Monday, August 22, 2016

Freeser's Signing Moving Forward...

The Pirates and David Freese, 33, have agreed on a two-year extension with a club option for 2019. Jon Heyman tweets that the contract is for $6.25M in '17 and $4.25M in '18 with a $6M team option or $500K buyout in '19. That's $11M guaranteed, not too bad for a player that was brought in as a place holder and a reasonable deal on both ends. It's also the first fruit of the Frankie Liriano salary-clearing deal.

His offense isn't a surprise. David's career slash is .276/.345/.420; his 2016 slash is .276/.355/.437, so he's having a typical year. Signing him through age 35 is the only potential red flag.

David Freese has found a home (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)

Aside from locking up Freeser during a solid year, this has several impacts on the Pirates moving forward. First and foremost, he's an insurance policy for Jung Ho Kang and to a lesser extent, Josh Bell. Adding first base to his resume really helped bump up his value, particularly to Pittsburgh.

With Freese in the fold, the Bucs have solidified third base. Despite the popular perception, Jung Ho Kang's plate discipline, walk, whiff and power peripherals have stayed steady though his BA has plunged 40 points. The diff this year is a big increase in fly balls, leading to a big drop in BABIP. But his glove has turned from silver to steel, with his 150/UZR going from 3.6 to 0.1.

The combo of low batting average and suddenly iron glove (his Fangraph's WAR went from 3.9 in 2015 to 1.3 this year) do make him a question mark to start in 2017, as does the yet TBD sexual assault investigation. If he clears the legal hurdle, his contract for next season is just $2.75M ($3M in 2018), which will make him worth a roster spot, whether as an everyday or bench guy, or as a very reasonably priced trade trinket. Our guess is at that price and with his upside, he'll be back.

The signing solidifies third base in 2017 (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

First base has a couple of implications. It certainly makes John Jaso excess baggage. We're surprised he wasn't moved at the deadline, although he would have had a minimal blue-light value because of the batting funk he was in at the time. Now that he's getting back into the swing of things and with Bell on the roster to stay, we'd suspect he's being dangled in the marketplace.

While Bell seems like the future at first, the Pirates haven't really been all-in on that premise. We haven't seen enough of him to evaluate his 1B glove work, though he did look a bit stiff at the position. Josh did spend some Indy time working on his old OF spot (although where he'd play in Pittsburgh is problematic with Starling, Cutch and El Coffee). Our guess is that with his stick, he'll get every opportunity to be an everyday guy at first, but it's also possible that while he works out the kinks, Bell may be a Matt Joyce-type in 2016 with the versatility to play corner outfield or first base. Freeser allows them that fall-back position, especially if S-Rod moseys along as a free agent.

It also makes the deal with Milwaukee for Jason Rogers a complete miss. He'll be out of options next year, and barring the unexpected, there won't be a seat at the major league table for him in Pittsburgh. So Keon Broxton and Trey Supak were basically gifted to the Brewers. Sera, sera...

Finally, with Freeser's signing, there are only a handful of players that will be free agents next year - Ivan Nova, Neftali Feliz, S-Rod, Vogey and Matt Joyce - with the rest of the 40-man under team control through service time or arbitration (Cole Train, Tony Watson, Jordy, Juan Nicasio, Jared Hughes & Jeff Locke), so the FO has secured the core.

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