We started the offseason with a series of articles identifying free agents we thought made sense for the Brewers. To date the only free agent they've signed was Chris Carter. It's not entirely surprising given the number of waiver claims and trades David Stearns has made. He has brought 11 major league ready players to the organization since taking over, and that's just what's on the 40-man roster. But maybe there is room for more. And one area that still doesn't have a strong favorite is third base. Enter David Freese.
One of the first articles we wrote was on the potential fit between Freese and the Brewers. Granted, it was a more obvious fit at the start of the offseason. Where the Brewers once had no one, they now have Aaron Hill and Garin Cecchini on the 40man roster, as well as Will Middlebrooks signed to a minor league deal. Of these three, only Cecchini seems to still possess the potential to become an average major league starter. However Hill, only on contract through the end of the season, does present the possibility of building trade value.
That possibility is rather slim, and the expected return cannot be much. David Freese would likely have a greater chance of being traded mid-season. And really that's been the whole argument behind signing Freese this whole time. He's not a great player. But he's actually not that bad either. In four of the last five seasons he's been worth at least 2 wins above replacement by FanGraphs version of the metric. And the one time he was worth less, may be due to the wonky nature of defensive metrics--which rated him way worse that one season than any prior or since.
I'm not at all trying to convince anyone he's secretly this great player. His is not a sexy profile: Average offense and average defense from an age 32 third baseman. That's why he's still on the market and why he may have to settle for a one year deal. But baseball is hard, and average does have value. Plus, the Brewers don't need him to be a great player. In order to trade him, all they need is for him to play to career averages--for half a season.
"But if no one has signed him at this point, why would anyone trade for him at the deadline," you ask.
Why would the Pirates trade for an soon to be retired third baseman hitting 247/295/430? Why would the Cardinals trade for a former closer with a 4.45 ERA? Why would they do it again in 2015 when the ERA was 5.89? Why would the Orioles overpay for an outfielder sporting a clearly unsustainable 328/369/517, who prior to last year had a below league average career slash line of 274/326/395? One answer is that assets available around the trade deadline are relatively limited resources. Another is sometimes teams just do dumb things. And a third is teams won't have to pay for a full season of said player.
If David Freese is producing at or near career norms, someone will want him. You can't be a Brewers fan, have watched Aramis Ramirez get traded last year, and try to tell me now that Freese couldn't also. You just can't. I'm not talking about a monster trade. Even if they only get Yhonathan Barrios 2.0, why not try every possible method to continue stacking the farm system?
I know some of you will say you'd rather see Cecchini get the innings, or even Will MIddlebrooks. And that's fair--Cecchini is a favorite of mine. But in my mind, it's playing time that will more likely go to Aaron Hill instead. Since there's a greater chance the Brewers can flip Freese, I say it's at least worth considering. Especially now that they have an open spot on the 40-man roster and it appears very likely Freese will have to settle for a one year deal.
Statistics courtesy of FanGraphs