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David Freese thinks Pirates are not trying hard enough to win


BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) David Freese thinks the Pittsburgh Pirates are not trying hard enough to win.

“The last two years, we didn’t do as well as we could have because of our environment. That’s what I think,” the third baseman said Friday after reporting to spring training. “I walk in every day, and the demand to win just hasn’t been in the air. That’s what you need.”

Deciding to rebuild, the Pirates traded center fielder Andrew McCutchen, the 2013 NL MVP, to San Francisco and dealt right-hander Gerrit Cole, a 19-game winner in 2015, to Houston.

Freese joined the Pirates during spring training in 2016, agreeing to a $3 million, one-year contra ct, then reached an $11 million deal that August covering 2017 and 2018. The Pirates had ended a streak of 20 straight losing seasons, the longest stretch of futility in major North American professional sports history, and reached the playoffs each year from 2013-15. But they dropped to 78-83 in 2016 and 75-87 last year.

At the same time, the Penguins have won back-to-back Stanley Cup championships and the Steelers have reached the NFL playoffs for four straight years.

Freese said he does not understand why Pirates owner Bob Nutting does not try to keep pace.

“You look at Steelers and the Penguins then you’ve got the Pirates,” Freese said. “If I’m handling the situation, I’d be losing sleep trying to compete those other two teams. To have all three teams in a city like Pittsburgh on top of each league, that would be incredible.”

The Chicago Cubs won their second straight NL Central title last year and division rival Milwaukee added free agent center fielder Lorenzo Cain and acquired left fielder Christian Yelich from Miami. Pittsburgh’s only addition from among the major league free agents is outfielder Daniel Nava, in camp with a minor league deal.

“You’ve got to start from the ground up,” Freese said. “If you don’t have the accountability and the demand to win, what’s the point in doing anything else?”

Following the departures of Cole and McCutchen, All-Star second baseman Josh Harrison asked the Pirates to trade him if they did not plan to contend this season.

Freese wants to stay yet admires Harrison’s stance.

“It’s just somebody being real,” Freese said. “He’s at the top of my list as far as (being) a guy who plays as hard as anybody. He has a right to say what he wants.”

More AP baseball:

Rockies, Trevor Story agree on two-year, $27.5 million contract

Trevor Story
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ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports that the Rockies and shortstop Trevor Story have come to terms on a two-year, $27.5 million deal, buying out his two remaining years of arbitration eligibility.

Story, 27, and the Rockies did not agree on a salary before the deadline earlier this month. Story filed for $11.5 million while the team countered at $10.75 million. The average annual value of this deal — $13.75 million — puts him a little bit ahead this year and likely a little bit behind next year.

This past season in Colorado, Story hit .294/.363/.554 with 35 home runs, 85 RBI, 111 runs scored, and 23 stolen bases over 656 trips to the plate. He also continued to rank among the game’s best defensive shortstops. Per FanGraphs, Story’s 10.9 Wins Above Replacement over the last two seasons is fifth-best among shortstops (min. 1,000 PA) behind Alex Bregman, Francisco Lindor, Xander Bogaerts, and Marcus Semien.

With third baseman Nolan Arenado likely on his way out via trade, one wonders if the same fate awaits Story at some point over the next two seasons.