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.