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Justin Bour non-tendered by Phillies, is worth a look from the Tigers

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The lefty’s big bat could add some much-needed pop to the lineup.

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at New York Mets Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Bluntly stated, the Detroit Tigers were a horrible offensive club in 2018.

Their team numbers in batting average (.241, 21st) and on-base percentage (.300, 27th) ranked in the bottom third of the league. There was even less in the way of power hitting, with low figures in both slugging (.380, 28th), and OPS (.680, 27th), as well as home runs (135, 28th and fifteen behind the 27th ranked Tampa Bay Rays).

Another year of Nicholas Castellanos, a full season of Christin Stewart, and a (hopefully) healthy Miguel Cabrera should auger improvement out of the Tigers lineup in 2019. But the club would do well to add another power bat to their lineup to give them a further boost.

Enter Justin Bour.

Officially non-tendered by the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday, Bour is coming off of a 2018 season that saw a slight drop in his offensive production. He drove in only 59 runs to the tune of a .227 batting average, as well 124 strikeouts and a career-high 24.8 percent strikeout rate in 423 at-bats. However, taking a deeper look reveals that Bour’s numbers were perfectly solid. Beyond his batting average, he posted a very respectable .341 on-base percentage while drawing 73 walks at a 14.6 percent rate in 501 plate appearances. He also posted his third career 20 home run season.

In adding Bour, the Tigers would give themselves a fourth 20-home run candidate alongside the aforementioned Castellanos, Stewart, and Cabrera. Further benefit comes with the fact that Bour is left-handed, another aspect in which the Tigers’ lineup is lacking for power. A first baseman by trade, he would provide the option for a split with Cabrera at the designated hitter spot, allowing them to share duties at each position.

Unfortunately, Bour isn’t really a full-time player at this point in his career.

His splits are fairly outrageous, for one. He holds a career 129 wRC+ against right-handed pitching with 76 home runs, compared to just a 79 wRC+ and only eight long balls against southpaws. The Miami Marlins generally employed him as a platoon player, and no doubt the Tigers would do the same, using him to turbo charge the offense against right-handed pitching and get Cabrera off his feet from time to time.

Should the Tigers pursue him, Bour’s biggest concern comes from his injury history. His 141 games played last season were a career high. An ankle issue limited him to 90 games in 2016, while oblique issues arose in 2017 and reappeared in 2018. To date, he has only played in 507 games across five MLB seasons.

Another drawback: Bour is already 30

His incomplete profile also means that the odds of him being much of a trade chip at the July deadline are slim. The Tigers currently have Niko Goodrum and John Hicks slated for backup roles already, and their positional versatility may win out in considering their value to the Tigers relative to a one-dimensional masher like Bour. However, even assuming the Tigers value Hicks as a backup catcher, there remains one bench spot available, and using it on a player like Bour could really help shore up the offense, especially should the Tigers find an interested trade partner for Castellanos.

Bour isn’t a player that will jettison the Tigers into contention. He isn’t supposed to be. But he is someone that, used effectively, could return to his 2017 form — a .289/.366/.536 line, with 25 home runs and 83 RBI in 108 games — and give a shot in the arm to a lowly offense. He should also be cheap enough that he could be easily released during the season if the Tigers need the roster spot for an up-and-coming prospect. It’s hard to imagine him making more than a few million dollars on a one-year deal, chump change by current MLB standards. He also has another year of club control remaining beyond 2019. Taking a chance on Justin Bour is a minor risk that a rebuilding team like the Tigers can absorb to put a more effective offense on the field.