The Los Angeles Dodgers retained a trio of key free agents at the start of this past offseason, working out new contracts for the likes of David Freese, Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu.
Freese, a waiver-trade deadline acquisition last August, outperformed expectations with the Dodgers and emerged as one of the club’s most reliable contributors against left-handed pitching down the stretch.
The 35-year-old ended his 2018 season on an excellent note and positioned himself nicely for another Major League contract in free agency. However, for a second consecutive winter, the process wasn’t kind to veterans of his caliber, and even elite talent for that matter.
As Spring Training began this year, more than 100 players found themselves without teams for the 2019 season. Freese recently expressed his concern over the matter, via Andy McCullough of the L.A. Times:
“I don’t like it,” he said. “I don’t think it needs to be like that. We understand how much money is out there, and the question is: where is the fans’ money going?”
The slow-moving free agency market has been eerily similar to last offseason, when a plethora of high-profile players didn’t sign contracts until February.
Freese, understanding of this, took a discount to re-sign with the Dodgers rather than test the market himself and potentially come away with a Minor League contract:
“I didn’t want to play for a minor-league deal,” Freese said. “I don’t want to sound like [a jerk], but I didn’t want to play for $1 million or $2 million. I wanted to play for a little more. That would have been worth it. And it ended up being worth it.”
The Dodgers ultimately declined Freese’s club option for the 2019 season, but quickly hammered out a new deal to keep him in the fold for another year.
Freese admitted that he contemplated retirement if he couldn’t return to Los Angeles for the 2019 season.