Scouting The Trade Market: David Freese

Heyman: Yankees are "weighing a run" at Kendrys Morales
Update: MLB to amend posting system proposal, no deal yet

I feel like this was inevitable. At some point this winter, the Yankees would be connected to David Freese. It made too much sense. The Cardinals don’t need him anymore with second baseman Kolten Wong ready (Matt Carpenter would slide back to third) and the Bombers need some help at the hot corner. Add in the big-ish name, past postseason success, and familiarity with a baseball-crazy market and pennant races and all that, and it’s a match made in rumor heaven.

The Yankees have long had their eyes on Freese — they reportedly agreed to acquire him from the Padres for Kei Igawa back in 2007, but George Steinbrenner backed out because he didn’t want to eat any of Igawa’s contract — and sure enough, Mark Feinsand reported yesterday two sides have been talking trade. Later in the day we found out a deal is unlikely because they don’t match up well, or, in other words, the Cardinals don’t have much interest in what New York has to offer. That doesn’t mean a trade is off the table completely though, the offseason is still young and these two clubs have months to find common ground. Does he fit the Yankees’ needs though? Let’s take a look, starting with the negatives.

The Cons

  • Freese’s power was absent in 2013. He slugged only nine homers with a .119 ISO in 521 plate appearances, down from the almost perfectly league average .150 ISO he posted from 2009-2012. Freese saw his HR/FB rate drop from 18.8% in 2011-2012 to 10.5% this year.
  • His batted ball profile did not change (no sudden spike in ground balls, for example) and his .320 BABIP this past summer was actually a career-low by more than 30 points. He’s a high-BABIP hitter who managed a career-worst .262/.340/.381 (106 wRC+) in 2013.
  • Freese is pretty bad defensively regardless of whether you want to use the eye test or the various fielding stats: -14 DRS, -13.1 UZR, -12.5 FRAA, and -19 Total Zone in his career. If you watched the postseason at all, you saw how positively statuesque he is at third.
  • Freese won’t give you anything on the bases. He’s gone 6-for-12 in stolen base attempts in his 466-game big league career and he’s taken the extra base (first-to-third on a single, etc.) just 34% of the time, below the 40% league average.
  • The injury history is rather long. Freese missed time with back trouble this season (started the year on the DL) and he’s had three surgeries since breaking into the show: left heel debridement (2009), right ankle tendon reconstruction (2010), and a left hand fracture (2011). He’s also had a lot of day-to-day stuff over the years (mostly hamstring and wrist).
  • I usually try to steer clear of off-the-field stuff here, but Freese has three alcohol-related arrests in his recent past and that seems like something worth mentioning. He was arrested for DUI in 2002 and again 2009, and was also arrested for public intoxication and resisting arrest in 2007. The second DUI was a violation of his probation stemming from the 2007 arrest.

The Pros

  • Freese didn’t hit this past season but he has hit every other year of his career, putting up a .296/.363/.446 (125 wRC+) line from 2009-2012 and .293/.372/.467 (133 wRC+) with 20 homers in 567 plate appearances in 2012 alone. Both his walk (career 8.6%) and strikeout (21.0%) rates are right in line with the league averages.
  • As a right-handed batter, he does most of his damage against lefties (career 134 wRC+) but can still hold his own against righties (114 wRC+). Even this past season, the worst of his career, he managed a tolerable 98 wRC+ against righties. He doesn’t need a platoon partner.
  • We have to mention the postseason, right? Freese is a career .289/.357/.518 (141 wRC+) hitter with seven homers in 185 plate appearances across 41 postseason games, but I have to point out those numbers were built almost entirely during that monster 2011 run (245 wRC+). He was okay in 2012 (106 wRC+) and downright awful in 2013 (50 wRC+).
  • Matt Swartz projects Freese to earn $4.4M through arbitration next season — for some reason I thought it was over $7M — and he will remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player in 2015 as well. He won’t be eligible for free agency until the 2015-2016 offseason.

Freese isn’t a bat first player, he’s a bat only player. He doesn’t help on defense and you can’t count on him to play 140+ games either — he’s only done that once in his career (144 in 2012) — so if he doesn’t hit, he’s a replacement level player (like he was this summer). There’s a chance his subpar 2013 season at the plate has to do with his back problem, which means he could rebound next year if he’s healthy or continue to get worse since back injuries have a way of lingering forever. I think it’s very clear Freese’s reputation, which was boosted by 2011 postseason heroics, far exceeds his actual worth right now.

