November 22, 2013

#Cardinals pull off Freese-Bourjos trade — shortstop ramifications

Actually, it's a four-player trade. The Cardinals are trading David Freese and Fernando Salas to the Angels for Peter Bourjos and minor league prospect Randal Grichuk.

Several thoughts, first in brief, then expanded.

First, this saves the Cards a few dinero, as Bourjos is one year behind Freese in the arbitration years cycle and four years younger, and Salas was entering his first arbitration year. Besides, Salas had no room in a jammed Cardinal rotation; heck, the Angels might try to make him a starter. Second, it adds speed to the current Cardinals roster, something I, John Mozeliak and Mike Matheny have all been looking for. Third, it leaves open the possibility of Jon Jay becoming trade bait, especially if the Cards judge that Oscar Taveras is big-league ready even before the start of spring training. Fourth, Grichuk could be of some value. He has a decent slugging percentage and a bit of speed, but needs to cut his strikeouts and take more walks.

And, as with the Rangers-Tigers trade, we know this means an expected position shift will now happen. Matt Carpenter's headed to third, and presumably, speaking of big-league ready, Kolten Wong's starting the year in St. Louis.

So, it looks like a win-win, but one that tilts toward St. Louis, I think. That's with the one big caveat of Bourjos staying healthy. And, assuming that happens, I might have been generous toward the Angels in my win-win. Rather, let's call it a win-make progress deal.

Now, about those money savings? It's not a lot, but, let's say, $4M a year total. That leads us back to shortstop land. The Cards now have more money to spend on either a free agent, or to pay a certain high-paid shortstop acquired by trade. Could this put the Cards in on Troy Tulowitzki, if Colorado will trade him at the right price, as well as Stephen Drew, Jhonny Peralta and the other free agents? In any case, this could be moving the Cardinals closer to the post-Pete Kozma era.

That said, if Peralta is now asking for $56-$75M, scratch him. Not worth it.

Anyway, on the grounds of the trade alone, this is a boost to the Cardinals. Plus, with Wong and Bourjas, plus any speed out of Taveras, this is a faster Cardinals team. Also, definitely vs. the 2013 Freese, the infield shifts should make this a better defensive team. ESPN pointed out that, despite winning the National League title, the Cards were in the bottom third of baseball in defense.

An upgraded defense plus all the young gun arms? Yikes.

Meanwhile, just as the Texas-Detroit trade seemed to tighten the market on middle infielders, the Cardinals have more money to play. Or, per a post of mine about a week ago, the Cardinals can feel more comfortable staying put, waiting to be the pursued rather than the pursuer, in the shortstop trade world.

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