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Should the Yankees look to trade for David Freese?

Cards' infield surplus could be Yanks' best fishing pool for a season without A-Rod
11/12/2013 9:53 AM ET
By Lou DiPietro

The Cardinals' infield surplus could mean that arbitration-eligible David Freese is available this winter.(AP)
The Yankees want to keep their payroll under the luxury tax threshold of $189 million next year, and as Joe Girardi even said himself during an interview on Thursday, the team also wants to settle its unsettled third base situation as soon as possible, with or without A-Rod.

And that’s why, in theory, they should look into trading for the Cardinals’ David Freese.

Freese turns 31 in April, but is only in his second arbitration year, meaning that the Cardinals control his fate for 2014 and 2015, but realistically, they may not even need him; St. Louis had Matt Carpenter, a third baseman in the Minors, playing second this year, but by doing that, they blocked second base prospect Kolten Wong (who hit .303 at Triple-A) from having an everyday spot.

Translation: a surplus of riches for the Cardinals to deal from, and for them, dealing the oldest, most expensive, and theoretically least productive (Carpenter put up a .318-11-78 line and won the NL Silver Slugger) of the triad would make the most sense.

So then, why should the Yankees take on Freese? Simple: he has two years of team control to act as a “short-term” solution, will be cost-effective against most other options, and, outside of a free agent signing, may be the “easiest” option to investigate.

Team control is, first and foremost, the most attractive thing about Freese; as opposed to a probable one-year signing out of free agency, Freese would be under the Yankee umbrella for 2015 as well if the Yankees want him. Given age and/or injury at the corners and the open DH slot, he’s a very attractive plug-in there.

In terms of cost-effectiveness, consider this: last year was the first time Freese was arbitration eligible, and after making his name in the 2011 postseason and hitting .293 with 20 homers and 79 RBI in an All-Star 2012 campaign, he earned just $3.155 million through the arbitration process. Raises are pretty standard in the arbitration process, but after posting just a .262-9-60 line last season, it’s likely that Freese won’t command much of a raise, perhaps somewhere in the $3.5 to $4 million range.

That’s a bargain as is, but comparatively, it may be even better. Mark Reynolds, who came to the Yankees late last season, had signed a $6 million deal with Cleveland for 2013, ex-Yankee Eric Chavez got $3 million from the Diamondbacks, and, of course, the Yankees signed Kevin Youkilis for $12 million. Those three along with Michael Young (who made $16 million in 2013) and Juan Uribe ($7 million) will be the Top 5 “everyday” third base options on the market, so even at $4 million, Freese looks like a steal.

Of course, because he’s not a free agent, Freese will need to be traded for, and surely the Cardinals won’t just give him away despite their surplus of talent. But, consider this: if that’s their strength, then outfield prospects are the Yankees’ strength, and with Carlos Beltran also headed for free agency, St. Louis may be in the market for some right field help.

The Yankees currently have five outfielders with Major League experience on the 40-man roster, with four of them set to be free agents next winter; would St. Louis accept a potential one-year plug-in (especially one like Vernon Wells, who costs literally nothing on the luxury tax cap) and a prospect or two (perhaps a Ramon Flores-type) to plug in down the road for Freese?

It might be worth looking into. After all, even if Alex Rodriguez has his suspension completely revoked, he’s still 38 and coming off a season he missed half of due to hip surgery, and Mark Teixeira is coming off a season he missed almost all of due to a wrist injury, so Freese would be valuable corner insurance both next year and in 2015, when both of the others are a year older.

And just think, if the Yankees can get to the World Series…

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