It looks like one of the most interesting questions the St. Louis Cardinals will have to answer over the off-season is how the club will try to get some sort of value out of Peter Bourjos -- if there is any to be had.
Will the club commit to keeping the arbitration eligible player in hopes of him turning around a lousy first season with the club or maybe in hopes of trading him for another player who can help out? Or will the birds walk away and reallocate the resources it would take to keep a player who is likely to be unhappy in 2015.
GM John Mozeliak said he plans to retain the enigmatic outfielder and that he'd work with skipper Mike Matheny over the winter to try to come up with plans to get Bourjos more playing time. But Bourjous already complained as he was packing his bags at the end of the Cardinals post season that he wants to go somewhere next season where he could start.
That's an interesting point of view from a guy who was handed the Redbirds' starting job last spring before fumbling it away with uninspiring offensive play -- twice! While I appreciate the speed aspect of baseball ( a great deal), Bourjos doesn't get on enough to make his weapons useful. And he doesn't seem interested in improving, striking out three times as often as he walks. What it comes down to, I guess, is that I really just don't have a lot of enthusiasm about Major League Baseball players who shrink away from the thought of competition. If Bourjos doesn't want to compete with Jon Jay, why should I believe he'll put up a good fight against opposing pitchers?
A lot of people complained that the Cardinals didn't give Bourjos enough consistent playing time and that is to blame for his struggles. If he only got to play more, they say Bourjos would have hit closer to his best season, 2011, when he batted .271 with 12 homers and 22 stolen bases. But he ended up with 294 plate appearances for St. Louis. That total was easily the second-highest of his five-year career.
In my book, Bourjos' 2014 statistics including a .231 batting average, 4 homers and 9 stolen bases make the 2011 numbers seem like the outlier in his statistical track record. Subtract his banner year, and Bourjos is a career .232 batter, so his 2014 numbers were just one point off his career average without that one anomaly of a season. Even in that best season, Bourjos' blind supporters fail to recognize that he struck out 124 times compared to 32 walks for a .327 on base percentage.
I don't care how good of a centerfielder Bourjos is, the Cardinals can't afford 4-5 at-bats a game from a player who struggles to keep his career on base percentage above .300. And if he isn't going to be happy without being handed unlimited playing time, is there any way he's going to be happy in St. Louis?
Sometimes it seems as if general managers are reluctant to pull the plug on players because they are worried about the scorecard bloggers and newspaper columnists are keeping in regard to their trades. But there is a lot more to the Bourjos acquisition.
First, the Cardinals gained a lot of financial flexibility in dealing away David Freese, saving more than $3 million. But the real prize of that deal for St. Louis was the acquisition of Randal Grichuk, a player who made an impact for St. Louis both in the playoff run and the early games of the playoffs. Grichuk's value has, unfortunately, been dramatically enhanced by the tragic loss of top prospect Oscar Taveras.
So, no matter what happens, John Mozeliak is going to come out ahead on this deal and Bourjos' fate should be decided in terms of what's best for the future, not what shows the past in the best light.
With Taveras gone, the Cardinals have more need for an outfielder than they did when they acquired Bourjos. I'd love to see Bourjos be the guy that so many think he could be, a .280 hitter with decent power and 30 or more stolen bases. But I don't see it happening if he is unwilling to earn his playing time and he's going to grouse in the dugout. I'd just as soon see the Cardinals move in a different direction.