The Angels and third baseman David Freese are said to be “making progress” in talks on a new contract, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register adds (via Twitter) that GM Billy Eppler acknowledged yesterday that the two sides have continued to talk but wouldn’t specify how close the two sides were to an agreement.
Freese, 32, has spent the past two seasons as the Halos’ everyday third baseman after coming over from the Cardinals alongside right-hander Fernando Salas in a trade that sent Randal Grichuk and Peter Bourjos to St. Louis. Eppler and his staff decided against extending a one-year, $15.8MM qualifying offer to Freese, though the team reportedly considered tendering the QO due to Freese’s solid production and what looks to be a barren market at third base.
Freese would fill a notable void with a familiar face for those in the clubhouse. Over the past two seasons, he’s been a steadily productive player at the hot corner in Anaheim, batting a combined .258/.322/.401 with 24 homers in 981 plate appearances. Those numbers don’t jump off the page (or screen, in this instance), but when paired with respectable defense at third base (in the estimation of Ultimate Zone Rating, anyhow), that’s made Freese about a two-win player per year.
Outside of Freese, the free-agent market at third base contains Korean slugger Jae-gyun Hwang, who is currently posted for MLB clubs (bids are due at 5pm ET today) and possibly Daniel Murphy. However, Hwang is obviously an unproven commodity in the Major Leagues, and Murphy has considerably more experience at second base than at third base (even though some scouts feel he’s better suited to play third than second). Trades are another avenue for teams like the Angels that have glaring holes at third base, though one target in whom the Halos were said to have interest, Trevor Plouffe, may not on the market after all, per Twins GM Terry Ryan.