Now, that said, the third base market is a wasteland. The best available free agent is Juan Uribe, who was very good this past season but a release candidate in both 2011 and 2012. The alternatives are Michael Young and Mark Reynolds. So yeah, the free agent market doesn’t offer much help. With the Padres reportedly hanging onto Chase Headley and Pablo Sandoval only kinda sorta on the market, Freese figures to be the best third baseman on the trade block this winter barring something surprising. He’s the best of an underwhelming lot of players.

The Yankees don’t have much to offer the Cardinals in the trade, hence St. Louis’ reluctance to pull the trigger. There is a chance the Cardinals will non-tender Freese prior to the December 2nd deadline rather than risk paying him $4.4M to be a bench player in 2014, at which point New York could simply sign him as a free agent. Maybe this is a repeat of the Russell Martin situation — the Yankees offered Frankie Cervelli to the Dodgers for Martin, who balked and eventually non-tendered their backstop days later. Maybe they low-balled St. Louis and are content with waiting to see if he gets cut loose next month (when they might have a better handle on the Alex Rodriguez‘s situation) before upping their offer. Freese would help the Yankees but only at the right price. I don’t think he’s someone they should go all out to acquire regardless of their third base needs and the lack of alternatives.

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Heyman: Yankees are "weighing a run" at Kendrys Morales
Update: MLB to amend posting system proposal, no deal yet
  • HectorLopez

    According to Sherman/Heyman the Yankee line-up should look something like this:
    Gardner CF
    Jeter DH
    Cano 2nd
    Tex 1st
    Soriano LF
    Freese 3rd
    Nunez SS
    Cervelli C
    Suzuki RF
    World Series here we come.

    • Dr. Grenaldine

      That’s not a very good prescription for success. Being the only doctor here, I say we need to get Ichiro and Cervelli out of there. Unless we’re keeping those two in order to pick up some good starting pitching of course

      -Doc

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Do you have a bizzare doctor’s signature?

        • jjyank

          <===========8

          That's my bet.

        • Dr. Grenaldine

          I do. I always sign it: “Great Scott! – Doc”

    • Bob

      Just one word: Oy!

  • Dicka24

    So what’s it take to get someone like Freese? Adam Warren, Austin Romine, Cervelli, Murphy, Almonte, Marshall, Claborne, etc? I honestly have no idea what type of value a guy like Freese genuinely has. 3B is weak out there, and $4.4 million isn’t a ton of money for a somewhat decent player. Yes he’s flawed with respect to injury, and defense, but he is controlled through the 2016 season.

    What’s the guess on the cost to acquire?

    • Blackbear

      This is a flawed player no matter how you cut it. Take the four mil and add four more to it and get a guy who can hit and field,and do not trade any one for freese . The yanks spent millions on lousy
      Outfielders about six in all, last year and we are still looking for another one this year.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Preston’s point as to the feeling that they want to move him notwithstanding, I think the salary and lack of other options drives his price up when what he should probably be worth is a couple of fringy but MLB-ready types like, yeah, Almonte, Claiborne, Marshall, etc.

  • Guns

    So if Freese is non-tendered then he is a free agent for anyone to sign? This isn’t like going through the waiver process where other teams have first dibs on him?

    • jjyank

      Yes. There are no waivers with a non-tender. You’re thinking of being designated for assignment.

      http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/.....nders.html

    • Robinson Tilapia

      You’re as free to go as can be when you’ve been non-tendered. Think of Russell Martin. Betty always does.

  • Dr. Grenaldine

    Didn’t Arnold Schwarzenegger play David Freese in a movie once?

  • jjyank

    Agreed entirely with your assessment, Mike. I’d like Freese, but only if the prospect price isn’t too rich. I feel like he’s overrated and not a sure enough thing to go all in for. I’d love it if he was non-tendered and the Yankees signed him, but I’m not sure I’d be willing to give up much in a trade.

    • Long-Past-His-Day-Rod

      This is where I am on Freese also.

      I don’t think I’d want to trade anything of value for him, but if he were to get non-tendered the Yanks should pounce.

