Edmonds Returns To SoCal Roots

The Deal
Having failed to come to terms with either of their free-agent outfielders, Milton Bradley or Mike Cameron, the Padres resorted to the trade route Dec. 14, sending minor league third baseman David Freese to the Cardinals for veteran center fielder and Southern California native Jim Edmonds.
The Big Leaguer
Edmonds, 37, is without question on the downside of his career, but he did register a .257/.350/.471 season for St. Louis as recently as two years ago when the Cardinals' improbably ran the table in the playoffs. The problem has been health moreso than production for Edmonds as he heads into his late 30s—though he has lost a step or two in the outfield as he's aged. He missed time in 2007 with hamstring, back and groin injuries, and lost time to wrist, shoulder and big toe ailments in 2006. In fact, he's totaled just 715 at-bats in the past two seasons combined, as injuries have kept him off the field for large stretches of time. But seeing as his career-high for games played is 154 (1998), it's not as if Edmonds has been a paradigm of health. A seventh-round pick of the Angels in 1988, Edmonds answered early career questions about power by slugging 33 home runs in 1995 for the pre-Anaheim, pre-Los Angeles, California Angels. Two years later he was in St. Louis, dealt for Adam Kennedy and a career-year Kent Bottenfield. Quietly one of the top center fielders of his time, Edmonds has batted .287/.379/.531 in 6,272 career at-bats with 362 home runs and 1,121 RBIs. He's a four-time all-star who has finished fourth (2000) and fifth (2004) in NL MVP voting. He's owed $8 million in 2008, of which the Cardinals are contributing $1 million.
The Prospect
Freese, 24, moves from an impossible situation to a much more favorable one. Buried behind Kevin Kouzmanoff and Chase Headley on the Padres' third-base depth chart, Freese spent time at catcher in instructional league because of San Diego's hot-corner logjam. Even second baseman Matt Antonelli could be viewed as a third-base option, seeing as he played the position at Wake Forest. Because Headley was the regular at Double-A San Antonio, Freese spent the entire 2007 season with high Class A Lake Elsinore, despite his advanced age (he was drafted as a fifth-year senior). He thrived with the Storm, hitting .302/.400/.489 with 17 homers and 96 RBIs, helping to lead the club to the California League finals. Selected in the ninth round in 2006 out of South Alabama, Freese was not unanimously viewed as a pro third baseman coming out of college, but he had thus far impressed the Padres with his defensive improvements. He shows solid-average range, hands and actions to go with an average arm.
Quick Take
Both teams stand to gain from this trade. The Padres are sensibly gambling on a bounceback season from Edmonds because their outfield situation is otherwise dire. Among players on the 40-man roster, only Brian Giles has proven himself capable of regular play. General manager Kevin Towers has indicated that the club intends to find out if Headley can man the other outfield corner, enabling them to keep Kouzmanoff's bat in the lineup at third base.

Cardinals top prospect Colby Rasmus plays the same position as Edmonds, and after a dominant season at Double-A Rasmus won't need much, if any, minor league time in 2008. Though he may be a year away, Freese provides depth in case the Cardinals find a taker for Scott Rolen, who's under contract for the next three years at $36 million.

« Trade Central 2007