The San Diego Padres were down two outfielders heading into the 2008 season. Milton Bradley signed with Texas. The Padres lost out on Japanese free agent Kosuke Fukodome, who inked a multi-year deal with the Cubs. Their talks with incumbent free agent Mike Cameron were rumored to have cooled.
The Padres needed a centerfielder. The Cardinals had one. In a deal slightly reminiscent of the late-career trade of long-time St. Louis star Ray Lankford, the Cardinals traded Jim Edmonds and cash, reported to be $2 million to the Padres in return for third-base prospect David Freese, according to the San Diego Union Tribune.
Ranked as the number ten prospect in San Diego’s system by Scout.com, Freese was taken in the ninth round in the 2006 draft from the University of South Alabama. The 6-foot-4, 200-pounder is likely expendable due to Chase Headley ahead of him at the prospect pecking order at the position in the Padres’ system.
The 24-year-old right-handed hitter posted a .302/.400/.489 line in the high-A California League in 2007. Freese hit 17 home runs and drove in 96 in 503 at-bats. As a point of reference, no Cardinals minor leaguer last season accumulated more than 90 RBI.
When contacted by Scout.com on Friday night, Freese explained how he learned of the deal. “I talked to the Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak and he told me “congratulations”.
As can be expected, Freese likes the deal. “I think it is a plus. I can move forward. I have heard great things about the Cardinals.” He also is grateful for his time with San Diego. “I am thankful for everything the Padres have done for me. I am going to take everything I have learned,” Freese added.
Denis Savage, our Scout.com publisher for the Padres at “MadFriars.com” believes the third baseman has learned a lot and offers this scouting report. “Freese is a ‘baseball player’ that is a terror with men on base. He drives the ball with authority to all parts of the field and can turn on the inside fastball. He will get pull happy at times and needs to maintain that consistent approach of hitting the ball where it is pitched. Freese is a player with terrific makeup that is driven to succeed. It is hard to believe pundits actually thought his defense was sub par – it has been stellar since he arrived into the system. Age is working against him."
Carlos Lezcano was Freese’s manager with the Lake Elsinore Storm and really liked his third baseman: “He is right there with the best I have seen play third base. He is a very durable guy also. A hard-nosed player that is a good hitter. He just needs to keep playing. He needs to just stay strong and keep playing the game. If he keeps playing the way he is playing he has a good future in this game,” Lezcano told MadFriars.com.
Freese is looking forward to getting a jump on his Cardinals career. “I am going to head down to their winter workouts in January,” the newest Cardinal explained.
Edmonds, 37, was the longest-tenured Cardinal player, having joined the team in a trade with the then-Anaheim Angels in March, 2000. The Southern California native, plagued by injuries in recent seasons, enjoyed no-trade protection as a player with ten years of MLB service, five with the same club. He recently offered to waive that right if the Cardinals wanted to trade him to a West Coast team.
Edmonds is an eight-time Gold Glove Award winner, six earned with St. Louis. He has four All-Star Game appearances, three with the Cardinals and a Silver Slugger Award from 2004, when he came in fifth in the National League Most Valuable Player Award voting. He also placed fourth in the 2000 NL MVP voting in his first year with the Cardinals.
In the second year of a two-year contract extension signed prior to the 2007 season, Edmonds is due $8 million this season. If St. Louis is providing $2 million to San Diego, another $6 million would then be freed up for the Cardinals to address a glaring need such as starting pitching.
Candidates to replace Edmonds in centerfield for the Cardinals include Skip Schumaker, Rick Ankiel, newcomer Brian Barton, acquired in the Rule 5 draft from Cleveland earlier in the month and though a stretch perhaps, top prospect Colby Rasmus, who excelled in the Double-A Texas League in 2007 but has yet to play a single inning at the Triple-A level.
Edit 12/15: San Diego GM Kevin Towers quoted as saying the amount of cash that changed hands was $2 million, instead of the $1 million in earlier reports. The above article reflects that clarification.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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