Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said yesterday that David Freese will have a legitimate opportunity to become the team’s starting third baseman next season:
We have to look at the make-up of our club and how everything comes together between now and next spring. But given the second half that he had in Triple-A and how he played up here, it’s my preference to give David a chance to win the job.
I think we would like to give him a shot to play every day. If we need to ramp up the offense in another way, we have plenty of time. But given what he accomplished this year, I definitely think he deserves that chance.
Mozeliak’s comments are interesting not only because of what they mean for Freese but because of what they may mean for impending free agent Mark DeRosa, who started 58 games at third base after coming over in a midseason trade with the Indians. Mozeliak made it clear that the Cardinals “still have interest” in re-signing DeRosa, but added that it “depends on what other pieces fall into place for us.”
DeRosa struggled in St. Louis, hitting just .228/.291/.405 in 262 plate appearances while spending time on the disabled list with a wrist injury that may require offseason surgery, and handing out a multi-year contract to a 35-year-old career .275/.343/.424 hitter rarely makes sense if there’s a younger, cheaper player ready to take over the position. Freese fits that description.
Acquired from the Padres in the 2007 trade for Jim Edmonds, Freese hit .304/.363/.542 in 187 games at Triple-A over the past two seasons, showing good power with 36 homers and 44 doubles. However, he’ll be 27 years old next season, has mediocre plate discipline and a relatively high strikeout rate, and isn’t considered a great defender at third base, although Mozeliak describes him as “no worse than average” with the glove.
I’m generally in favor of giving a chance to non-elite prospects who’ve consistently produced in the minors, because far too often risk-averse teams simply fall back on overpriced veteran mediocrity rather than taking a risk with a relative unknown. Freese is a perfect example and would likely be 90 percent as good as DeRosa at 10 percent the cost, with a chance of being significantly better than the veteran.
Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle shares the bad news …
One of the Astros’ big bats won’t be taking hacks when the Astros hold their first full workout on Feb. 23.
Astros designated hitter Evan Gattis recently underwent surgery to repair a hernia, the Chronicle has learned, taking away most of his spring training at a minimum. The recovery is four to six weeks but fortunately for Gattis and the Astros, the injury is not considered severe.
Gattis was working hard on his overall conditioning this winter, even telling MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart in late January that he had already dropped 18 pounds. It sounds like the big slugger might have gone a bit overboard with those workouts, and now he is in real danger of missing the first couple weeks of the 2016 regular season.
Gattis batted .246/.285/.463 with 27 home runs and 88 RBI in 153 games last season for the Astros. The 29-year-old is arbitration-eligible for the first time in his career and has a hearing with the Astros scheduled for February 16 to determine his salary for 2016. He requested $3.8 million and was offered $3 million when figures were exchanged a little over three weeks ago.
Suddenly the Astros’ front office might have a new talking point for those arbitrators.
At last check, new Cardinals reliever Seung-Hwan Oh was still awaiting a work visa from the United States Embassy in South Korea and there was some worry that he might not be able to arrive on time to spring training in Jupiter, Florida.
But that is now officially a non-story.
Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Oh has recieved his work visa and is expected to report to Cardinals camp next week along with the rest of the club’s pitchers and catchers. Oh might even show up a bit earlier than the Cardinals originally asked him to, per Goold.
Oh saved 357 games in 11 seasons between Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and the Korea Baseball Organization before inking a one-year contract with St. Louis this winter. He also registered a stellar 1.81 ERA and 772 strikeouts across 646 total innings in Asia, earning the nickname “The Final Boss.”
Oh is expected to work in a setup role this year for Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal.
John Lamb was part of the Reds’ return package in last July’s Johnny Cueto trade and he had a strong showing at the Triple-A level in 2015. But the young left-hander posted a 5.80 ERA in a 10-start cup of coffee with Cincinnati late last season — his first 10 appearances as a major leaguer — and now comes word from MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon that Lamb will probably have to get off to a late start in 2016.
Lamb underwent surgery in December to repair a herniated disc in his back — a surgery that went unreported by the Reds until Tuesday afternoon. Reds manager Bryan Price acknowledged on MLB Network that Lamb is behind the team’s other starting pitchers and will likely open the coming season on the disabled list. The hope is that he might be ready by mid-April.
It’s a small but frustrating blow for a rebuilding Reds team that will be looking to establish some foundational pieces in 2016. Once he is recovered, Lamb will be expected to fill the Reds’ fifth rotation spot behind Raisel Iglesias, Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan, and Michael Lorenzen.
This is going to be an ugly year for Cincinnati baseball fans.
Rangers ace Yu Darvish missed the entire 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery last March 17. Most starting pitchers take 13-15 months to fully recover from that procedure, and the Rangers aren’t counting on Darvish until sometime this May.
His rehab so far has gone on without issue.
Darvish offered some very positive updates Tuesday to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram …
Darvish, 29, boasts a 3.27 ERA and 1.196 WHIP in 83 career major league starts. He can also claim a whopping 680 strikeouts in 545 1/3 career major league innings.
Texas has him under contract for $10 million in 2016 and $11 million in 2017.