By Jason Shetler
In September of last year, Jung-Ho Kang sustained a horrific leg injury on a slide from outfielder Chris Coghlan. Although the recovery time was going well for him, he was likely going to miss at the least the first month of the 2016 season. This past offseason, Jason Rogers was acquired by the Pirates from the Milwaukee Brewers, and there was speculation if he would be the third baseman during Kang’s absence. That thought process however changed in Spring Training when the Pirates signed David Freese to a one-year deal for $3 million.
A couple things that worked in the Pirates favor with the Freese signing was (A.) Getting an above league average third baseman at a very reasonable amount and (B.) That he wasn’t attached to draft pick compensation. Freese has put up solid numbers this season, as he’s posted an .813 OPS along with an OPS+ of 117 in 98 games. The former World Series MVP plays at first base whenever the opposition starts a left-hander, and he’s killed them by posting a 1.052 OPS. Defensively, Freese has been steady at third base with a .969 fielding percentage, a 3.7 UZR/150 and five Defensive Runs Saved. While Freese will be a free agent this offseason, here’s why the Pirates should attempt to re-sign him.
Last month, a report came out that Jung-Ho Kang was involved in a sexual assault incident in Chicago. Since those allegations came out, it’s significantly affected his on field performance. Freese has continued to perform well, and has given the Pirates a huge boost offensively during Kang’s rough stretch. Because a ton of money wasn’t invested in Kang, the Pirates could look to bring back Freese, especially if they feel like Kang isn’t able to recover mentally to play third base regularly. Also, Freese has an outstanding track record versus lefty pitching. If he were to be re-signed, there’s a good chance John Jaso becomes expendable, which would allow Josh Bell to get his opportunity to play first base with Freese. Even if Freese gets tagged with a qualifying offer this offseason, and the Pirates offer that to him to assure themselves draft pick compensation for next year, they should still try to make a conscience effort to have him back beyond this season.