  • Blake

    It’s hard to say exactly what is…..he was a 4 WAR guy in 2012 and a 0.3 guy in 2013……he’s probably somewhere in the middle which is obviously better than what they have but the problem is you have to trade for him and I just can’t really see a match between the Yanks and Cards…..the yanks literally have nothing that St Louis needs.

    Just sign Peralta…..he can play SS too which is nice and you don’t have to trade for him

  • John C

    There is always a higher price for the Yankees in trades than for all other teams. So other team could trade a couple of B or C level prospecst and the Cardinals would jump at it. NOt with the Yanks

    • Dr. Grenaldine

      Other teams also usually have much better prospects too. The Yanks best prospects are usually just as good or a smidge better than their decent ones.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    He’s going to cost more than he’s really worth. Salary makes him a relative bargain and, therefore, hotter commodity. Not the kind of market that benefits the Yanks in making a trade.

    • Preston

      The Cardinals don’t have a ton of leverage though, they love Kolten Wong and want to move Carpenter to 3rd. Their is a non zero chance that they non tender him just to save the money. Getting a cost controlled bullpen arm is better than nothing.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        They also could just maintain the status quo until they find the right deal. It’s not like they risk losing the prospects.

        Waiting until (if) he’s non-tendered seems smart unless, yeah, what you say pans out and you can get him for……hey, here’s a crazy stab in the dark, Dellin Betances.

        • mitch

          i’d absolutely do that deal, but we’d all be counting the days until Betances becomes Trevor Rosenthal 2.0 as a Cardinal

          • Robinson Tilapia

            I mean, he’s got one shot to show he can stick on the Yankees. If you can actually find a good deal, which I do feel is doubtful, I say run. If he flourishes somewhere else, then Cashman failed.

  • FRANK

    So, the Yankees don’t have enough to offer for…a potential replacement level player…or slightly better. Yeah, procedural changes are all we need! SMH

    • jjyank

      They also don’t match up well. Or maybe they low-balled the Cards hoping to get him on the cheap. Or maybe they feel like it makes more sense to wait and see if he’s non-tendered. In a vacuum, the Yankees have more than enough to get Freese. Stop the whining in every thread, it’s nauseating.

      • FRANK

        Freese is one example. What player, who may be available this offseason, could the Yankees acquire with their system? Scherzer? Stanton? Headley? There’ll be plenty of others but I doubt the yankees get involved with many b/c they have little to offer. Instead, they’ll need to look at taking on large contracts so they don’t have to give up as much…but they have a limited amount they can absorb due to 189. They are in an awful spot. If they wanted to be at 189, then it should have forced increased focus on having young players ready to come in and play in 2014…and that was the focus, except all of those players got hurt. All of them. No big deal though…procedural issue.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          Scherzer: I’d wager 2/3 of the teams wouldn’t be able to meet the asking price. I also think I wouldn’t even want to be in the running, even if he had the pieces. This is about as “sell high” as “sell high” gets.

          Stanton: Repeat the first sentence with Scherzer.

          Headley: I’m not willing to meet the probable asking price on a guy with so little left on his contract.

          Not a defense of the farm system, but rather a strong questionning of your targets, Adam/Paul/Frank/Sarsparilla/Shane/Dick.

        • jjyank

          Again with the whining. Every single thread these days has some random first-name-only-male commenter (though you rocked the caps lock button, aren’t you special) bitching about everything instead of staying on the topic. It’s not a difficult concept, and you’re doing going to have any meaningful discussions going about it that way. Though something tells me that you couldn’t care less about a meaningful discussion, and would rather just complain and shake your digital head at a group of internet strangers.

          As R-Tils says above me, tons of teams can’t reasonably get some of those guys. The Yankee farm has been consistently ranked in the middle of the pack by all reputable publications. Could they do better? Absolutely. Is it a disaster? No. And I’m not going to change my mind because they don’t have the pieces to get Stanton or Scherzer, or because “FRANK” went on a mini-rant on the internet and he says so.

          • jjyank

            you’re *not* going. No idea how I typed “doing” in there.

          • Robinson Tilapia

            You’re such a Pollyanna.

          • FRANK

            Ok, jj. Could they do better? Who was the last impact position player they brought up to fill a spot? Probably gardner who is a solid player but overvalued in terms of WAR due to his defensive metrics, IMO. How about pitchers? Joba/Hughes? How’d they turn out? A system ranking according to BA or anyone else means nothing to me…you know what matters? How many starters has their system produced in the past 5 years? 10 years? They suck at developing talent/drafting it/signing it/one or more of these.

