November 22, 2013
Third Baseman for Sale
Angels in Talks to Acquire David Freese
General manager Jerry Dipoto sent Alberto Callaspo, his full-time third baseman from 2011 through the first half of 2013, to the Athletics last July, opening up a spot at which manager Mike Scioscia mixed and matched utility men down the stretch. Andrew Romine, Luis Jimenez, and company got the Halos through game 162, but if the club is to return to contention, it will need to find a useful regular at the hot corner.
Grant Green, whom the Angels obtained in the Callaspo deal, is one option, but he has made only 15 professional appearances at third base, 11 of which came for Triple-A Sacramento in 2012. The team’s no. 2 prospect, Kaleb Cowart, is a third baseman, but he was overmatched at Double-A Arkansas last year and is at least a year away from being ready to contribute in the majors.
With no desirable options within his organization, Dipoto is looking elsewhere, and there aren’t many choices in the free agent class. Jhonny Peralta and Juan Uribe might be viable stopgaps, but both are aging and likely to demand multi-year contracts. There have been conflicting reports as to whether the 34-year-old Uribe is seeking a three-year hitch—CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman says yea, ESPN Los Angeles’ Mark Saxon says nay—but the Dodgers, per ESPN’s Jim Bowden, have made it clear that they want him back, and a bidding war is unlikely to end well for the Angels.
All of which explains why Dipoto has been dialing Cardinals GM John Mozeliak’s number in recent days. The 30-year-old Freese is coming off of a disappointing year, during which he batted just .262/.340/.381, good for a .250 TAv that represents the worst mark of his career. If you believe the metrics, he was also a dismal defender, 14.9 fielding runs worse than average—which, in tandem with the poor showing at the plate, left him below replacement level.
With Kolten Wong ready to take over at the keystone and Matt Carpenter a better fit defensively at the hot corner, the Cardinals are willing to move Freese, even though he is just a year removed from putting in three-win work. Freese, who raked in $3.15 million in 2013, is entering his second year of arbitration eligibility and has two years of team control remaining.
For the Angels, Freese could be a buy-low stopgap who holds down the fort until Cowart finishes his climb through the upper minors. Details about the negotiations, including whether the sides are nearing a deal or merely kicking the tires, are few and far between, but Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register tweeted yesterday morning that the Cardinals might ask for Peter Bourjos as part of the return.
We also know that the Angels are not alone in their pursuit. The Yankees, whose hot corner plans are up in the air because of Alex Rodriguez’s looming suspension, expressed interest more than a week ago. The Marlins have had internal discussions about Freese, though it is unclear whether they decided to move forward.
Nationals’ Rotation Plans Remain a Mystery
Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Jordan Zimmermann are locked into the top three slots on the 2014 staff, but the rear two are open for competition. The current depth chart has Tanner Roark, a late-season revelation, listed fourth, and Taylor Jordan, who raced through the upper minors after finishing the 2012 campaign with Low-A Hagerstown, in the caboose. Ross Detwiler, who made only 13 starts last season and missed the last 78 games with a herniated disk in his lower back, could rejoin the group, too.
With three internal candidates for two openings, general manager Mike Rizzo is hardly desperate for pitching help this offseason, despite the departure of Dan Haren, whose 4.67 ERA for the year belied a strong second half. Still, the Nationals are likely to bring in a veteran with a longer track record than Detwiler, Jordan, and Roark can boast.
As Washington Post beat writer Adam Kilgore wrote yesterday, though, the question is how they will do it.
Kilgore virtually ruled out Ubaldo Jimenez, Hiroki Kuroda, and Ervin Santana, because the Nationals would like to keep the 20th-overall selection in the 2014 draft. He also doubts that Rizzo will be able to swing a deal for David Price, Max Scherzer, or even Jeff Samardzija without including right-hander Lucas Giolito, whose ceiling makes him virtually untouchable in the eyes of our own Jason Parks.
According to Kilgore, the Nats have reached out to Ricky Nolasco, but the ex-Dodger has been a popular target in the early going and is likely to demand a long-term commitment now that Jason Vargas has secured a four-year pact from the Royals. Kilgore believes Rizzo will be averse to tendering any offer that could cripple the team’s pursuit of a marquee pitcher next winter, when the menu—pending extensions—will be more attractive.
That means another short-term gamble, such as those the Nationals have previously made with Haren and Edwin Jackson, is the most likely outcome. With Vargas out, Scott Feldman and Scott Kazmir could be in play.