Via Chad Cushnir of FirstCoastNews.com:
First Coast News sports director Dan Hicken has learned that Ryan Freel, a Jacksonville native and former Major League Baseball has died at the age of 36. The cause of death is suicide.
There aren’t many details available at this time.
Freel batted .268/.354/.369 with 143 stolen bases over parts of eight seasons in the major leagues. He played for the Blue Jays, Reds, Orioles, Cubs and Royals before finishing his career with the independent-league Somerset Patriots in 2010.
Freel, who began working with youth baseball players after his retirement, was 36 years old.
UPDATE, 11:05 PM: A couple things to add …
- SB Nation’s Red Reporter notes that Freel, who had just been named the head baseball coach at St. Joseph Academy in Florida, was a father and a husband.
- Known for an aggressive, go-all-out style of defense, Freel told reporters in June 2007 that he had already suffered “nine or 10” concussions.
The Twins have reportedly signed free agent shortstop Erick Aybar to a minor-league deal, LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune reported Friday. FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman adds that the deal comes with a potential $1.25 million if Aybar reaches the majors, with additional incentives based on plate appearances. He’ll be able to opt out on March 27. The team has yet to confirm the signing.
Aybar, 34, is now four years removed from his career year in 2014. He’s been in a state of steady decline since then, slashing just .234/.300/.348 with seven home runs and 11 stolen bases over 370 plate appearances for the Padres in 2017. His poor performance wasn’t helped by a fractured left foot, either, which cost him almost six weeks on the disabled list.
Still, the Twins see something promising in the veteran infielder, and reportedly intend to use him as another utility option this spring. Per Neal, Aybar will join fellow backup infielders Eduardo Escobar and Ehire Adrianza and may even (temporarily) take over for Miguel Sano at third base if Sano isn’t able to shape up for the role by Opening Day.