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.
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.
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.