only 55 second-half plate appearances, he was left off the postseason roster against the Cubs. The writing was on the wall after the season that the team would move on without Bourjos as John Mozeliak acknowledged, "I don't think it ever worked to the point where we were hopeful of."
Peter Bourjos is likely to make under $2 million next season, a relative bargain for his glove alone. He will still be just 29 years old on Opening Day, and hopefully he will get ample playing time on a Phillies team that is still rebuilding. It is somewhat surprising that no team was willing to make a trade for Bourjos to secure his services for next season. At worst, he is a young defensive ace. If you were curious why he has played in over 500 major league games and nearly 4,000 defensive innings in the outfield and never once played in one of the corner spots, it is because he is that good in center field, better than a young Mike Trout.
HIs plays were not often off the highlight variety because he was just too fast and made difficult plays look easy.
Like this one:
Or this one:
The debate about whether Bourjos ever got a fair shake in St. Louis might continue on for a bit—I've long been in the camp that Mike Matheny buried Bourjos and he never fully appreciated the type of player Bourjos is—and it is possible that Bourjos simply was not as good as other options. However, it is fairly easy to say that we never really got to see the full capabilities of Peter Bourjos in a Cardinals uniform.
Partially due to injuries, partially due to a very successful team with an incumbent center fielder, and partially due to a manager who simply did not want to play him, St. Louis never saw what Peter Bourjos might have been if he had been given the everyday job and then stuck with him. I hope Bourjos gets that chance at his next stop, because when he plays center field, he is one of of the most exciting players in baseball.