St. Louis Cardinals: The square beyond compare that hurts

Jun 16, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman David Freese (23) high-fives in the dugout after scoring a run against the Chicago Cubs during the sixth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 16, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman David Freese (23) high-fives in the dugout after scoring a run against the Chicago Cubs during the sixth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

The St. Louis Cardinals were once wowed by a local boy turned Cardinals Nation hero thanks to his heroic home run in the postseason. Then things soured and the local boy was sent elsewhere (but the Imos’ commercials continued). Now, the local boy is difficult to swallow.

The St. Louis Cardinals may have made the best decision at the time to send local hero, David Freese, away in a trade to the Angels to secure two outfielders for a Cardinals team in 2013 that looked incredibly different than the one that takes the field today.

Freese, who graduated from Lafayette High School in Wildwood, MO and who attended St. Louis Community College at the Meramec campus, earned an all-star nod during his tenure with the Cardinals in 2012. This was the high point of his career, both with the St. Louis Cardinals and in his career on the whole.

It is rather ironic that Freese made his MLB debut in April of 2009 when the St. Louis Cardinals were facing his now-team, the Pittsburgh Pirates. In that debut, Freese took one at-bat, recorded zero hits, but did record a single RBI. He took this debut and progressed that season to a slash of .323/.353/.484.

For his total time with the St. Louis Cardinals, David built a slash of .286/.356/.427. This fact, coupled with his decent-but-declining numbers in 2013 (plus the fact that 2012 was his All-Star year AND the Angels need for a third baseman), made David the centerpiece of a deal that landed the Cardinals Peter Bourjos and a young prospect named Randal Grichuk.

Freese’s tenure with the Angels lasted two seasons and appeared to prove the Cardinals’ move to be the right move. During his time with Anaheim, David’s batting averaged hovered in around .260 while his power seemed to continue to decline– he hit ten home runs in 2014 and fourteen home runs in 2015.

David’s home run increase in 2015 coupled with a climbing slugging percentage made him the candidate of choice for the Pirates after he had been granted free agency from Anaheim. A note here, however, is that Freese sat in the free agent coffers into the 2016 Spring Training and was finally selected on March 11 of that season.

Back then, in fact, we kicked around the idea of reunion with the St. Louis Cardinals. For more on that, jump here.

Nevertheless, Freese landed with the Pirates. Initially, his tenure with them was somewhat rocky but then something turned it around. Now, in 2017, Freese is their everyday third baseman and has been damaging especially when he faces the team in which he became a star.

Here’s a look at Freese’s numbers facing the St. Louis Cardinals during the 2016 season (the season in which the Cardinals could have selected him out of FA):

2016 Batting Gamelog
8842137Sep 7PITSTLW,4-3CG441200000000000000.268.352.412.76421.420.0760.938.009.201B
9841136Sep 6PITSTLL,7-95-6110000000000000100.266.350.411.76292.27-0.134-1.570.000.00PH
10840135 (1)Sep 5PITSTLL,6-12GS-9441100000010000000.266.351.413.7646.520.0760.285.006.203B
1179785Jul 6PITSTLW,7-5CG532100112010000000.296.374.473.8472.820.1130.9120.0027.901B
1279684Jul 5PITSTLW,5-2CG442210010020000000.296.369.463.83251.080.1350.6114.0018.903B
1379583Jul 4PITSTLW,4-2CG440200000020000000.292.367.458.8255.880.028- 3B
1477663Jun 12PITSTLL,3-8CG441200010000000000.294.374.439.8134.720.0260.5010.0012.703B
1577562Jun 11PITSTLL,1-58-9110000000010000000.290.372.438.8099.35-0.009-
1677461Jun 10PITSTLL,3-97-8110000000000000000.291.374.440.8149.22-0.005-
1775131May 8PITSTLW,10-5CG550100010000000000.284.366.376.7425.79-0.009-0.465.006.503B
1875030 (1)May 7PITSTLL,4-69-9111000000000001000.288.373.385.75792.860.1150.382.003.20PH
197243Apr 6PITSTLW,5-1CG551100000010000100.357.357.357.7143.56-0.046-
207232Apr 5PITSTLW,6-5CG(11)551200000030000000.444.444.444.88931.37-0.101-0.828.009.203B
217221Apr 3PITSTLW,4-1CG440200000010000000.500.500.5001.0003.800.0390.016.006.003B

In forty-six at-bats facing the Cardinals in 2016, Freese managed sixteen hits for a .348 batting average against his former team. That hurts. What hurts even more is that in 2016 the Pirates carried an 8-6 record against the St. Louis Cardinals. Guess Freese provided assistance on a club that hurt the Cardinals that season…

Here’s a look at Freese’s numbers facing the Cardinals this season:

2017 Batting Gamelog
387413Apr 17PITSTLL,1-2CG430000001000000000.314.467.5431.01041.12-0.075-0.442.003.003B
487514Apr 18PITSTLL,1-2GS-9440210000000000000.333.469.5641.03351.630.058-
587615Apr 19PITSTLL,1-2CG440100000000000000.326.453.535.98851.34-0.094-0.513.003.003B
691774 (1)Jun 23PITSTLW,4-3CG431100011000000000.267.374.394.76841.700.2360.929.0012.703B

In a mere fourteen at-bats facing the Cardinals in 2017, Freese has managed four hits for a .285 average. While not as stellar as his 2016 revenge numbers, the sample is small and any major league hitter would be pleased with a .285 batting average in general.

So, should the St. Louis Cardinals have kept Freese? No because he landed the Cards the outfield help they needed at the time. Should the Cardinals have taken the rider on him into 2016 and selected him from free agency? This is a little tougher to answer.

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My gut tells me that they should not have selected him, especially not for the money that he is earning now. Freese is making $6.25M in 2017 and will make $4.25M in 2018 with a $6M team option for 2019. In 2016, the St. Louis Cardinals already had a high-dollar player at third base in both Jhonny Peralta and Matt Carpenter. Adding Freese as backup might have made sense but not at the dollar figures listed here.

Hindsight is 20-20, as the saying goes, and had the Cardinals known that Peralta would begin his decline with the injuries that befell him in 2016, then perhaps a pick up of Freese would have made sense. It didn’t, so the Cardinals passed.

But, would Freese be a solution now? Let me compare. Freese is carrying a 2017 slash of .267/.374/.394 playing for the Pirates. The St. Louis Cardinals have Jedd Gyorko manning third now in the wake of the Peralta release (and in the wake of Gyorko’s numbers). Gyorko is carrying a Cardinals slash of .291/.348/.502.

Don’t those numbers look eerily similar? Save for the power, Jedd and David could be twins separated at birth and affected only by the families that raised them. In addition, both players carry the same question mark: are they actual everyday players? The answers might be the same as well– they are from need and are doing well enough in that role.

In that regard then, the Cardinals are doing well without Freese but desperately need to learn how to face him better. Freese is a good player and one who is a hero to St. Louis even in the face of his poorly-acted Emo’s commercials. Perhaps, then, a plea from fans will make David less aggressive against his former team? Doubtful.

Next: The Kolten Wong debate

What do you think? Would you urge the Cardinals to go grab David Freese? Would you like to see him wearing the birds on the bat? If not, how would you advise the Cardinals approach facing him? Let me know on Twitter and thanks for reading!