Opening Day has come and gone. Well, at least the first part. There are still 12 games to be played on Monday, but the first day of the baseball season has been completed. The Pirates, Blue Jays, and Royals were the winners of the day, and all three have gotten the season off to a great start.
While there were a few bright spots for each of those teams on Sunday, one player really stuck out.
Going into the offseason, there were quite a few players expected to get massive contracts. Beyond those players, there were quite a few players who were a tier below, but who still expected to get a payday. One of those players was David Freese.
Despite a pretty decent season, one in which he slashed .257/.323/.420, hit 10 percent above league average, and provided 2.2 fWAR in 121 games with the Los Angeles Angels, David Freese was left out in the cold this winter. While players like Ian Desmond, Dexter Fowler, and Yovani Gallardo were clearly negatively impacted by the qualifying offer, Freese struggled even more to find a contract, even without draft pick compensation attached.
With Spring Training well underway, Freese finally found a team willing to sign him to a contract: the Pittsburgh Pirates. After spending the first several months of the offseason looking for a contract for 2016, Freese agreed to a one year, $3 million deal wit the Pittsburgh Pirates. With the injury to Jung Ho Kang late last season, and his inability to be ready for Opening Day, the Pirates decided to gather some insurance for the short term.
At only $3 million, David Freese could be the biggest bargain of the offseason. Not only is Freese a capable hitter, but he also provides strong defense as well.
Now with the Pirates, Freese allows the team added versatility once Kang comes back. Freese not only can play third base, but also first base as well. He could also see additional playing time if the Pirates end up benching Jordy Mercer, shifting Kang to shortstop.
Either way, Freese should play a big role for the Pirates this season. On Opening Day, Freese did just that. Freese got two hits in four at-bats, and also made several stellar plays in the field to back up Francisco Liriano.
Should Freese continue to get somewhat consistent playing time, he could well have a very under-the-radar good season. It remains to be seen if he will get that playing time, but the possibility is certainly there.
With the juggernaut that is the Chicago Cubs, and the always dangerous St. Louis Cardinals in their division, the Pittsburgh Pirates are going to need all the help they can get. The acquisitions of Jon Niese, John Jaso, Juan Nicasio, and several others will help, but Freese could be the true icing on the cake. If the Pirates are going to win the NL Central, or even make it into the playoffs at all, they are going to need Freese to exceed expectations, and fill the role as the biggest bargain of the offseason. At only $3 million, and with his talent, Freese has the ball in his court.