As Major League Baseball free agency dragged onward into February, several big-name stars remain without a new team. The list includes not just Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, but also Dallas Keuchel, Craig Kimbrel and Mike Moustakas.
However, it does not include David Freese, who re-signed on a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers last November.
The 2011 postseason hero for the St. Louis Cardinals reached his third Fall Classic in 2018 after the Dodgers acquired him from the Pittsburgh Pirates in August to compliment Max Muncy at first base. After their loss to the Red Sox in the World Series, one of the Dodgers’ first moves of the offseason was to bring back Freese after declining his contract option.
Freese’s one-year deal is due to pay him $4.5 million, less than the $6 million he would have received had the Dodgers picked up his option. However, Freese also received a $500,000 buyout once his option was declined, essentially raising his 2019 earnings to an even $5 million.
Despite being such an accomplished veteran, Freese appears fine with the pay cut. He greatly prefers it to the alternative of hitting the open free agency market, per Andy McCullough of the L.A. Times:
“It was honestly great not to go into the market… 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.”
Freese may have indeed taken much more of a pay cut had he tested the market. Regardless of whether teams consider him a first or third baseman at this point in his career, his contract with the Dodgers seems lucrative compared to those handed out at either position this winter.
No first baseman has received more than a one-year contract this offseason. Among those deals, only Steve Pearce, reigning World Series MVP, will make more than Freese in 2019.
Third base looks even worse. Freese is entering his age-36 season after recording 2.0 WAR. By comparison, the 30-year-old Moustakas notched 2.4 WAR last season and remains unsigned. At this point, it seems unlikely Moustakas would receive a contract topping Freese’s.
Freese showed last October that he still has some playoff heroics left. Now, it appears his veteran savvy applies off the field, too.