The Cardinals dealt from their depth on Friday moving David Freese and Fernando Salas to the Angels for the Angels' outfield depth in the form of Peter Bourjos as well as prospect Randal Grichuk.
From a roster ramification standpoint, Freese moves into the 3B spot for the Angels which has been a black hole for some time. The move pushes Grant Green to the bench or minors. Kole Calhoun had already supplanted Bourjos in the outfield, so Bourjos became leverage for the Angels to fill their needs at third base.
The Cardinals, on the other hand, are in the outfield market and have substantial depth in the infield with Matt Carpenter playing out of position at second base. He now moves back to his natural spot at 3B clearing tha path for former first round draft pick, Kolten Wong, to earn second base job this spring. Bourjos allows the Cardinals to move John Jay to a fourth outfield role and will take over as their starting center fielder. Fernando Salas’ role is relatively unchanged as a middle reliever/set-up man. Randal Grichuck will move up to Triple-A and could, with a good season, challenge for a starting outfield spot.
Breaking down the players, Freese’s 2013 season was a massive disappointment. While his plate approach and where he hits the ball has not changed significantly, Freese failed to hit for either average or power. I find myself wondering his 2011-2012 campaigns, not the 2013 campaign, might be the flukes though and not the reverse. First off, Freese is an extreme groundball hitter (52.4% career) contrasted against a 25.7% career fly-ball mark. In 2011 and 2012 Freese hit 17% and 20% of his fly-balls for home runs and dropped to under 11% for 2013. While some rebound is possible, where Freese hits the balls is the profile of a power hitter, but that of a doubles and teens HR hitter. My skepticism is further enhanced by Freese’s .350-plus batting average on balls in play in 2011 and 2012 which for a player witih little speed to speak of and mediocre contact-making abilities, seems over his head. In Freese’s favor for at least some rebound, however, are consistent line-drive tendencies. While I do not believe in Freese for 2014, there is some skill and talent here for a modest rebound into the .270 to .280 batting average range/15 HR range especially when you consider that he is moving to more of a hitter-friendly park (Busch Stadium is an extreme pitchjer's park)..
Fernando Salas, 28, is a strikezone pounding reliever. The righty is not noted for a blazing fastball, but spots his fastball well and compliments it well with his slider and changeup, and has a fairly good history of getting swings and misses with it (career 8.7 K/9), but posted just a 7.1 K/9 last year for the Cardinals. Salas has been a successful closer at times during his MLB career and could vault to the top of the pile should Ernesto Frieri struggle or become injured.
The Cardinals perhaps acquired the best defensive centerfielder in all of baseball. Bourjos, who will be 27 come opening day, has spent some significant time on the disabled list (wrist, hamstring, etc). over the last few seasons and has only one full MLB season under his belt. When on the field, Bourjos is an aggressive right-handed hitter with double-digits pop and twenty-plus stolen base skills. At the plate, Bourjos has not shown any sign of improvements to his approach. If he can stay healthy, there is nothing to see here that suggests he can out perform his 2011 campaign and that given his strikeout rates, its possible that he could even dip from his .270s batting average
Randal Grichuk was a former first round draft by the Angels. The righty is blessed with plus-power potential and a quick bat and is a fairly good all around athlete who can play centerfield in a pinch, but is better suited to LF or RF. Grichuck makes fairly consistent contact, but is a rather aggressive hitter who hit just .256/.306/.474. Grichuck’s current trajectory is a right-handed platoon player unless he can turn things around against righties and adjust to advanced level breaking stuff.
Overall this is a deal that should in theory improve both clubs by allowing them to fill holes in their lineups and maximize their organizational depth, but at the same time headlines two players with a lot to prove and could result in both organizations trying to fix their 3B and CF issues next off season too.