Despite the Pirates being in the thick of the Wild Card race, and there being no reason to expect for them to drop out of the race, Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball wrote that the Pirates could be willing to part with David Freese at the trade deadline. Heyman believes Freese would be a nice fit for the Mets.
Assuming that Freese is truly available, and the price is reasonable, Freese would be a solid addition to the New York Mets.
For his career, Freese is a career .277/.346/.418 hitter with a 112 career OPS+ and 115 wRC+. His 162 game averages are 30 doubles, 15 homeruns, and 77 RBI. With the exception of a poor 2013 season, which has proven to be an outlier, Freese has been an average defensive third baseman. Over the course of his career, Freese has been a good hitter and a solid defender. He would be a benefit to almost any team with postseason aspirations.
Here’s the catch: Freese has been even better this year.
This year, Freese is hitting .292/.373/.427 with a 127 OPS+ and a 124 wRC+ in 51 games. This could be construed as a small sample size, but there are some underlying numbers that suggest his current batting line will be sustainable over the course of a full season. First, Freese is still beating up on lefties like he has done his whole career. He has faced lefties in 21 games this year, and he is hitting .366/.409/.610 against them. For a Mets team that has been having some difficulty against lefties, especially with the Nationals Gio Gonzalez, adding Freese’s bat would be beneficial.
However, Freese’s numbers are not just reflective of his facing lefties. Freese is also hitting better against rightes. For his career, Freese has been a .269/.337/.401 hitter against righties. He is now hitting .269/.362/.369 against them. It’s a moderate, but important, improvement. The underlying reason for this improvement may be his approach at the plate. Freese has been hitting a lot of groundballs this year. Freese is hitting the ball on the ground 64.2% of the time.
Normally, in this age of the shift, this could be construed as a negative. Many times, we have seen batters like Curtis Granderson pull balls in to the shift. That isn’t the case with Freese. Historically, Freese has hit the ball to all fields. In fact, over the course of his career, Freese pulls the ball 35.1% of the time, hits it up the middle 36.4% of the time, and goes to the opposite field 28.5% of the time. In essence, it is hard to defend a player like that with the shift.
One of the corresponding factors to Freese hitting more groundballs is his hitting fewer flyballs. Typically, unless you are hitting the ball over the fence, flyballs are turned into outs. With Freese hitting fewer flyballs there is a decreased chance he will hit into an out. The increased groundball rate coupled with the decreased flyball rate are strong factors in Freese’s high .397 BABIP. Typically, the league average is .300, which would lead many to believe that Freese is due for a regression. Even if that were to happen, keep in mind Freese’s career BABIP is .342. In essence, he is someone who’s natural talents led to a higher BABIP. Therefore, even if Freese were due for a regression, it wouldn’t be as drastic as one might believe it to be.
Another benefit to adding Freese is the fact that he’s a more versatile player now. Since he has joined the Pirates, Freese has also played at first and second in addition to third. Therefore even if David Wright and Lucas Duda were to return to the Mets completely healthy, Freese would still be a useful player off the bench.
Overall, Freese appears to be a better hitter and a more versatile fielder. He’s exactly the type of player the Mets should be looking to add to the team. The only thing standing in the way of that happening is the Pirates. They first have to make him available, and the Mets need to be willing to meet their demands. That is much easier said than done.