The Cardinals trade a postseason hero while the Angels hope for a rebound
Two years later, Freese was an aging, injured player who had fallen out of favor in St. Louis. As such, he is now a Los Angeles Angel. The Cardinals traded Freese on Friday to LA for center fielder Peter Bourjos and prospect Randal Grichuk.
For the Cardinals, its a stunning yet not unexpected turnaround on Freese. From those postseason heroics, he had a fantastic 2012, hitting .293/.372/.467. This season though Freese struggled with injuries and his hitting line dropped to .262/.340/.381. The injuries affected his defense even more than his batting. The advanced metrics graded Freese out among the worst defensive third basemen in the game last year, if not the very worst. The Cardinals will adjust their infield by moving Matt Carpenter back to third, his original position, and giving prospect Kolten Wong the second base job.
In return for Freese, the Cardinals get Peter Bourjos. Frankly, Bourjos isn't that much of a hitter, sporting a .251/.306/.398 career line in 4 seasons. The real benefit though in defense. Bourjos is arguably the best defensive center fielder in the game right now, so good that the Angels moved Mike Trout to left field.* He will replace Jon Jay in center. As we saw in the postseason, going from Jay to Bourjos is a huge defensive upgrade in a premiere position. As long as Bourjos's OBP stays above .300, the Cardinals should be very happy.
* It should be noted that part of that might have been because Bourjos's bat doesn't play at all in a corner outfield spot, while Trout's certainly does.
The Cardinals also receive Grichuk in the deal. Grichuk was a first round pick by the Angels in 2009, one spot ahead of Trout. He's 22 and has made it to AA. However, his career minor league batting line is .284/.324/.497, and with the big caveat that you can't scout a stat line, that OBP doesn't fortell a bat that can play corner outfield in the big leagues. However, if any team can accelerate Grichuk's development and get him back on track, it's the Cardinals.
As for the Angels, they are betting on Freese's 2013 was just a bad outlier year, and not the beginning of a decline. As we saw with the Red Sox and Shane Victorino, one bad year can just be a bad year. Given Freese's injuries this year, he appears to be a good bounce back candidate. Bourjos is a somewhat high price to pay, but the Angels can at least move Trout to center and get 95% of what Bourjos provided with the glove. If there is one legitimate criticism of the move for the Angels, it's why didn't they trade Bourjos for much needed pitching. For all we know, they explored that and didn't like the answers the market gave them. If that's the case, then Freese is a reasonable guy to get, but either way, it doesn't change the fact that pitching is by far the biggest weakness for the Angels.
In 2011, David Freese was the toast of St. Louis. A scant two years later, there wasn't a place for him there. As such, he gets a needed change of scenery to reestablish his value, while the Cardinals get a nice upgrade at a top position.