With the calendar now reaching February and David Freese still without a home, might the St. Louis Cardinals have interest in re-acquiring this fan-favorite veteran?
“…we will see you tomorrow night!” This is the now-famous quote uttered by Joe Buck during the national broadcast of the 2011 World Series game six wherein the local hero, David Freese, captured the hearts of St. Louis Cardinals fans with his 11th inning home run. What a moment. What a game. Yet this love affair became tempered in the following years which ultimately lead to Freese’s trade to Anaheim at the end of 2013.
Fast forward to now, the start of 2016, and Freese finds himself a free agent without a team to call home. Our friends with Viva El Birdos noticed a few bubbles on the water of a Freese-to-Cardinals train of thought at the start of February. But does this even make sense? Their February article examines this notion and leave the door open for consideration.
Let’s play with this idea for a minute. As is noted in the VEB article (and I am paraphrasing here), the longer that Freese goes without a home, the lower the price drops for him. This is a good thing for a team like the Cardinals who seem stocked at third (read: Matt Carpenter). As the price drops, the risk equally drops.
This line of thinking, however, ignores production. The question here is whether Freese would (1) produce again with the Cardinals, and (2) produce as a backup rather than as a starting player. And let’s be honest, Freese will NOT be coming to the Cardinals (at least not as of February 17, 2016) as a starting player. Let’s dig into this a bit more.
These were Freese’s offensive numbers over the past few seasons:
2013 (STL; 30 years old)- .262 batting average, .721 OPS (26 doubles, 9 home runs, 60 RBI)
2014 (LAA; 31 years old)- .260 batting average, .704 OPS (25 doubles, 10 home runs, 55 RBI)
2015 (LAA; 32 years old)- .257 batting average, .743 OPS (27 doubles, 14 home runs, 56 RBI)
The above stats were his playing time as a regular starter (average of 449 at-bats/season). Could he maintain these numbers off the bench?
Let’s take a minute and compare these same stats with that of Cardinals starting third baseman, Carpenter.
2013 (27 years old)- .318 batting average, .873 OPS (55 doubles, 11 home runs, 78 RBI)
2014 (28 years old)- .272 batting average, .750 OPS (33 doubles, 8 home runs, 59 RBI)
2015 (29 years old)- .272 batting average, .871 OPS (44 doubles, 28 home runs, 84 RBI)
Let’s take one step farther in comparing Freese to a potential Cardinals player or two. Let’s examine just the offensive performance of potential backup players who might appear in 2016 at the hot corner, Greg Garcia and Jedd Gyorko. For ease of comparison, we will examine only 2015 stats.
Garcia, 2015- .240 batting average (75 at-bats), .724 OPS (5 doubles, 2 home runs, 4 RBI)
Gyorko, 2015- .247 batting average (421 at-bats), .694 OPS (15 doubles, 16 home runs, 57 RBI)
So, the question here (ignoring those additional bats in Memphis), is Freese a better backup than Garcia or Gyorko? This, to me, is a hard sell based on these numbers.
Let’s look at some defensive statistics. For ease of comparison, I will examine 2015 only again.
Freese, 2015, LAA- .967 fielding percentage, third base
Carpenter, 2015, STL- .957 fielding percentage, third base
Garcia, 2015, STL- 1.000 fielding percentage, third base (4 games)
Gyorko, 2013, SDP- .933 fielding percentage, third base [note that I had to look back at 2013 to find the last time Gyorko has appeared at third]
Ignoring small sample size, etc., based on these statistics, is Freese the better backup option than what is in the organization? Perhaps Freese is decent sell here but that is also ignoring Memphis players such as Jacob Wilson (see my previous Wilson post to read of my admiration).
Fans know that much goes into a decision like bringing a player to a team. Certainly the lore of Freese colors the decision as well as the production statistics examined above. Let’s add one final wrinkle: price.
A quick cap of the cost of the Cardinals players mentioned in this article: Carpenter is due $8.6MM in 2016, Garcia is due approximately league minimum, and Gyorko is due $7MM (some shared with the Padres) in 2016. Freese’s final contract paid him $6.425MM in 2015.
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It is easy to assume, and is mentioned in the VEB article listed above, that Freese will likely land a one year deal now (if that) and certainly the likelihood of this increases as his free agency continues. So what might a team toss his way for that one year? What might the Cardinals consider of interest for that one year?
For giggles, let’s assume Freese could be had for $2MM, would you make the purchase? What if he wants $3MM? Again, is he worth this amount?
Let me say this in closing, I don’t really see Freese landing with the Cardinals. I like the idea of his veteran presence and would love to see him slap a few additional home runs to his credit as a Cardinal. Placing my personal wishes aside, my brain simply cannot wrap itself around his presence with the current makeup of the team.
In saying that, in saying “the current makeup of the team,” I can foresee the inclusion of Freese should something happen during spring training that would or could necessitate Carpenter’s relocation on the diamond. Say something like Adams being traded or Moss showing an inability to man first. Then, and possibly only then, could I see the team having interest in Freese.
Bottom line: I don’t think this is a reality, but you can follow me on Twitter and we can together watch whether Freese lands with the Cardinals or another team.