Braves star Freddie Freeman says that his “mindset is to return as a third baseman,” as MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports (links to Twitter). With Matt Adams emerging as a productive offensive player at first in his absence, Freeman appears serious about attempting a move across the diamond even while completing his recovery from a wrist fracture.
Freeman played the hot corner in high school, but the eight-year MLB veteran has lined up exclusively at first base as a professional. Needless to say, this apparent attempt to move back to third in the middle of the season represents quite a surprising turn of events. Freeman says he himself proposed the idea to the team, so obviously he’s on board; it remains unknown just what the organization would need to see to allow him to line up there.
When Freeman went down with his wrist injury, it seemed clear he’d leave behind a significant hole in the lineup. After all, he was carrying a .341/.461/.748 batting line that dwarfed even his typically excellent levels of output. But the Braves were able to add Matt Adams for a song, and he has stepped in with a .296/.349/.635 line over his 29 games in Atlanta. (Whether he can maintain anything like that kind of output, of course, is an open question.)
Adams’s success has created a bit of a quandary for the Braves as Freeman moves toward a return. The new addition didn’t fare well in his own brief attempt at a position change (to the corner outfield), but also may not receive huge trade interest at the deadline due to questionable demand for a player of his skillset.
Particularly since Adams comes with one more year of arb control, then, the Braves clearly have some motivation to find a way to field both players. Whether Freeman is able to show enough capacity at the position — presumably, in a minor-league rehab assignment — even to earn the chance to play it in the majors is yet to be seen. That’ll be known soon enough, though, as it now seems he’s on track to return right around the All-Star break.