The Angels announced that they will not extend a qualifying offer to any of their free agents, meaning third baseman David Freese will hit the open market without the burden of draft pick compensation attached to his name. The Halos had reportedly been considering a QO for the 32-year-old Freese, who is eligible to hit the open market for the first time in his career this winter.
Freese batted .257/.323/.420 and certainly stands a chance at receiving a multi-year deal this winter — a chance that is, of course, now heightened by the lack of a QO. Freese will be the top free agent third baseman available, unless clubs consider Daniel Murphy an everyday option at the hot corner. While he’s neither an elite bat nor a standout defender at third base, he’s posted a batting line that is roughly league-average or better in each season of his big league career and grades out as a solid, albeit unspectacular defender at third per Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved.
MLBTR’s Jeff Todd and I discussed the possibility of a Freese QO on our qualifying-offer-themed podcast last week, noting that the team could conceivably go either way. In a vacuum, Freese at one year and $15.8MM isn’t too bad an outcome (in the event that he should accept), as he’s a reasonably good bet to check in worth somewhere around two wins above replacement (give or take a small fraction of a win) in a given season.
However, the tipping point could perhaps have been the team’s proximity to the luxury tax threshold. Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register recently noted that the team is roughly $26MM south of that mark, and adding Freese at nearly $16MM would hamstring their flexibility to make further moves this offseason. That’s problematic, as the team has holes in left field, at third base, at second base and behind the plate. It’s possible that the Angels will be able to work out a two- or even three-year deal with Freese at an annual rate that is considerably lower than the $15.8MM value of the qualifying offer, with the AAV and the length of the deal being inversely proportional to one another.