Last Friday at 4:00 PM CT was the deadline for Major League Baseball teams to make qualifying offers to their impending free agents. Under the CBA, players are eligible to receive a qualifying offer if they spent the entire season with that team, and have a week to decide whether or not to accept a one year contract valued at the average of the top 125 highest paid players in the game. This year that number is $15.8 mil. If a player declines the QO, then any team that signs them will have to forfeit their highest unprotected pick.
20 players were extended a qualifying offer on Friday afternoon, but one notable player who did not receive a QO was third baseman David Freese. After debuting with St. Louis in 2009, the Missouri native won World Series MVP in 2011 and spent the last two seasons with the Angels. Freese is eligible for free agency for the first time heading into his age-33 season.
Freese has been a steady performer throughout his career, slashing .276/.344/.417 with 68 home runs and a 115 wRC+ in 721 career games. Outside of a rough 2013 season (-14 DRS, -14.6 FRAA) he has generally graded out around league average at third base. He's accrued 11.3 fWAR and 9.4 WARP during his parts of seven seasons in the big leagues.
Freese is by no means a star, but he is arguably the best available third baseman on the free agent market this winter (depending on how you feel about putting Daniel Murphy at the hot corner). This is relevant to the rebuilding Brewers because third base is one of the few areas where an outside addition could make sense.
As it stands, Milwaukee is poised to head into 2016 using a combination of Elian Herrera, Luis Sardinas, and Yadiel Rivera at third base (Hernan Perez was outrighted on Friday and Jason Rogers is viewed as a first baseman only by the club). This situation could further change if Jean Segura is moved this offseason, which would likely mean that we'd see a platoon of Rivera and Sardinas at shortstop until Orlando Arcia is deemed ready. The club has no heir apparent that is ready to take over at the hot corner and lacks any true third base prospects in the upper levels of the minors.
Though Freese is likely the class of the third base market, his cost still shouldn't be prohibitive. Chase Headley received a four year, $52 mil contract ($13 mil AAV) last winter from the Yankees with a similar offensive platform to Freese, though Headley had a stronger defensive reputation and was two years younger when he hit the market. It's tough for me to see Freese beating that, so something along the lines of a three year, $33 mil deal could be enough to bring him to Milwaukee. Of course that figure might now become a little more inflated without draft compensation attached.
The Brewers don't have much money on the books for 2016 and beyond so it's reasonable to assume the club could afford to make an outside addition. Just because the Brewers are rebuilding doesn't mean they shouldn't spend ANY money, especially on a shorter term contract and at a position where it would make sense. Freese would become the club's everyday third baseman and shift Herrera into a super utility role, maximizing his ability to play all over the infield and outfield. Freese can generally be counted as about a 2 WAR contributor and with his usual production he could serve as a trade chip if/when the club finds a long-term solution at the hot corner.
The GM Meetings are set to start today and run through November 12th in Boca Raton, Florida. After clearing some space on the 40 man roster, new GM David Stearns will have plenty of flexibility as he looks to begin making his mark on the Brewers organization.