It appears as though the Cubs may have finally added their fifth/sixth outfielder type this offseason, in the form of former Cardinals outfielder (and more recently, former Rays outfielder) Peter Bourjos:
Cubs agree to terms on a minor league deal with speedy OF Peter Bourjos.
— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) February 1, 2018
Although the Cubs have a pretty loaded outfield already – Jason Heyward, Albert Almora, Ian Happ, Kyle Schwarber, and Ben Zobrist will all see time out there – the likelihood of adding quick-footed, center-field capable type was ever-present, especially if they could get him on a minor league deal. The signing means that Bourjos doesn’t have to be added to the 40-man roster immediately, and the Cubs can figure out how they want to make the roster work when Spring Training comes to a close, or soon thereafter. Veterans like Bourjos usually get opt-out dates built into their minor league contracts – either they’re on the big league roster by X Date, or they can head back out into free agency. If that’s not the case, or if Bourjos opts to stay with the Cubs, he could serve as nice depth to have waiting at AAA in case of emergency.
Speaking of which, this likely slightly reduces any chance the Cubs were going to be able to bring Jon Jay back on a similar deal, though I still think he probably finds a big league contract eventually anyway. (Also, this is third former Cardinals outfielder the Cubs have added in three years (Heyward, Jay, and now Bourjos)).
As for the quality/purpose of the signing, well, Bourjos’ bat hasn’t been above average at the Major League level since 2013 (103 wRC+ with the Angels) and was particularly bad at the plate last year (74 wRC+ with the Rays). At least he was league-average (100 wRC+) against lefties last year.
But you’re not really getting Bourjos for his bat, since speed and defense are more his calling card. Unfortunately, even some of his advanced defensive metric have fallen off in recent seasons – though he did post 6 DRS in the Rays outfield last year across all three positions.
And, of course, Bourjos, 30, is still a speedy and generally above average base runner, who could be used as a pinch runner late in the season, as needed/as rosters expand.
It’s not the sexiest signing, but on a Minor League deal, there’s not much risk, and it’s always nice to have spare outfielders to bring to Spring Training and/or stash at AAA – especially ones who can play good defense all over and run the bases well.
UPDATE: Bourjos gets a modest big league split deal, so he’ll make a little more than the league minimum if and when he’s with the big league team:
— Patrick Mooney (@PJ_Mooney) February 1, 2018