The Pirates Need To Extend David Freese
To the surprise of many, David Freese has been one of the Pirates’ best players this season. In my opinion, the Bucs need to try and extend him immediately.
Early in Spring Training Neal Huntington inked David Freese to a one year three million dollar contract. A lot of fans were left scratching their heads at this move. Not because David Freese is a bad player or anything like that, but because the Pirates did not appear to have much of a need for Freese.
Jung Ho Kang was coming off a breakout campaign in 2015. And, despite the fact he was slated to start the season on the disabled list, he appeared to have third base locked up for the Pirates. Plus, prior to this season, David Freese had never played any position extensively except for third base.
Shortly after the Pirates signed David Freese, Neal Huntington announced that Freese would be the Pirates’ everyday third baseman until Jung Ho Kang returned. Furthermore, Huntington announced that Freese would also platoon at first base with John Jaso once Kang returned.
A lot of people, myself included, were leery of David Freese playing first base. Prior to 2016 he had just 21 career Major League innings at first base, and he had not played first base since 2011. His short time at first base did not go well either, as Freese had a UZR/150 of -34.9. So, people being leery of Freese at first base had good reason to be.
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So far this season, everything that David Freese has done has gone extremely well. Throughout the course of the 2016 season Freese has been one of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ best all-around players. In my opinion, it is time for the Pirates to start talking extension with Freese.
As of this writing, which is prior to the Pirates game with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night, David Freese owns a .283/.363/.450/.813 slash line, a .353 wOBA, 124 wRC+, and a WAR of 1.8. David Freese’s .363 on-base percentage, .353 wOBA, and 124 wRC+ all rank as the second highest numbers in these categories for his career. Freese also has a 9.2 percent walk rate, which is the second highest walk rate of his Major League career.
David Freese has also hit the ball with authority this season. His .167 ISO is the second highest ISO of his career. Also, David Freese has an average exit velocity of 92.48 miles per hour this season. This is the highest average exit velocity of any of the Pirates’ hitters.
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This season, David Freese has also been a plus defensive player. Freese has always been a strong defender at third base, so it is no surprise that has continued this season. However, how well he has transitioned to first base has been impressive.
In 470 1/3 innings at third base this season David Freese has five defensive runs saved, and an UZR/150 of 3.7. So, Freese has been an above average defender at the hot corner so far in 2016. At first base, Freese has one defensive run saved and a .992 fielding percentage.
While David Freese has not been as strong defensively at first base as he has been at third base, the fact he has been an average first baseman is impressive. As I said above, prior to this season Freese had 21 career innings at first base and those innings did not go well defensively. This season however, Freese has more than held his own at first base.
The performance of David Freese this season is not the only reason I believe the Pirates should try to extend him. Everything with Jung Ho Kang factors in here as well. Not even the struggles of Kang at the plate this season, but his pending legal investigation is what would drive me to try and extend David Freese if I were Neal Huntington.
While, yes, Jung Ho Kang is innocent until proven guilty you still need to prepare for the possibility of not having Kang next season. Plus, even if Kang is found innocent, as everyone hopes, it does not hurt to have Freese on the team still. He can split time with Kang at third base, get starts at first base, and he would improve the bench.
David Freese is slated to become a free agent at the end of the season. In my opinion, the Pirates need to start talking extension with Freese now. Their best chance to extend Freese would be to do it before he hits the free agent market. It is time for Neal Huntington to get David Freese’s agent on the phone.