Old friend Justin Bour is heading east for the 2020 season. Reports of him signing with the Hanshin Tigers of Nippon Professional Baseball surfaced several weeks ago, and on Saturday, the deal was announced. He is guaranteed $2.5 million (same as his salary with the Angels last year).
Ever since getting an enthusiastic offer from the Hanshin Tigers last offseason, I have been interested in (and learned about from ex-teammates Ichiro and Shohei Ohtani) NPB and been thinking seriously about playing there ever since. This year Hanshin came back with another offer, so I decided to take them up on it, and play in Japan. I’ll probably hit up a convenience store as soon as I get to Japan and buy a couple tuna and teriyaki chicken rice balls. When I get to camp I am sure I’ll learn a lot from my teammates, and I’ll do all I can to fit in with the rest of the team as quickly as possible. I can’t wait to play in front of all the fans.
Fittingly, the team’s announcement comes the same week as the MLB Rule 5 Draft. Bour can thank the Rule 5 for providing the much-needed change of scenery that jumpstarted his career.
He was a nondescript player in the Cubs organization when the Marlins scooped him up six years ago during the Triple-A phase. He got off to a scorching start with New Orleans in 2014—.330/.407/.562 through 55 games—and debuted in the majors on June 5 of that season. Miami gave the George Mason University product consistent reps once the team fell out of contention in late September, but it wasn’t until the following June that he truly established himself as a regular in the lineup.
Bour ranks 12th in Marlins franchise history in home runs (83 HR), 14th in walks (197 BB) and 23rd in offensive Wins Above Replacement (6.4 bWAR).
Entering his age-32 season, Bour seemingly leaves the door open for an eventual return to the U.S. But players with his skill set seldom age gracefully—we may have seen the last of him in meaningful MLB games.
Fish Stripes is grateful for Bour’s memorable homers and fan interactions as a Marlin. Wishing him the best of luck in Japan!