            As for trading for Scherzer or Stanton or Headley…as I mentioned in my earlier post (Which you ignored) replace those names with virtually any name who may be out there this offseason…and they still wouldn’t be able to get a deal done. Just like when they couldn’t get in on JUpton or really any of the players traded last offseason other than the ones who nobody wanted for various reasons (Wells/contract&performance, Soriano/contract, prior year..Ichiro contract/perf).

            The Yankees had one bullet…Montero…and they blew it. I don’t put all of the blame on them for that but certainly some of it.

            So we can now go back to discussing which 100MM contract the yankees will try to take on (Kemp, ethier, tanaka,etc.) since they can’t trade for cost effective young stars or develop them.

            You can go back to being an internet tough guy now, JJ.

            • jjyank

              Man are you whiney. I love how I’m the internet tough guy, and not the guy ranting off topic.

        • Havok9120

          You name a phenom, a young star pitcher who just won a Cy, and a guy everyone and their grandmother has been trying to trade for for 2 years as your examples for how the Yanks can’t make any trades.

          You really see nothing wrong with using them as your examples?

          • FRANK

            For the third time…replace their names with whoever you want that doesn’t have an awful contract and may be available this offseason. I have no idea who will be traded but those are names out there along with guys like price, carlos gonzalex, tulo, samrdzija, etc…none of whom the yankees will or can be in on due to their system. The same one that JJ thinks is fine, but COULD BE BETTER. Last year the same thing. Essentially, all they’ve done for the past 10 years is improve via free agency alone. Swisher and Granderson were great trades but swisher was a dump while granderson was a true prospect trade. The Yankees will be left to consider taking on guys like kemp or ethier to solve their holes or…sign more free agents…giving up picks and perpetuating the issue.

            You need to improve via ALL possible options: Draft, IFA, Trades, Free agency, and any others I’m missing. The Yankees live or die one way: Free Agency, while splashing in salary dumps which is basically the same thing (Buying a player). Stop me when I say anything that isn’t true.

            I’m not hating…it’s reality.

            • jjyank

              I never said the farm system was fine. You’re being intentionally ignorant. And your opinion is not reality. Don’t be so high and mighty.

              Also, only my friends can call me jj. You may only address me as Mr. JJ.

            • Robinson Tilapia

              So there is no player in baseball on a 25 man roster that’s not a bad contract who the Yankees can trade for because their farm system isn’t good enough. Gotcha.

              This guy is obviously a completely impartial realist fan.

              • FRANK

                Look at the names I’m mentioning…are any of them the 24th or 25th man on the roster? I’m talking about starting players and stars. RIght now…the Yankees would have a hard time trading for any of them.

            • Mac

              How the hell do you know what 29 teams in MLB think of the Yankees’ farm system?

    • Robinson Tilapia

      They may want too much, and it may be a price the Yankees would probably also be not willing to meet. It’s a two-way street.

      I’d wager the Yankees have what it would take to meet a reasonable asking price on Freese. The starting offer may not be reasonable.

      You’d give up a Top 100 guy for Freese? Really?

    • Mac

      The Yankees definitely have enough talent to acquire Freese. Gary Sanchez is a damn fine prospect. The Cardinals have arguably the best C in baseball signed long-term, though, so what the hell do they want with Sanchez? The Yankees also have some talented CF prospects, but the Cardinals have arguably the best CF prospect in baseball.

      I doubt the Yankees would even be willing to deal Sanchez for Freese, though I don’t really know. I just want to let you know that your contention that they don’t have enough to offer is a misunderstanding of what was actually said. What was actually said is that the Yankees have little to offer the Cardinals, a team that has basically no needs outside of SS. Not that the Yankees don’t have the raw talent in their system to match Freese’s value.

  • Jimmy

    You mean to say that our own baseball genius and future HoF owner screwed up the trade because he wouldn’t admit Igawa was a big enough mistake to justify eating some of that contract? Maybe that plaque should be reduced to only twice as big as Babe Ruth’s.

  • Phil “Commish” Selig

    I’d trade Kenny Rogers for him.

  • Dick M

    There’s a lot not to like about Freese but on the list of available options for third base, he might be the winner.

    Sounds like the Cards want to move him.

    We gotta plan on not having A-Rod.