Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports tweeted Thursday morning that the Angels and St. Louis Cardinals have discussed a trade that would send third baseman David Freese to Anaheim, a move that makes some sense for the Angels but would hardly address their most pressing need — starting pitching.
But knowing Angels General Manager Jerry Dipoto, who is far more aggressive and creative in trade talks than his two predecessors, Tony Reagins and Bill Stoneman, the guess here is that Freese is not Dipoto’s only Cardinals target.
In starters Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn and Joe Kelly, St. Louis has the kind of young, inexpensive arms that the Angels, who are already pushing up against next year’s $189-million luxury tax threshold, covet.
And any one of the Cardinals’ young relievers — Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez, Seth Maness and Kevin Siegrist — would immediately upgrade the Angels’ bullpen.
Wacha, Rosenthal and Martinez are surely off limits, but St. Louis might be willing to part with Miller, Lynn, Kelly, Maness or Siegrist if the Angels would include shortstop Erick Aybar or center fielder Peter Bourjos, who have been linked with the Cardinals this winter. Angels slugger Mark Trumbo would probably yield an even better return.
Losing the switch-hitting and slick-fielding Aybar would be a huge blow for the Angels, who don’t have a major-league ready replacement and whose top shortstop prospect, Eric Stamets, played in 2013 at Class-A Inland Empire.
But Dipoto could fill shortstop with a temporary stop-gap. Prime free-agent targets Stephen Drew and Jhonny Peralta wouldn’t come cheap, but Dipoto could look to swing another deal with a team such as Arizona, which is deep at shortstop with Didi Gregorius, Chris Owings and Cliff Pennington.
Freese, 30, had a down year offensively, hitting .262 with a .340 on-base percentage, .381 slugging percentage and nine home runs, and though he’s considered a solid defender, he was often removed in the late innings of games for defensive purposes.
But Freese began 2013 on the disabled list because of a back strain, and the pain lingered throughout the season. He was a post-season hero in 2011, winning National League Championship Series and World Series most valuable player awards during the Cardinals’ run to the title, and he had a .293/.372/.467 slash line with 20 homers in 2012.
The Angels traded third baseman Alberto Callaspo to Oakland in July and do not appear very enthusiastic about their three top candidates to replace him, Chris Nelson, Luis Jimenez and Grant Green.
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