Cardinals trade David Freese to Angels for Peter Bourjos

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UPDATE: Well, that progressed from rumor to trade in a hurry. Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that the Angels have traded center fielder Peter Bourjos and outfield prospect Randal Grichuk to the Cardinals for third baseman David Freese and reliever Fernando Salas.

Obviously the Angels are betting that Freese will bounce back following a down 2013 and the Cardinals were willing to let him go because they have prospect Kolten Wong ready to take over at second base with Matt Carpenter shifting to third base. Meanwhile, the arrival of Bourjos presumably means Jon Jay will be on the way out of St. Louis at some point.

Freese hit .262 with nine homers and a .721 OPS in 138 games this year, which is 60 points of OPS below his career mark. Salas will likely slide into a middle relief role for the Angels after posting a 3.42 ERA and 186/69 K/BB ratio in 192 innings for the Cardinals.

Bourjos is a career .251 hitter with a .704 OPS, which is about 50 points below Jay’s lifetime mark, but the gap between them defensively is huge. Grichuk was the Angels’ first-round pick in 2009 and has shown good power with questionable strike-zone judgment while advancing to Double-A.

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Following yesterday’s report that the Angels are talking to the Cardinals about third baseman David Freese, now Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports that the other side of the deal may involve center fielder Peter Bourjos.

St. Louis is looking to replace Jon Jay, who’s getting expensive and coming off a brutal postseason performance defensively, and Bourjos is one of the truly elite defensive center fielders in baseball. Of course, on the Angels he could be replaced in center field by some guy named Mike Trout.

Neal Huntington thinks players should be allowed to re-enter games after concussion testing

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Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli, who has suffered many concussions throughout his 12-year career, was hit on the back of the helmet on a Joc Pederson backswing Saturday against the Dodgers. Through Cervelli remained in the game initially, he took himself out of the game shortly thereafter and went on the seven-day concussion injured list on Sunday.

Perhaps inspired by Saturday’s event, Pirates GM Neal Huntington suggested that players should be allowed to re-enter games once they have passed concussion tests, the Associated Press reports. Huntington said, “Any player that had an obvious concussion risk incident should be allowed to be removed from the game, taken off the field, taken into the locker room, assessed by a doctor, assessed by a trainer, go through an extended period of time and then re-enter the game. Because right now, all of this has to happen on the field.”

Huntington added, “The player has to feel pressure as he’s standing there with 30,000 or 10,000 or 50,000 eyes on him. He has to feel pressure to make a decision whether (he’s) in or (he’s) out of this game. He knows if he takes himself out and he’s the catcher, there’s only one other catcher, and the game becomes a fiasco if that other catcher gets hurt.”

Huntington, who has been forward-thinking on a number of other issues, has it wrong here. The concussion protocols were created because players frequently hid or under-reported their injuries in order to remain in the game. Especially for younger or otherwise less-proven players, there is pressure to have to constantly perform in order to keep one’s job. Furthermore, there is an overarching sentiment across sports that taking time off due to injury makes one weak. Similarly, playing while injured is seen as tough and masculine. Creating protocols that take the decision-making out of players’ hands keeps them from making decisions that aren’t in their own best interests. Removing them would bring back that pressure for players to hide or minimize their ailments. If anything, MLB’s concussion protocols should become more stringent, not more relaxed.

The powers that be with Major League Baseball have no doubt followed the concussion scandal surrounding the National Football League. In January, the NFL settled for over $1 billion with retired players dealing with traumatic brain injuries, including dementia, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. For years, the league refused to acknowledge the link between playing football and CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), which is a neurodegenerative disease that can lead to dementia and has many negative effects, such as increasing the risk of suicide. Since baseball isn’t often a contact sport, MLB doesn’t have to worry about brain injuries to this degree, but it still needs to take preventative measures in order to avoid billion-dollar lawsuits as well as avoiding P.R. damage. In December 2012, former major league outfielder Ryan Freel committed suicide. Freel, who claimed to have suffered as many as 10 concussions, suffered from CTE. MLB players can suffer brain injuries just like football players.

Huntington seems to be worried about not having enough rostered catchers in the event one or two catchers get injured. That is really an issue of roster management. Carrying only two catchers on the roster is a calculated risk, often justified. Huntington can ensure his team never has to be put in the position of not having a catcher in an emergency by rostering a third catcher. Rosters are expanding to 26 players next year, by the way.