The Angels traded speedy but often-injured center fielder Peter Bourjos to the St. Louis Cardinals for third baseman David Freese on Friday, freeing up center field for Mike Trout and likely opening a right-field spot for Kole Calhoun.
The Angels also acquired Fernando Salas, a 28-year-old right-handed reliever who split 2013 between St. Louis and triple-A Memphis, from the Cardinals in the deal and sent double-A outfield prospect Randal Grichuk, who was drafted one spot ahead of Trout in 2009, to St. Louis.
Bourjos, one of the best defensive center fielders in baseball, was hitting .313 when he strained his hamstring on April 30, an injury that sidelined him for seven weeks. He returned on June 10 and bumped his average to .326 on June 29 before he broke a bone in his right wrist when he was hit by a pitch, an injury that sidelined him for 2½ more months.
Bourjos, 26, tried to return in mid-August, but he didn’t look right at the plate and lacked the strength to check his swing. He was shut down in early September and underwent surgery but is expected to be ready by spring training.
Freese, 30, had a down year offensively last season, 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 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 postseason hero in 2011, when he was selected most valuable player of the National League Championship Series and World Series during the Cardinals’ run to the title, and he had a .293 batting average, .372 on-base percentage and .467 slugging percentage with 20 homers in 2012.
The Angels traded third baseman Alberto Callaspo to Oakland in July and did not appear enthusiastic about their four top candidates to replace him: Chris Nelson, Andrew Romine, Luis Jimenez and Grant Green.