The Angels came into this offseason looking to swap some of their excess hitting for some pitching. So what is the first thing they do? Trade Peter Bourjos and Randal Grichuk for third baseman David Freese and reliever Fernando Salas.
Obviously that isn't pitching, but it isn't bad either. Third base was a huge hole for the Angels with no real in-house solution. What this trade really was about was allowing the Angels to get optimal use out of their resources. As we see with prospects having to get involved in this trade, Bourjos was never going to bring back a big-time pitcher that the Angels covet, but keeping him in Anaheim meant having to trade Trumbo (who they preferred to keep) and shifting Trout to left field where he is unable to provide maximum defensive value (and have maximum job satisfaction).
In Freese, the Angels get a full-time starter at third who is relatively cheap. The Angels bought low on Freese after a back injury plagued him all season, causing his offense and defense to both slip. If he is healthy, there is little reason to believe he can't be a three win player at the hot corner as he was the previous two seasons. Freese is not a middle of the order bat, but it is pretty easy to see him slotting into the six-hole to replace what Howie Kendrick would normally give them out of that slot. Where Freese really provides a boost is that he is a strong OBP guy. For his career, he has a .356 OBP and 8.6% walk rate. Even in his "disappointing" 2013, he still had a .340 OBP and 9.0% walk rate. He is much more of a Dipoto-type guy.
That is something Bourjos wasn't as his 5.5% walk rate shows. I love Bourjos, but it was hard to see how he fit into the roster philosophy of Dipoto. He could easily blossom in St. Louis due to his defense and the easier offensive environment. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to see that at all.
As for the prospect they gave up, Randal Grichuk. While he is a solid prospect, he is pretty well blocked in Anaheim and possibly never a guy Jerry thought much of because he is such a free swinger. Despite that, it feels like the Angels including him was an overpay just because Grichuk does have other tools.
Well, it wouldn't have been so bad had the "prospect" they got from St. Louis not been Fernando Salas. Most prospects aren't about to turn 28 and have 192.1 innings in MLB under their belt. Salas had a strong rookie season in 2011, but he quickly fell out of favor after a disappointing 2012 followed by a slow start in 2013 the relegated him to Triple-A most of the year. Salas is young enough to still provide value and he might fair better in the Big A as he is an extreme flyball pitcher. But even if he does improve, he still is nothing more than a middle relief arm based on talent even if Tony LaRussa was briefly fooled to using him as closer in 2011.
If you look at the parts of this trade, the Bourjos for Freese straight up aspect should have been fairly even. Both have injury red flags, though Bourjos' is probably bigger, but one would think the difference is mitigated by Bourjos being about $3 million cheaper this year and under team control for three years as opposed to two for Freese. That would mean Grichuk was being dealt for Salas more or less straight up and that just seems crazy. Dipoto must overvalue Salas, undervalue Grichuk or discount Bourjos because of his health issues because from the outside this looks like the Cardinals got more value.
That doesn't mean it is a bad trade though. Freese fills a hole and helps the offense and Salas should be able to provide some value in relief. They may have given up too much value, but this move makes the Angels better in 2014. Now they just need to hope Grichuk doesn't get some of the Cardinal magic on him to make them regret making this trade in 2015 and beyond.