When it comes to the Cardinals and third base, David Freese is quickly becoming a lightening rod for debate. Basically, what it comes down to is whether the Cards are better off with Freese manning the hot corner going forward or should they trade him to make room for Kolten Wong.
Bernie Miklasz posted an article last week discussing Freese's lack of power and pondering whether continuing to pay Freese's escalating salary going forward is a wise investment.
While I agree that Freese has struggled this year and his power is certainly down, I'm not sure that Wong is an upgrade.
First of all, just so we are clear, we are not talking about replacing Freese with Matt Carpenter, who is clearly having a better year. Carpenter is the only constant in this discussion, as he would just shift from second to his more natural third base position.
The question is whether Wong is an upgrade over Freese, as Wong would take over second, moving Carpenter to third and allowing the Cardinals to either trade (or non-tender) Freese.
Looking at Wong's raw stats at AAA, it appears on the surface that he is having a better year that Freese, hitting .298/.363/.455 with 8 homers, compared to Freese's .273/.352/.395 line with just 6 homers.
However, Wong is still in the minors and playing in the hitter friendly PCL. Using a major league equivalency calculator, Wong's MLE would be .259/.313/.381 with 6 homers, which actually is worse than Freese. Also, that is assuming that this year is Freese's "true" level. Remember that he is just one year removed from his 20 homer, 79 rbi 2012 season.
So, by trading Freese and plugging Wong into the lineup, the Cardinals really wouldn't be getting an upgrade offensively.
However, there are other benefits to making this switch.
One is that Wong would be an upgrade over Carpenter at second defensively. Assuming that Carpenter and Freese are pretty much a wash defensively at third, such a move would upgrade the Cards defense up-the-middle.
Another benefit would be the obvious savings in terms of money. Freese will likely earn a raise in arbitration over his current $3 million salary, putting him in the $4-5 million range. Wong, on the other hand, would only net the major league minimum of roughly $500,000, saving the Cardinals over $3 million.
Finally, adding Wong to the Cardinals lineup would give the team a little more speed, an asset the team really lacks. Wong has 19 stolen bases at Memphis and certainly is faster than Freese.
Thus, when weighing the pros and cons of Freese vs. Wong, don't think that making this move will immediately give the Cardinals offense a boost, because Wong is likely an inferior offensive player, at least at this point in his career. What the decision really comes down to is whether the other benefits that Wong provides outweigh the offense that Freese provides.