Chicago Cubs: Peter Bourjos is another low-risk, high-upside move

(Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /

Rather than throw big money at Lorenzo Cain or trade for Christian Yelich, the Chicago Cubs smartly went for a buy-low option in outfielder Peter Bourjos.

Earlier this offseason, rumors swirled about the Chicago Cubs and Lorenzo Cain. More than a few people thought Christian Yelich could be the missing piece before he wound up in Milwaukee. Within the last week, we looked at speedster Jerrod Dyson as a potential speed infusion into the Cubs’ order.

But, per usual, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer pulled off a move that, honestly, makes more sense than any of the above. Chicago reportedly agreed to terms with veteran outfielder Peter Bourjos on a Minor League deal – adding experienced depth behind Albert Almora and Ian Happ.

The deal, worth just under $1.5 million should be earn a big league roster spot, is nothing in comparison to the five-year, $80 million contract Cain received from Milwaukee last week. Granted, the two are vastly different players with widely contrasting skills, but the Cubs didn’t need a Lorenzo Cain. They needed a Peter Bourjos.

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Bourjos, a Park Ridge, Illinois native, is known for his legs and his defensive value. He’s not going to turn heads with his offensive makeup (he owns a .680 career OPS and 88 OPS+ over seven seasons) but he definitely adds a missing element to this ball club.

Last year, Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo each swiped 10 bags – the only players who hit double figures on Joe Maddon‘s club. It’s hard to imagine Bourjos getting enough starts that he takes a tab at 10-plus steals (he hasn’t managed double-digit stolen bases since 2011) but he is a Joe Maddon-type guy if there ever was one.

All about defense and base running

Should he manage to crack the big league roster, I’d expect him used primarily in two ways. First, as a late-inning defensive replacement – especially if Kyle Schwarber does not show marked improvement in left field. Bourjos has always been a plus defender and there’s no reason to start questioning him now.

Second, and perhaps equally as important, we’ll see Bourjos as a pinch runner in tight ballgames. Maddon is all about matchups – and when the offense is struggling, getting creative when it comes to pushing across runs. While Ian Happ is quick-footed, I’d take Bourjos’ experience on the basepaths any day.

The former 10th-round pick turns 31 in March and is no stranger to the National League Central. From 2014 to 2015, he played with the Cardinals. During that stretch, he appeared in 236 games for the Redbirds, posting a lackluster 76 OPS+.

Last year with Tampa Bay, Bourjos hit .223 for the Rays. He stole just five bases and was caught four times on the season. Again. I think it’s important to focus more on his makeup than numbers in this case.

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Here’s how I look at the signing.

For just over $1 million, the Cubs lose nothing in this deal. If Bourjos falls flat on his face, Chicago heads into 2018 with Happ and Almora locking down center. But if he has a strong showing in Arizona, a veteran piece with some postseason experience under his belt is never a bad thing.