David Freese, World Series hero and toast of St. Louis a couple years back, on Friday was traded to the Los Angeles Angels for outfielder Peter Bourjos, according to sources.
The Cardinals also acquired 22-year-old minor-league outfielder Randal Grichuk, who hit 22 home runs in the Texas League last season. The Angels, along with Freese, received right-handed reliever Fernando Salas, who appeared in 27 games for the Cardinals in 2013.
The trade is expected to be announced later Friday.
Leaving behind 2013, which ended in a World Series loss for the Cardinals and a fourth consecutive dark October for the Angels, the Cardinals sought outfield depth and the Angels required pitching first, a third baseman second. The trade allows the Cardinals to move Matt Carpenter to third and appoint rookie Kolten Wong at second and the Angels to fill their only positional hole. Los Angeles still must add at least one starting pitcher, probably two, and just were outbid for their free agent, left-hander Jason Vargas, by the Kansas City Royals.
Freese, 30, was MVP of the 2011 World Series and NLCS, and hit a career-high 20 home runs in 2012, when he was an All-Star. He started 2013 on the disabled list because of a back injury, was batting .209 on May 17, hit in 20 consecutive games to lift his average to .287 and finished the season batting .262 with nine home runs in 138 games. He batted .179 in the postseason. Among qualifying third basemen, he was last in defensive WAR, one place behind Detroit's Miguel Cabrera. Freese can be a free agent after the 2015 season.
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Bourjos, 26, projects as the Cardinals' starting center fielder or as a platoon-mate with Jon Jay. His 2013 season ended with wrist surgery, and before that he was on the disabled list because of a hamstring strain. In his only full big-league season – 2011 – he hit .271 with an on-base percentage of .327, hit 12 home runs and stole 22 bases. His career numbers over 354 games: .251 batting average, .306 on-base percentage, 41 steals in 54 attempts.
Had he returned to the Angels, Bourjos might have been the fourth man in the outfield, behind Mike Trout, Josh Hamilton and J.B. Shuck. And as the Cardinals fine-tune a good, young team that played to the end of October, the Angels are attempting a rework a ballclub that had its worst season in a decade, leading to speculation that general manager Jerry Dipoto or field manager Mike Scioscia – or both – would be fired.
Both remain, though for how long may be determined by what the Angels look like in April. The state of their starting rotation and bullpen remains a serious concern. The rotation runs lean after Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, and the bullpen was among the worst in baseball, and that was with Scott Downs' 1.84 ERA for four months before being traded in late July.
Already carrying about $135 million in salary obligations for 2014 (including Vernon Wells' $18.6 million), the Angels likely would not spend on some of the bigger names in free agency: Ervin Santana, Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez and Ricky Nolasco. They could, however, seek shorter-term deals with the likes of Bronson Arroyo, A.J. Burnett and Bartolo Colon, or trade from their middle infield (Erick Aybar, Howie Kendrick.)