The Pittsburgh Pirates were very active at the trade deadline and at the August waiver deadline. However, should they have not made one of those deals?
Over the past few days, the Pittsburgh Pirates have declined options on two infielders in Josh Harrison and Jung Ho Kang. The team did not feel that either player was worth bringing back based on their price tag for the 2019 season. However, there was a player this year that they possibly should not have gotten rid of from the infield depth.
The Pittsburgh Pirates made one of, if not the, last trades before the Waiver Trade Deadline at the end of August. On the last day of August, the team announced late that night that they had traded third baseman David Freese. The Los Angeles Dodgers acquired Freese in return for a minor league infielder Jesus Manuel Valdez. Valdez is a 20-year-old prospect that was playing in his first season as a professional. So it seems likely that the Pittsburgh Pirates liked Valdez when he was on the open market as an International Free Agent.
On the other hand, David Freese was very productive in 2018. He had a really strong season with the Pittsburgh Pirates, including a really impressive run during the middle of the season. This includes when he hit over .360 in the month of July. So it makes sense why the Pittsburgh Pirates received interest in Freese. With the Bucs, he batted a solid .282/.336/.444, but he impressed even more with the Dodgers. With L.A. Freese hit an in impressive .385/.489/.641 and put up an impressive postseason batting .363 with two home runs.
So this led to the Los Angeles Dodgers already reaching a deal with Freese for the 2019 season. Freese had a club option for 2019 which was valued at $6 million with a $500K buyout. Well, that is the route that the Dodgers and Freese took. The Dodgers technically bought out Freese, paid him $500K and signed him a $4.5 million for the 2019 season. This saves the Dodgers $1.5 million against the Luxury Tax next season.
Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Pirates are missing out on Freese. Freese was a 2 WAR player last season, and the Pittsburgh Pirates could have used him for the 2019 season. While Colin Moran showed promise last season, he only hit .177 off of lefties, though he was often limited against lefties. Still, the Bucs could have brought back Freese to be the right-handed corner infielder at a discount price. Even at Freese’s $6 million option, the team would have benefited from having him next year.
Now there are other factors in the deal. Maybe the Pittsburgh Pirates really like something in Valdez and expect him to develop into a solid prospect. Or, maybe part of the deal was based on Freese’s comments early last season when he said about being traded if the team was not going to compete. Regardless, David Freese could have been brought back as a strong bench player at a relatively cheap rate. Now, the team has cut two more right-handed infield options in Harrison and Kang and the team will have to look for a right handed bench bat.