Justin Bour Heads to Philadelphia

As reported by Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the Philadelphia Phillies acquired first baseman Justin Bour and cash considerations from the Miami Marlins for a minor-league pitcher who is yet to be named.

That a first baseman who can hit a little bit went in a minor August trade is another data point on just how little first baseman with some offensive pep are valued in baseball in 2018. It kind of makes you wonder about the team’s public stance to not let their players go cheaply; while Bour’s oblique injury came at a bad time for a deadline trade in 2017, I can’t help but think that a hitter coming off a .289/.366/.536 season could have fetched more than this over the winter. Yes, Bour has larger-than-typical platoon splits for a left-handed batter, with a 210-point difference in career OPS vs. RHP and LHP, but in some ways, that actually makes it easier for his new club to find a role for him. Also, he makes practically nothing in baseball terms ($3.4 million in 2018) and has two additional years before free agency.

ZiPS Projections, Justin Bour
Year BA OBP SLG G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OPS+ DR WAR
2019 .249 .344 .494 128 421 55 105 17 1 28 83 62 123 1 124 -2 1.7
2020 .245 .338 .478 121 400 50 98 16 1 25 76 57 114 1 118 -3 1.2

It’s not a large investment for the Phillies, who are throwing a pitcher back to the Marlins in return for a bit of the $1 million remaining on Bour’s 2018 contract. It’s good that Philadelphia didn’t surrender too much, because it’s difficult to see how Bour could carve out much playing time. Carlos Santana’s struggled against the shift this year, but he’s also a player without any kind of exploitable platoon split. Also, Santana doesn’t have much positional flexibility anymore and Bour never really did, so it’s not like one can push the other into a corner spot à la Rhys Hoskins. I would certainly hope not, at least. Reading the tea leaves, I suspect that Bour’s skillset basically limits him to a bench role for Philly. He can also fill in for Santana on off-days instead of the team sliding Hoskins over.

Bour strikes me as a non-tender candidate this winter, and while I think there are teams that ought to have some interest (Angels, Rockies), I don’t think this trade happens if the market for Bour weren’t deader than disco. It’s quite a fall for a player who just over a year ago was competing in the online Final Vote for the All-Star Game. It makes me wonder if baseball, after decades of overrating first-base/corner-outfield talent, has swung too far in the other direction, but that’s a post for another time.

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Dan Szymborski is a senior writer for FanGraphs and the developer of the ZiPS projection system. He was a writer for ESPN.com from 2010-2018, a regular guest on a number of radio shows and podcasts, and a voting BBWAA member. He also maintains a terrible Twitter account at @DSzymborski.

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Andy
Member
Andy

Among players with 250+ PA this season, Bour ranks 114th in wRC+ as of today. I do not understand how the Marlins wouldn’t hold him through their teardown.

sadtrombone
Member
sadtrombone

Honestly? It’s probably about money. They probably didn’t want to pay him the raise in arbitration. So rather than wait for him to bounce back and deal him later, they sold him, saved a million dollars, and got a potential reliever or 6th starter out of it.

There’s two ways to look at that. One is to say they should never really believed in him and decided to cut bait after seeing him this year, in which case they should have dealt him when he was coming off a good year. The other is to say they really believed in him and that’s why they held him, in which case they should believe in him enough to keep him longer to right the ship.

ThomServo
Member
ThomServo

This is too negative imo- the prospect hasn’t even been named yet, and the assumption is that he’s a potential reliever of 6th starter? What do you estimate the surplus value of this deal to be, and what do you think it would have been in the offseason? It seems conformist to just bash the Marlins without even knowing the deal.

The Boras/CAA/Travis et al agenda, obviously, has been to bash the Marlins constantly. The team is likely to move, which likely has something to do with the bad PR smears and leaks.

In reality, the Marlins have done much better than the ‘Marlins are as bad as possible’ meme suggested.

In reality, the Marlins have had a decent return on their early rebuilding efforts. Their farm systems has become much stronger, their financial situation is clearing up, several of the players they were criticized for trading have cratered (Ozuna, Gordon), while the ones they have kept have generally retained value (Realmuto, and a grab bag of 1-2 WAR guys).

They are not the worst team in baseball, let alone challenging as one of the worst in history as the pre-season PR-agenda hysterics suggested. They are better than the clubs that signed Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, they got out from the underwater Stanton deal, and its hard to argue that their worse off (from a baseball perspective) in the next few seasons than the Giants, Rangers, Reds, Royals, Mets, or Orioles.

Of course, their potential move, even abroad, will continue to be a major issue for them as long as it is considered. And don’t get me wrong- Jeter sucks- but the PR smear against the Marlins is not really about whether the scouts got let go politely or whether the return for Ozuna was enough, etc.

sadtrombone
Member
sadtrombone

The prospect is McKenzie Mills. And the Marlins are a disaster. They have a -160 run differential this year, better than only the Orioles and Royals. I would agree their future looks better than the Orioles and Royals, sure, but this is a team that is going to take a loooong time to recover.

PBCards
Member
PBCards

Bottom quartile fielder at easiest position. 490th fastest runner out of 500 per statcast. Third worst BsR. His hitting is just enough to get him back to about breakeven. Arb process overvalues guys with his skill set; If he gets a raise in his second arb year (likely), he’s probably above what he’d get as a free agent.

RonnieDobbs
Member
RonnieDobbs

If you are judging Bour by his defense and base running, then you are doing it wrong. That is not his value to any team. Thats the problem with WAR-centric thinking – you shouldn’t judge everyone through the same lense. I think every team in MLB would like to have Bour on their roster for what he does which is be left-handed, hit bombs and walk.

PBCards
Member
PBCards

22 teams passed on him in waivers, so doubt that every team in MLB would like to have Bour on their roster.

Stovokor
Member
Member
Stovokor

The problem with WAR is that it takes everything into account? Ok.