The Angels have signed left handed first baseman Justin Bour to a one-year contract worth $2.5 million. Bour split the 2018 season with two teams (Miami and Philadelphia). He batted .227 with 20 home runs and 59 runs batted in combined between the two teams.
Bour had a down season after a brilliant 2017 campaign when he hit 25 home runs, had 83 RBIs, batted .289, and had a .366 on base percentage. The Halos are hoping that Bour can bring his 2017 production into the lineup to help with aging and expensive Pujols also at first base.
Reasons to Be Excited About this Signing:
- The Angels get a guy that doesn’t mind taking walks. Bour had 69 walks in 374 at bats last season (18.4% walk rate), which was the highest walk rate he has had in his career.
- He has pop. He’s had at least 20 home runs in three of the last four seasons including his down season in 2017.
- He’s left handed, so he can be in the lineup when a right hander is on the mound and give Pujols at bats as DH or rest on the bench when Shohei Ohtani returns from the disabled list.
- Despite hitting only .227 last season, he has a .260 batting average in his brief major league career. Although he’s only been in the league for five years, signs point to him bouncing back in 2019 and that his poor numbers in 2018 were a fluke.
Reasons to Be Concerned About this Signing:
- Bour is an average defender at best and has a -0.4 WAR.
- He’s a poor base runner. We all know that Pujols is a bad base runner and according to fangraphs.com, Pujols is the 6th worst base runner in Major League Baseball. Unfortunately, Bour isn’t far behind at 8th worst in MLB.
- He struck out a lot last season. His walk rate was great, but his strikeout rate was really poor. He struck out 111 times in 374 at bats (29.6%).
Angels fans are hoping that Bour hits so well that the Halos have no choice but to keep him in the lineup and hopefully phase out Pujols if has a mediocre or worse season offensively. Angels management hope both hitters do adequately well and will split time 50% of the time at first base depending on if a right hander or left hander is on the mound opposing them. But Angels management sees the writing on the wall. Pujols is 38 and both of his knees have given him problems in the past. Ausmus already signaled that Pujols’ health and performance have to be considered before his reputation as a hitter:
“In my mind, [Pujols] is one of the top five best hitters ever in the game of baseball,” Ausmus said. “I saw him up close and personal when I was in Houston and they were in the National [League] and Central [Division], and the Cardinals as well. This guy is a phenomenal talent. But going forward, it’s just going to be his health and performance. It’s a performance-based game.”
Angels fans have to like the sound of that. Many fans think that former Angels manager Mike Scioscia had too much loyalty for Pujols and didn’t understand why he hit in the cleanup position a fair amount of times in 2018. Let’s hope Bour and Pujols both have good seasons and make the lineup more unpredictable for opposing teams. That would help a team that is still weak in both starting and relief pitching. In the meantime, the Angels now have to focus on getting a solid catcher, a starter or two, and reliable arms in the bullpen. Let the Winter Meetings continue and let’s hope this isn’t the end to the Halos improvements for 2019.
Featured Image: Justin Bour/NBC Sports