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2015 ZiPS smackdown: Jordan Schafer vs Peter Bourjos

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Because defense does matter.

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

One of the apparent tenets of Billy Beane in 2002, the season that became forever regaled through Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, was that defense mattered less than a player's ability to get on base. Beane believed that whatever runs the team could manufacture from their "team of misfits" would overshadow any runs the team may hemorrhage due to the defense of guys like Jeremy Giambi, Scott Hatteberg, or David Justice, and therefore the club would win more games.

"Peter Bourjos is the best center fielder I've seen in my 38 years of professional baseball." - Veteran MLB scout

Perhaps that's the philosophy the Twins are attempting to emulate in 2015. We know that they don't believe that their defense in the outfield corners will be as bad as those of us who buy (even a little) into defensive metrics think it will be; at the very least they're paying lip service to that idea.

But the 2015 Minnesota Twins aren't the 2002 Oakland Athletics. They certainly don't have the pitching of the 2002 Oakland Athletics; nor do they boast in-their-primes Eric Chavez, Miguel Tejada, or Jermaine Dye. Which means that the 2015 Minnesota Twins are a team that needs to maximize their opportunities in all areas because there isn't one area of this team that is demonstrably a strong and consistent performer.

This is why I continue to bang on about defense in the outfield, and about Peter Bourjos in particular. He regularly makes plays that most players don't, and he consistently contributes positive value to his clubs even when he doesn't hit. To illustrate this point one more time, here's how ZiPS forecasts Bourjos and the Twins' current fourth outfielder, Jordan Schafer, for 2015.

Player Age PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA Def zWAR
Jordan Schafer 28 322 9.3 25.2 .219 .295 .300 .271 -2 -0.1
Peter Bourjos 28 311 6.1 24.1 .251 .310 .391 .310 5 1.6

Both players are predicted for part-time plate appearances. Neither player is projected to hit. One of those players is a boss roaming the outfield, and is guaranteed to save his pitching staff more runs than the alternative.

Peter Bourjos isn't a great player. He's an imperfect player, and that is part of the reason he's such an attractive trade target - because the Cardinals won't be using him as anything more than a fourth outfielder, either. And even that is something of a "what-if" considering the glut of talent St. Louis has for their outfield.

He should be an affordable get on all levels: the prospect necessary to bring him over, the money for his salary in 2015, the roster spot that would be required. None of those requirements are prohibitive.

As the Twins continue to march towards spring training, there isn't a great deal left for the front office to achieve. This doesn't mean there aren't opportunities to make the roster better, however, and this is one area in which upgrading the bench would improve the defense - and by extension the pitching staff.

Beane's goal in 2002 was to construct, in the aggregate, an offense (and thereby a team) that could score the runs (and thereby win the games) they lost when Jason Giambi and Johnny Damon left over the winter. He was able to replace what was lost, not in complete players, but in players who had specific tools that could do the job.

Bourjos isn't a complete player. But his defense is a tool that could make the Twins better, and that's the goal.