Friday, March 11, 2016

David Freese Joins Bucs

For those of you who thought Jung Ho Kang (and Kang was one of you) would be ready for Opening Day, think again: the Pirates just signed free-agent 3B David Freese, 33 in April, to a one-year/$3M contract.

Freese spent the past two seasons with the Los Angeles Angels after five years as a Card, winning a World Series MVP in 2011 and an All-Star berth in 2012. Last season wasn't an All-Star year as he hit .257 with 14 HRs, 56 RBI and a .743 OPS, being used mostly as a platoon guy. Now he's a player with a little below average but acceptable fielding ability and a split that's also acceptable.

David Freese (photo Associated Press)

Freese will hold the fort until JHK returns. Kang is still recovering from a nasty leg injury, but is etched in stone as the Bucs' full-time third basemen when he returns, per GM Neal Huntington. He hasn't yet been cleared for base running yet, and his ETA is thought to be toward the end of April.

And that's when it gets interesting.

Michael Morse shouldn't be affected right away, but once JHK is back, Freese is expected to be the corner backup, even though he only has 21 career innings at first. That makes for a crowd at first. Expect Morse to get a lot of bats in the coming days as he'll be showcased; he's getting an OF shot tomorrow.

Beyond that, the Buc bench jobs could be impacted, depending on the timelines of moving Morse and Kang coming back, although it will likely be informed by the same dynamics in May as it is today. Stew, Jaso/Morse, Freese, S-Rod and prob, but not guaranteed, an OF'er, will be the bench. Jason Rogers and Alen Hanson just took a hit on their chances of breaking camp with the big club.

It's a pretty solid deal. It gives the Bucs a stopgap at third, a veteran bench bat and a guy who surely is looking to rebuild some value. It keeps Clint away from the temptation of juggling Josh Harrison at third in April while keeping the lineup competitive until JHK is back. The money isn't an issue, and Freese won't be blocking anyone.

David said he'd be in camp tomorrow morning; hopefully he has a broken-in 1B mitt. To open up a spot on the 40-man roster, LHP Jesse Biddle was DFA'ed; he was just beginning to toss off flat ground after TJ surgery, so there's a good chance the Bucs will get to keep him around.

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