Biggest Winners and Losers of David Freese for Peter Bourjos Trade
It may not be as big or impactful of a trade as Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler was from earlier in the week, but the swap between the St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Angels does leave plenty to dissect and discuss.
Here's a rundown of the biggest winners and losers of this move, starting with the most accomplished big leaguer of the batch.
Loser: David Freese
Although he'll maintain a starting position with the Angels—something that wasn't as likely with the Cardinals—Freese leaves St. Louis, the city that fell in love with him after he went bonkers during the club's run to the 2011 championship, earning MVP of both the NLCS and World Series.
The 30-year-old goes from a perennial contender that made it to the last three Octobers to a disappointing, underperforming L.A. squad that has missed the playoffs four seasons in a row.
Winner: Angels Lineup
Even though Freese had an overall poor 2013, hitting just .262/.340/.381 with all of nine homers and 60 RBI, he's better with the bat than Bourjos, who sports a line of .251/.306/.398 for his career.
Amazingly, even the injury-prone Freese has been healthier than Bourjos, who missed more games (168) than he played (156) in 2012 and 2013.
Provided Freese can continue to stay on the field for even 130 or so games, he should have a chance to approach 20 homers while hitting for a solid enough average (i.e., .270-.280). That makes the Angels already potent lineup even stronger.
While we're on the topic of Angels hitters, the likeliest beneficiaries of Bourjos' departure in terms of playing time in the outfield are J.B. Shuck and Kole Calhoun, a pair of serviceable 26-year-olds who looked capable enough as fill-ins last season.
Winner: Mike Trout
Everyone already knows that Mike Trout is the best all-around player in baseball, but with Bourjos—also a plus defender—out of the picture, the two-time MVP runner-up is free to man center field without having to worry about shifting back and forth to left.
That could give Trout a little more peace of mind, which can't hurt. Oh, and then there's the fact that the 22-year-old phenom is a career .329/.418/.567 hitter when he plays center, compared to "just" .291/.375/.523 as a left fielder.
If that production continues, it might be even harder to pick against Trout as an up-the-middle force in next year's MVP voting.
Winner: Peter Bourjos
Re-read the first slide on Freese, only this time take the opposite stance, since it's Bourjos getting to leave L.A. for St. Louis.
And while it's not as if the Cardinals have some magic fairy dust to sprinkle on their young players to make them better (or do they?), Bourjos—who's still only 26—might just fare better with this change of scenery. Again, provided he can stay on the field.
Winner: Cardinals Pitchers
Face it, although St. Louis made it to the World Series, the team's defense wasn't exactly a strength, particularly in the outfield.
None of 2013's regulars—left fielder Matt Holliday, center fielder Jon Jay and right fielder Carlos Beltran (now a free agent)—were even average defenders for their positions. Bourjos changes that.
Thanks to his athleticism, consistently good reads and above-average speed, Bourjos is a very strong defensive outfielder. That will make Cardinals pitchers, especially a fly-baller like Shelby Miller, happy.
Loser: Jon Jay
As mentioned, Jay isn't the greatest defender, and he's also merely an average (at best) offensive player. In other words, he'll have to compete next spring to keep the starting center field job he's managed to hold down the past three seasons.
The saving grace for Jay could be that he and Bourjos hit from opposite sides of the plate, meaning a platoon could manifest, with the lefty-swinging Jay—who owns a .777 career OPS against righties—getting the lion's share of playing time in that scenario.
Winner: Kolten Wong
Aside from Freese's subpar season, another big reason the Cardinals made this move is that they can fairly easily cover the position by shifting Matt Carpenter, a former third baseman who broke out in a big way in 2013 while turning himself into a quality second baseman with the glove, back to the hot corner.
That would then open up the keystone for prospect Kolten Wong. The 23-year-old former first-rounder, who hit .303 with 10 homers and 20 steals at Triple-A last year, is perhaps the most big league-ready second base prospect in baseball.
Yes, folks, the Cardinals have another quality youngster ready to step in and produce.
Winner: Randal Grichuk
Grichuk isn't a top-tier prospect, but with 40 homers combined in 2012 and 2013, the 22-year-old has shown some pop since being drafted 24th overall in 2009.
The reason he's here as a winner? Simply because he's no longer in the shadow of—or the same organization as—that "other" outfielder the Angels picked that year one spot behind Grichuk. Guy by the name of Trout.
Too Soon to Tell: Oscar Taveras
And to wrap up, here's one name some prospect watchers might be wondering about: Oscar Taveras.
At the moment, this move doesn't seem to impact the 21-year-old outfielder much. That's mainly because he's such an elite young talent that whenever he shows he's ready—likely by midseason, considering he missed much of 2013 with an ankle injury that required surgery—Taveras is going to have a spot, whether that's center or right field.
With Taveras not far off, St. Louis has plenty of talent at the ready—and plenty of chips to trade. Whether it's Matt Adams and/or one or more of their young arms, the Cardinals still have the pieces necessary to land that shortstop they've been searching far and wide for, even after dealing Freese.
In the end, that makes them winners in this trade, too.