On the day the Angels officially added a third name into the mix for two spots in their everyday lineup, Billy Eppler said it’s too early to predict how exactly the mix will work.
The Angels on Saturday announced a one-year deal for first baseman Justin Bour, whose agreement became public Wednesday. Bour will make $2.5 million, with a possible extra $500,000 in incentives if he reaches 500 plate appearances.
How the plate appearances will be divided among Bour, Albert Pujols and Shohei Ohtani remains to be seen. Bour and Pujols can only play first, and Ohtani will only be a DH in 2019.
“We’re in a situation that’s pretty difficult to forecast,” said Eppler, who couldn’t comment on Bour until the deal was finalized Saturday. “Both Ohtani and Albert had end-of-season procedures. It’s difficult to forecast and we can’t accurately forecast plate appearances for either of those guys. What’s important is to approach those organically and see what the medical team says as we enter spring training, and see what we can do.”
Pujols had knee surgery in August and elbow surgery in September. Although he’s expected to be ready by opening day, the quantity of time he can play first is unknown.
Ohtani had Tommy John surgery in early October. He is expected to play the majority of the season at DH, but won’t likely be ready by opening day. It will be late January before the Angels can get a more specific idea of how much time into the season he may be out.
With all that in mind, they signed Bour.
Although Bour signed a one-year deal, he’ll remain under control to the Angels in 2020, if they deem he’s worth whatever salary he’d earn via arbitration.
“He gives us a power bat to add to our lineup,” Eppler said. “He brings selectivity and he can impact the baseball. … He steps into the batter’s box with bad intentions, which is something we gravitate toward.”
Bour, 30, hit .227 with 20 homers and a .341 on-base percentage in 2018, with the Miami Marlins and Philadelphia Phillies, who declined to offer him arbitration. Over the past three years, Bour has hit 60 homers with an .820 OPS. Over the same span, Eric Hosmer has a .788 OPS. Bour’s offensive line is almost identical to Brandon Belt’s over the past three years, although Bour is not as good defensively.
Bour certainly gives the Angels an option when either Pujols or Ohtani is unavailable. When all three are available, though, is when the situation will get interesting.
While Pujols is one of the greatest hitters in the history of the sport, he’s going to be 39 years old and coming off a three-year span in which he’s produced a .719 OPS. He’s also had three separate surgeries in the past 36 months.
Earlier this week at the winter meetings, when discussing Pujols’ role in 2019, new manager Brad Ausmus suggested that Pujols’ history won’t carry as much weight as his current circumstances.
“This guy is a phenomenal talent,” Ausmus said. “But going forward, it’s just going to be his health and performance. It’s a performance-based game.”
Ausmus made those comments before Bour’s deal was public. After Bour was signed Saturday, Eppler said it was too early to project what will happen with the three players.
“We’re going to do what we feel is best to give our team a chance to win,” he said. “Those will be discussions that Brad and myself and our staffs have, but we’re not presented with that at this moment in time. We can’t answer that question.”