While it may have been hard for the St. Louis Cardinals to part ways with 2011 World Series hero David Freese, they knew it had to be done. They decided to deal Freese rather than lose him in free agency. Shipping him to the Los Angeles Angels, the Cardinals got speedy outfielder Peter Bourjos in return.
Since he hasn’t been with the organization so far and his career accolades aren’t terribly impressive, Bourjos may be the Cardinals’ biggest question mark going into Spring Training. Certainly, Jon Jay or prospect Oscar Tavares could nab a spot in the outfield that keeps Bourjos from becoming the everyday center fielder in 2014, but all of that will be decided in Spring Training.
Bourjos has only played one full season in the major leagues, but has played in parts of four. When Bourjos got regular playing time in 2011, he stole 22 bases for the Angels. However, if he plays everyday in St. Louis, don’t expect him to steal all that often. Manager Mike Matheny has adopted previous manager Tony LaRussa‘s ideology that stealing is usually an unnecessary risk.
Instead of stealing a ton of bases, Bourjos’ speed will be utilized in hit-and-run situations, which the Cardinals love to execute in any situation. All the way up through their farm system, their hitters are taught to have a killer instinct in order to drive in runs and move runners over and/or hit them in. With Bourjos hitting leadoff or No. 2 in the order, the Cardinals can be potentially more effective in doing this.
One advantage that Bourjos may have over Jay is that the Cardinals may feel that there is still something in Bourjos’ game that has yet to come out. After playing for the organization for a few years, the Cardinals have a good idea of what they’re going to get from Jay. Tavares, on the other hand, is going to play whenever he’s ready for a call-up. Whether that’s on Opening Day or somewhere down the line, when Tavares is ready, some shifting will have to take place in the outfield.
He isn’t a game-changer, but Bourjos will help the Cardinals play small ball, which is something they love to do. Bourjos is going to have to win the battle this spring with other outfielders, but if he can win the starting job, he should contribute on defense and keep the Cardinals on pace to be one of the better teams in baseball in 2014.