The former St. Louis Cardinals third baseman signed a one-year deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Former St. Louis Cardinals third baseman, David Freese, is returning to the National League Central Division in 2016, but it won’t be with the team he helped win a World Series for.
Freese signed a one-year deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates last night reportedly worth $3M. And the signing of former Cardinals players to division rivals continues.
If anything, this move will continue to spice up the competition between the Cardinals, Pirates and Chicago Cubs. The Cubs, of course, snagged John Lackey and Jason Heyward during the offseason, and even acquired former Cardinals shortstop Brendan Ryan from the New York Yankees in the Starlin Castro trade.
2016 will indeed be a reunion of sorts for former Cardinals players returning to the NL Central.
As for the Freese signing, it’s a smart move by the Pirates. Prior to the deal last night, earlier yesterday it was officially announced that Jung Ho Kang will open the season on the disabled list and likely won’t be back until the end of April. As it stands, Freese will likely take over as the Pirates starting third baseman until Kang returns.
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Freese showed he can still hit last season with the Los Angeles Angels. The 32-year old had a .257/.323/.420 line with 14 homers, 27 doubles and 56 RBI in 121 games with the Halos.
If Freese hits well enough in April, he could play himself into a starting spot even once Kang returns. The Pirates seem pretty adamant about Kang playing third base this year, but the 28-year old has plenty of experience at shortstop as well. Kang played 55 games at shortstop last season, which isn’t far off from the 69 games he played at third base. If Freese is hitting well, the Pirates’ offense may be better off with him at third base and Kang at shortstop.
Once Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez signed elsewhere in free agency, Pittsburgh’s infield depth took a hit. As of right now, the Pirates plan on Josh Harrison manning second base with Kang at third and Jordy Mercer at shortstop. Mercer is the weak link offensively as the 29-year old hit just .244 with three homers and 34 RBI in 116 games last season. So, Freese will likely get a shot at more playing time throughout the year.
So, what does this mean for Cardinals fans? Well, Opening Day against the Pirates in Pittsburgh gets a little more interesting as Freese should be in that starting lineup now. Not to mention, this is the first time that Freese is returning to the NL Central since being traded by the Cardinals in 2013. Unfortunately, the Pirates do not visit Busch Stadium in April. So there is no guarantee that Cardinals fans will see Freese in the starting lineup for the Pirates when they do visit St. Louis. But there is a chance it will happen.
A date to mark on your calendar now is May 6-8. That weekend series is the first in 2016 that the Pirates will travel to St. Louis.
Depending on Kang’s health and how well Freese hits in his absence, the former Cardinal could be starting for the Pirates in that series. Either way, I’d imagine Freese will get one start if not at least one at bat in that series. If or when that happens, I expect Freese to get a long and loud standing ovation in his return to Busch Stadium. How could he not? Freese will forever be a legend in St. Louis after his amazing performance in the 2011 postseason that brought home the Cardinals’ 11th world championship. That will be an exciting day for Cardinals fans, and I’m sure Freese is looking forward to playing at Busch Stadium again after a two-year hiatus.
I look forward to seeing Freese back in the NL Central. Although, it will be quite strange seeing him return in black and yellow instead of red and white. Still, I’ll be rooting for Freese when he isn’t taking on his former team.