Prior to the 2000 season, Jim Edmonds was traded from the Angels to the Cardinals in exchange for second baseman Adam Kennedy and right-handed pitcher Kent Bottenfield. Edmonds went on to hit 241 home runs in eight seasons with St. Louis and made a few highlight-reel catches along the way. Kennedy and Bottenfield? Not so much.
By now you've probably heard about the Cardinals and Angels most recent swap: St. Louis sent third baseman David Freese (and a reliever) to Anaheim for outfielder Peter Bourjos (and a prospect). From my perspective, it's a fairly even trade that makes perfect sense for both teams. It allows the Cardinals to get stronger on defense at multiple positions, and it provides the Angels with a third baseman capable of hitting 15 home runs, something the franchise hasn't had since Troy Glaus was clogging the bases ten awesome seasons ago.
While a majority of the fantasy talk has focused on reuniting a former World Series MVP (Freese) and a former MVP of everything (Albert Pujols), I wanted to bring attention to the speedy outfielder moving from the American League to the National League. Bourjos, like Edmonds, is a centerfield extraordinaire, but, unlike Edmonds, his offensive game can use a little help. A lifetime .251-hitter, Bourjos' main asset on the offensive side of the ball is his blazing speed. If he qualified, Bourjos' 7.9 Speed Score on FanGraphs would have been the fifth highest score in 2013 behind Starling Marte (8.7), Jacoby Ellsbury (8.2), Carlos Gomez (8.1) and Leonys Martin (8.0). But -- because of a mixture of playing time and injuries -- Bourjos' speed has been under-utilized in Anaheim. Most recently, Bourjos missed over 100 games in 2013 with a wrist injury.
Bourjos' low number of thefts has everything to do with his playing time. In each of the past two seasons, the 26-year-old has under 200 plate appearances. In 2011, however, Bourjos received 552 PAs and, predictably, stole a career-best 22 steals in 31 attempts. The 6-foot-1, 185-pounder also showed surprising pop that season, hitting 12 home runs to go along with 72 runs and 43 RBIs. In the minors, Bourjos has single seasons of 50 and 32 steals, in addition to a combined 37 thefts between Triple-A and Anaheim in 2010.
I've long been a fan of Bourjos' style of play, but -- because the Angels' higher ups don't care for my opinion -- that hasn't translated into fantasy glory for the little guy who is still much taller than me. That, however, could change in St. Louis, where the Cardinals get the best out of everyone, because that's the Cardinal Way. Matt Carpenter was the beneficiary of a team-wide assault with runners in scoring position last season, leading the league with 126 runs. While I don't think Carpenter relents the No. 1 spot, Bourjos will undoubtedly see a boost in his numbers across the board.
Steamer Projections, which I assume are updated post trade, have Bourjos slated for a .251/.310/.400 line with 13 home runs, 66 runs, 61 RBIs and 15 steals. Depending on where Bourjos bats in St. Louis' lineup, you can give or take a few of those runs and RBIs, and I like that Steamer doesn't hide Bourjos' power potential (although Busch Stadium is tougher on right-handed hitters), but the 15-steal projection strikes me as light.
Whether Bourjos is hitting near the top of the Cardinals' lineup or the bottom, a full season of at-bats should produce at least 20-25 steals. And I'm not even being generous. Even if Bourjos hits eighth, that will allow him to take a few more walks in front of the pitcher and run freely on the base paths. Now some bad news: As a team, the Cardinals stole just 45 bases in 2013 (second fewest to the Tigers' 35). Jon Jay, the guy Bourjos is replacing in center field, led the way with 10, followed by Matt Holliday (6). Yes, Matt Holliday. The team -- again, with manager Mike Matheny at the helm -- was much more active in 2012, though, stealing 95 bases. And Jay, again, led the way with 19.
Unless you predict Jay to spell a lot of time for Bourjos (I don't, Bourjos is far superior in the outfield and they have near-identical career slugging percentages), it's hard to imagine a scenario in which Bourjos doesn't pass 20 steals, and I see the upside of 30 with full playing time. I'm not totally comfortable predicting runs right now because his lineup spot is undetermined, but obviously the higher up he is, the more runs you can expect. MLB Depth Charts currently has him hitting second behind Carpenter, for what it's worth.
Bourjos is not an on-base machine and he's not going to hit for a high average, but don't underestimate his value in St. Louis. His upside with the Cardinals has been resigned to the defensive side of things by the majority, but Bourjos comes with the proven upside of 70 runs, 10 home runs and 20 steals. If -- and it's a big if -- he stays healthy, I have to think he reaches those marks again. That's certainly more valuable than a pure NL-only play. Few saw a
breakout freakout season from Carpenter coming in 2013; don't sleep on Bourjos awakening in St. Louis in 2014.
For more on the trade, check out Viva El Birdos, SB Nation's blog for everything St. Louis Cardinals.
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