Chicago White Sox: Trading Peter Bourjos Was Smart

Feb 28, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Chicago White Sox center fielder Peter Bourjos (44) bats during the first inning against the Seattle Mariners at Camelback Ranch. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 28, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Chicago White Sox center fielder Peter Bourjos (44) bats during the first inning against the Seattle Mariners at Camelback Ranch. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

The Chicago White Sox helped themselves by trading Peter Bourjos to Tampa Bay.

Trading Peter Bourjos to the Tampa Bay Rays for cash considerations isn’t the big splash Chicago White Sox fans hoped for before the start of the season. With Jose Quintana rumors swirling and Opening Day less than a week away, many might feel disappointed that this is probably Chicago’s “big move” before the start of the season.

Bourjos never got a chance to play with the White Sox in the regular season after signing a minor league contract with them this offseason, and he would have only been a backup once Charlie Tilson returned. Still, moving Bourjos to open center field for either Jacob May or Leury Garcia was smart, and once again shows their desire to give their younger players a chance this season.

Even though Bourjos isn’t the long-term answer in center field, it wasn’t easy for Chicago to hand over center field to May. Bourjos has been good enough this spring to win the starting job by hitting .313/.340/.521, while also showing he still has speed with three triples and a stolen base.

Paired with his seven years of major league experience, Bourjos seemed like a reasonable option for the first two months of the season while Chicago waits for Tilson to return. He would have hit at the bottom of the order and hopefully hit around .251/.292/.389 like in 2016 with the Philadelphia Phillies. Nothing spectacular, but a respectable fill-in, nonetheless.

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Instead, the White Sox did what rebuilding teams should do – hand over the starting position to a younger player who has earned it. May needed a great Spring Training to even be considered for a roster spot, and that’s what he did. Only having 83 AAA games under his belt because of an oblique injury is a little concerning, but the White Sox feel he’s done enough over the past year.

After hitting a respectable .266/.309/.352 in AAA last season, May has been a breakout star in Spring Training this year. Over 24 games, May is hitting .339/.361/.525 with three triples and a home run. However, he has also struck out 12 times in 59 at-bats (20.3 percent) compared to Bourjos striking out seven times in 48 at-bats (14.6 percent).

It wasn’t a big enough difference to play a veteran on a minor league contract over the No. 26 prospect in their organization, according to, especially since May has easily been the best defensive center fielder this spring, too. This is nothing new, though, as May owns a .986 fielding percentage in 364 minor league games in center.

Having a good defensive center fielder will be important for the White Sox since they also have Avisail Garcia and Melky Cabrera out there.

That said, May’s injury history raises some concern. He has dealt with a concussion and oblique strain over the past couple of seasons, which is obviously more likely to resurface with him diving everywhere like in Spring Training.

Of course May should not hold back on defense, especially with this being an audition for more playing time when Tilson returns. But the White Sox would have even less center field depth if he does injure himself. That should be at least a little concerning considering Tilson is in a walking boot for three more weeks and could be out until late May, per the Chicago Tribune.

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Chicago’s backup center fielder will still be utility man Leury Garcia, who has only played in 36 major league games with Chicago over the past two seasons. Even though he can play seemingly every position on the field, Garcia’s inability to establish himself at the plate has led to him sticking in AAA.

In 155 career games, he has only hit .188/.225/.237. He has gone 21-for-25 in stolen base attempts, though. The White Sox are expected to use him more in 2017 but hope May can hold the starting center field spot down for a couple of months.

Barring a continuation of May’s stellar Spring Training, center field in the long run this season is still Tilson’s to lose. That means May will probably only be in the majors for a couple of months and spend most of the season in AAA. Psychologically, the White Sox must be confident that a bad stint or him being demoted won’t impact him.

Chicago wavered from its plan of keeping May in AAA this season. That said, it’s hard not to take notice of his good Spring Training.

There’s no doubt that starting May on Opening Day comes with some risk and could backfire if he’s not able to hit major league pitching, but this is what’s expected from the White Sox. Get younger and give prospects a chance.

Next: White Sox Trade Bourjos to Tampa Bay

Now it’s time to get ready for the Jacob May audition.