The Angels and Cardinals hooked up in the second trade in three days on Friday afternoon, where the Cardinals traded third baseman David Freese and reliever Fernando Salas to the Angels for outfielder Peter Bourjos and outfield prospect Randal Grichuk. Like the Ian Kinsler - Prince Fielder deal two days ago, this is a good deal for both teams, as both are filling holes in their lineups.
Starting with the Angels side of the deal, they get a starting third baseman in Freese in the deal, but he is not your typical third baseman, as he doesn't hit for too much power. In fact, among third baseman with 500 or more plate appearances in 2013, Freese's .119 ISO ranked ahead of just Michael Young and the guy he is replacing in Los Angeles, Alberto Callaspo.
Speaking of Callaspo, RevHalofan from Halos Heaven, SB Nation's Angels fan site, wrote this piece opining that Freese is basically the same player as Callaspo.
I didn't rank Freese in my recent early Top 20 Fantasy Third Baseman for 2014, and this trade won't change that. He is rosterable in AL only leagues and in deeper mixed leagues, but he is more of a bench guy or an injury replacement in standard 12 team leagues.
This deal will increase the fantasy value of Angels outfielder Kole Calhoun, who should be their starting right fielder, with Josh Hamilton in left field and Mike Trout in center field. Calhoun hit well after his call up last season, hitting .282-.347-.462 with 8 HRs, 29 runs, and 32 RBI in 195 at bats.
The Angels also get a bullpen arm in Fernando Salas in the deal. He is a former closer, who struggled in 2013, but is still talented enough to hold down a spot in a major league bullpen.
The Cardinals get Bourjos to man center field, taking over for John Jay, who, according to Dave Cameron over at FanGraphs, was one of the worst defensive center fielders in the game this season, while Bourjos has been THE best center fielder in the game since 2010:
Since 2010, here are the top 5 center fielders in UZR/150 among players who have spent at least 2,000 innings in center field.
Peter Bourjos, +20.2
Carlos Gomez, +18.2
Jacoby Ellsbury, +13.7
Michael Bourn, +9.9
Denard Span, +9.5
This deal improves the fantasy outlook for Bourjos, but let's not kid ourselves, he is only rosterable in NL-only and deeper mixed leagues, much like the guy he was traded for. Bourjos has good speed, a little pop, and he will more than likely bat 7th or 8th in the solid Cardinals lineup, so his RBI and run totals will be minimal.
This deal opens up third base for Matt Carpenter, and second base for prospect Kolten Wong. Carpenter played second base all last season, but will now make the move to his original position, allowing Wong to play every day at second.
Baseball America recently ranked Wong as the Cardinals #3 prospect for 2014, and here is their scouting report on him:
Wong uncoils from a compact stance for a balanced, lefty swing that sprays line drives and hints at the high average and gap power that will be his hallmark. Wong made strides as a fielder and base thief at Triple-A Memphis in 2013, two priorities for him. He improved his footwork and instincts to become above-average at second, though his arm is fringy. He picked the brains of Willie McGee and Lou Brock for baserunning advice, and he got sharper at his jumps and reads to go 23-for-24 in steal attempts.
Wong could bat second in the Cardinals lineup, providing hitters like Matt Holliday, Allen Craig and Yadier Molina with more RBI opportunities in 2014, as Wong has a solid eye at the plate, doesn't strike out much, and is a good contact hitter. For fantasy purposes, his value skyrockets, as he should provide his owners with a solid batting average, runs scored, some power, and 25-30 stolen base potential. Wong stole 23 bases in 24 attempts this season in AA and AAA, so he is smart on the base paths as well.
The Cardinals also get outfield prospect Randal Grichuk in the deal. Here is what Brian Creagh wrote about him in the recentTop 10 Fantasy Prospects for the Angels:
The ultimate ceiling here is an average corner outfield with solid power numbers and middling contact numbers. His defense should keep him in lineups if he struggles, but the ceiling isn't there for fantasy owners to get too excited over this guy. He seems to be more of an AL-only play because of a high likelihood of Grichuk maxing out to a platoon bat off the bench. He could see some time this season in the majors with a full time role not beingestablished until 2015.
This deal signals a shift in thinking for the Cardinals as they seem to be focusing on improving their defense with this trade. They already have the best catcher in the game in Yadier Molina, Wong is a solid defensive second baseman, and, as stated previously, Bourjos is the best defensive center fielder in the game since 2010.
So where does this leave Cardinals top prospect Oscar Taveras? At first glance, I say the acquisition of Bourjos to play center field is nothing more than a stop gap move, but here is Derrick Gould from the St. Louis Post Dispatch, with quotes from Cardinals GM John Mozeliak:
#Cardinals GM Mozeliak on what adding Bourjos means for Taveras in CF and possibly Taveras on the bench ...
"When you look at what this means for Oscar ...," Mozeliak said. "It’s still intriguing for us to seem him on our club in some way, but clearly it takes a lot of pressure of him necessarily in center field. Our expectations are obviously for him to have a healthy spring training and sort of determine what makes the most sense. At the very least you look at this club now and it can change the complexion of the bench with more power off of it depending on who is playing on that given night. This does check a lot of boxes for us and should give us more flexibility moving forward."
Bench spot? You're kidding, right John? I think Taveras will eventually get the a starting job once he proves his ankle is 100% healthy. I see Taveras starting the 2014 season in AAA, with an early season call up. That is, unless the Cardinals decide to trade one of Matt Adams or Allen Craig. I wonder if they will decide that Craig is too much of a liability in right field and deal him or Adams for a shortstop. I could also see the Cardinals using Bourjos more as a late inning defensive replacement once Taveras proves he is healthy again.
So, this deal begs the question. Which of the current Cardinals will be traded for a shortstop: Matt Adams, Allen Craig or one of their young starting pitchers? Vote in the poll below, or leave a comment.
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