As everything currently stands on the first day of Spring Training, the Houston Astros appear content with the state of their 2016 roster.
Of course, things can quickly change if Houston Astros front office determines the right deal can be had. And that is where the free agency of third baseman David Freese comes into play.
Per a recent article from MLB Trade Rumors, the possibility of the Astros signing the veteran third baseman seemingly exists. After all, the team may be in need of a third baseman on a short term basis if Luis Valbuena is necessary on the other side of the diamond. Of course this development hinges on the impression that A.J. Reed and the other young hitters make on the Astros in their search of an everyday first baseman.
Any way you slice it, placing Valbuena at first in 2016 would be the only way that adding Freese makes sense in the slightest for the Astros. This development would, unfortunately, mean that Reed, Jon Singleton, Tyler White, Matt Duffy, Colin Moran, and even Preston Tucker would have fail to impress in Spring Training. Will that happen? Probably not. But let’s remember that the majority of the players that I just mentioned are still young and are in the developmental stage. Even Tucker and Singleton haven’t experienced a full season in the majors. Again, this is all speculative on my end, but an interesting possibility to consider.
But let’s say that does end up being the case and the Astros give the go ahead for Valbuena to be moved to first to start the season; from a numbers standpoint, does add Freese make sense? In a way, yes it does.
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Even though Valbuena mashed a career-high 25 home runs, third base was kind of an issue when he wasn’t manning the position. Jed Lowrie, now with Oakland, wasn’t the same hitter once he returned from the disabled list and he didn’t supply much defensively at the hot corner. Jonathan Villar, who is now a member of the Brewers, was also part of the third base equation. However, he had his fair share of issues at the plate and in the field as well. In fact, Freese’s wRC+ of 110 and 2.2 WAR is better than any individual player who received notable time at third base for the Astros in 2015. And he did manage to get on base at a higher clip (.323 OBP) than Valbuena (.310 OBP) as well.
Defensively Freese isn’t known for his superb glove at third base if you by his 0.6 UZR/150 in 2015. But that is still better than a good portion of the league. And if you by the same measurement, Valbuena wasn’t any better last season as a third baseman(-9.3 UZR/150). Just remember that defensive metrics aren’t exactly the best measurement of a player’s true defensive value. Don’t forget that Valbuena did actually manage to impress in the field, it just wasn’t reflected in the numbers. But adding a fielder like Freese isn’t exactly detrimental to your team.
It’s not a stretch to say that adding Freese would help improve the Astros third base situation if certain scenarios come to pass. He would bring a right-handed bat who in theory can make use of the Crawford Boxes in left field (38.1 Pull% in 2015). Freese would also provide another veteran presence on a relatively young club, but he wouldn’t needlessly block any of the Astros’ up-and-coming corner infielders. Any contract he signs will more than likely be a short term one. And don’t forget that there is the familiarity level between the former St. Louis Cardinal and current Astros general manager, and former Cardinals front office executive, Jeff Luhnow.
Like I stated earlier, though, the only way that signing Freese would make sense for the Astros is if Valbuena is moved to first base full-time. And with multiple the plethora of options that the Astros have in-house, it is doubtful that the team takes a flier on him before he signs with another club that has a bigger need at the start of Spring Training. But it is still an interesting possibility to keep an eye on as the 2016 season approaches.
**Statistics provided by Fangraphs**