Every now and then you get a really stark example of the unfairness of the universe, two near-identical folks faring very differently. Not that David Freese’s career earnings of $16.3 million warrant a folk song, but he’s one of the last still-unemployed free agents despite being a near-twin to Chase Headley. Headley’s last five WARs are 2.8, 6.3 (his career year), 3.4, 3.5, 1.1, while Freese’s are 1.7, 3.8, -0.5, 1.4, 2.3. Who’s a better bet to perform in 2016? Headley’s average performance has been better, but the decline, and the troublingly recurring back problems, are hard to ignore – as Brad has noted, and as the projections seem to take seriously: for 2016, BBREF projects a .708 OPS for Headley, but a .723 for Freese. Headley is a year younger, but he has three years left on his four-year, $52 million contract – and nobody is offering Freese the two-year, $26 million that would parallel Headley’s same-age years. So why not offer Freese the corner backup role many of us thought should go to Juan Uribe? Freese also has played 9 games at 1B, which isn’t a lot, but shows he could be either emergency backup 1B or, if he’s really competent there (and the team could spend the spring boot-camping him at 1B), he could be the team’s much-needed solid-hitting Mark Teixeira backup.
Freese wants a full-time job, but I’d like to be 10 pounds lighter and 5 inches taller, and as a wise man once said, you can’t always get what you want – and Freese just doesn’t have a full-time job on the table. Maybe he’ll get one, but suitors like the Indians passed him up (for Uribe), and the Yankees’ brittle 3B/1B tandem easily could get Freese half a season or more of playing time. Here are Teixeira’s games played for each of the last four years: 123, 15, 123, 111. He’s not going to get more durable at age 36, and to preserve a brittle slugger, 1-2 weekly days off even when he’s not on the DL would be prudent. Headley played 156 games last year but probably shouldn’t have, given his age, his back problems, and the sheer demands of 3B on a 32 year-old with back problems; 1-2 weekly days off for him would be a nice luxury.
Freese also offers a nice bench weapon: he’s a lefty masher, hitting .296/.367/.459 against southpaws. That makes him a nice pinch-hitter for lefties like Gregorious, Gardner, or Ellsbury (or a righty like Castro, if he doesn’t hit well this year).
I hope the team has looked into this. It makes enough sense that maybe they have; or maybe they know he’s not really a viable first baseman, in which case his bench utility is low. If I were Freese, I’d probably hold out for a team offering a starting role, but if no starting gig materializes by, say, this week, I’d call Cashman back, and start breaking in the old first baseman’s glove I stole from Pujols to put on eBay as I left Anaheim.