While he's been somewhat better lately, the MLB Trade Rumors website points to the performance of David Freese as evidence that the Anaheim Angels have got the best of their offseason trade with the St. Louis Cardinals.
I find that to be odd because Freese's overall numbers are even worse than his extremely disappointing 2013 season in St. Louis which prompted the trade of one of the most popular Cardinals and the star of the dramatic 2011 World Series.
Freese is hitting three points lower than his 2013 batting average with a .259 mark. But there is much more separation for the worse in other areas. He's got a .326 on base percentage, 14 points below his previous career low last year and 24 points below his career average; Freese's slugging percentage of .366 is 15 points below last season and 50 points his career mark of .416. In 38 games less than he played all of last season, Freese has only one fewer strikeout, 105, but he's walked 16 fewer times, 31. He's hit only 17 doubles this year compared to 26 in 2013 and he's hit six home runs. Last year he only hit nine.
While Peter Bourjos has been a disappointment, failing to take over as the starting centerfielder for the Redbirds where he was to provide the spark of speed to the offense, he's at least been a decent extra outfielder. He's hitting only .230 with four homers and 24 runs scored. But, regardless of Bourjos' 2014, I believe the Cardinals took more of a long view of the trade than Anaheim.
The Cardinals also landed Randal Grichuk in the deal, who the site points out has spent most of the year in Class AAA. Well, sure he has. Grichuk only turned 23 last week and this is the first season he's played at the top level of the minor leagues. Still, he's had a pretty good year, slugging 23 home runs at Memphis and earning a pair of brief call ups to St. Louis. He's likely to return to the big leagues when rosters expand in September and he could challenge for a major league job in 2015.
Freese will be 32 next year and will likely get a large raise over his $5.05 million salary through arbitration -- if the Angels choose to retain him. He is eligible for free agency in 2016.
The Halos also landed reliever Fernando Salas in the deal. He's 4-0 with a 2.44 ERA. But, while those numbers are pretty good, Salas was a guy the Cardinals basically replaced with pat Neshek. And while Salas has been solid, Neshek was an All-Star and has an ERA of 0.84 and a 6-0 record, allowing 25 hits in 54 relief innings. Neshek, who started the season in Salas' middle relief role, graduated to set up man in the Cardinals bullpen and is currently in a position to take over as closer if Trevor Rosenthal can't straighten out his command issues.
From the Cardinals perspective, the only gripe I have about the trade is that Cardinals GM John Mozeliak tried repeatedly to hand Bourjos a starting job he didn't earn, stating publicly that he was ahead of incumbent Jon Jay on the depth chart in spring training before seemingly ordering manager Mike Matheny to play Bourjos over Jay early in the season. It put Bourjos in a bad spot in the clubhouse. But Jay eventually won his job back with his bat.
Overall, I'd give Mozeliak a B+ grade for the trade. Freese had become a distraction in the St. Louis clubhouse because of his struggles and was in need of a change of scenery. Considering his escalating salary and his declining statistics, I'm thrilled that the Birds could land Grichuk in exchange for him. So, basically, the Birds got a handy fourth outfielder who has the potential to get better for Salas, a surplus reliever who was replaced by an even better pitcher the Cardinas signed for $1 million.