Looking to fortify their bench for the stretch run of the regular season, the Los Angeles Dodgers acquired David Freese from the Pittsburgh Pirates with just minutes to spare at the Aug. 31 waiver trade deadline.
Freese was immediately implemented as the club’s starting first baseman against left-handed pitching while occasionally spelling Justin Turner at the hot corner.
The 35-year-old not only thrived against opposing southpaws, but also quickly emerged as a leadership figure in the Dodgers clubhouse. His younger teammates gravitated to him for advice, while Turner and other veterans further praised his addition to the team.
On the field, Freese aided the Dodgers’ previous woes against left-handed pitching. He hit .321/.387/.489 against the opposite split, compared to a .273/.331/.455 showing against right-handers.
In 113 regular season games between the Pirates and Dodgers, Freese batted a combined .296/.359/.471 with 25 extra-base hits over 312 plate appearances. With Los Angeles alone, his slash line improved to .385/.489/.641.
Freese also lived up to his reputation as a clutch postseason performer, coming through on numerous occasions for the Dodgers. He accounted for two of the club’s three leadoff home runs in October, which set a Major League record.
In Game 4 of the National League Division Series against the Atlanta Braves, Freese gave the Dodgers a lead for good with a go-ahead, pinch-hit, two-run single in the sixth inning.
Los Angeles went on to defeat Atlanta, 6-2, and advanced to their third consecutive NLCS as a result. Freese hit .500/.333/.500 in three plate appearances against the Braves’ pitching staff, driving in three RBI.
The Dodgers declined Freese’s club option for the 2019 season, but quickly worked out a new one-year contract to keep him in Los Angeles for another year.
With Freese back in the fold, the Dodgers retain one of the their best weapons against opposing southpaws. The 35-year-old will factor prominently in that role next season and also figures to help replace the leadership void of the retired Chase Utley.