2022 First Base Targets? – Freddie Freeman
Last week I looked at potential shortstop options for the Yankees going into the 2022 season, ultimately coming to the idea that a trade for Amed Rosario is the best course of action for the Yankees.
This week, I turn my attention to the players fielding throws from Rosario and the rest of the infield: first base. I’ve talked about a bunch of options this week, but one player clearly stands out from the rest. Of course, this is Freddie Freeman.
Freddie Freeman: A Quick Overview
Coming out of El Modena High School (Orange, CA), Freddie Freeman was selected by the Atlanta Braves with their 2nd round pick in the 2007 MLB First-Year Player Draft. He started that same season in the Rookie leagues and he played the whole 2008 season at Class-A ball. Going into 2009, Freddie Freeman made his first appearance on Top-100 prospect lists and then played his way up to Double-A ball and into the Arizona Fall League. In 2010, Freeman was a near consensus Top-50 prospect, played almost the entire season at Triple-A, and made his MLB debut on September 1st, 2010 before going back to the Arizona Fall League. Going into 2011, Freddie Freeman was a consensus Top-25 prospect and he became the starting first baseman for the Atlanta Braves, playing his way to 2nd in the NL Rookie of the Year (losing out to teammate Craig Kimbrel). Freddie Freeman has since played with the Atlanta Braves, signing an 8-Year/$135 Million extension before the 2014 season, which makes him a free agent for the first time in his career now. During his time with the Braves, Freeman was an MVP (2020), 5-time All-Star, 3-time Silver Slugger, and 1-time Gold Glove winner.
Over his career, Freddie Freeman has hit to a combined .295/.384/.509 (.893 OPS/138 OPS+) triple-slash with 1,704 hits, 271 home runs, and 942 RBI’s in 1,565 games over parts of 12 seasons. He’s put in 13,301.1 innings at first base to a +11 DRS and a +7.1 UZR. Combined, he’s accumulated +43.1 bWAR/+42.2 fWAR.
In 2021, Freddie Freeman was a major part in helping the Atlanta Braves win the World Series in both the regular and postseason. During the regular season, he hit to a .300/.393/.503 (.896 OPS/133 OPS+) triple-slash with 180 hits, 31 home runs, and 83 RBI’s. In 1,358.0 innings at first base he put up a +2 DRS and a -1.0 UZR. Combined, he put up +4.7 bWAR/+4.5 fWAR.
Being in the MLB for 12 years (and in professional baseball for 15 years) it should be no surprise that Freddie Freeman has accumulated some time on disabled/injured list. However, doing so just 6 times over that period is impressive and telling. All-in-all, in 2009 he had a short undisclosed injury, 2013 saw a strained right oblique, 2015 saw both a right wrist contusion and a right oblique strain, 2017 was a left wrist fracture, and 2020 was COVID.
The Case For Freddie Freeman:
There are so so so many reasons why Freddie Freeman would be a great addition to the Yankees organization and roster. (Personally, I’ve been adding him to the Yankees roster on video games for the last 6 years now, so I’ve been wanting this for more than a while.)
If you look at the recent history of first baseman, lets say the last 3 seasons (2019-2021) guess who comes out on top (by fWAR)? Of course, it is Freddie Freeman with +11.8 fWAR (2nd place is…DJ LeMahieu(?) with +10.3 fWAR.) Currently, you won’t find a better first baseman in the MLB year-in and year-out than Freddie Freeman. If you’re looking to upgrade at a position, it’s hard to do better than the best. Outside of position-by-position evaluation, Freddie Freeman is also one of the top players overall in the game. Over the past three seasons, he ranks tied with J.T. Realmuto as the 10th best player in the MLB.
On a statistical basis, it’s hard to argue against a player who is averaging nearly 40 doubles and 30 home runs per 162 games played over their career. Now, Freeman has only done that once in his career (2016), but over the last 4 seasons he hit 40+ doubles (or was on pace for) in 2 seasons and 30+ home runs in 3. So, it is safe to say that he’s otherworldly recently as a batter.
Freddie Freeman in his career has also been a plus defender overall. While the numbers if you look at his Fangraphs DEF score are all negative, that’s because every first baseman has negative statistics. He’s not going to top the defensive charts (see: prime Anthony Rizzo for that), but he’s going to play good statistical defense. From the eye test as well, I would say that Freeman is a better defender than he gets credit for.
Another nice thing about Freddie Freeman is his consistency. On offense, he’s put up a 130 OPS+ or better in each of the last 9 seasons. On defense, he’s only put up less than -1.0 dWAR 3 times in his career (which is very impressive for a first baseman). By games played, he’s played in 90% of his teams games in every season except for 2010 (when he had a 20 game stint) and 2017 (he played 117 games). Consistency is practically Freddie Freeman’s middle name.
For a quick few other points of other things that are positives for Freddie Freeman: He’s a winner. He just had a spectacular postseason and World Series for the Braves, helping them win their first World Series since 1995. He’s a left-handed bat, with good power, who will easily take advantage of the short porch in right field. He’s a team leader, which helps build up a good new core of Yankees players. And, he only costs money. (And the team prints money!)
The Simple Pro’s: Current Best First Baseman, Great Hitter, Good Defender, Consistent, Winner, Left-Handed Bat
The Case Against Freddie Freeman:
It is only fair to point out some negatives about Freddie Freeman and if the Yankees were able to bring him in.
First of all would be the contract that he would require to go away from the Atlanta Braves. It is said that Freeman is hoping for at least a 6-Year/$200 Million ($33.3M AAV), but first asks are always shooting for the stars. It seems that the expected rate of a contract for Freeman looks much closer to a 6-Year/$180 Million ($30M AAV). That’s a good chunk of money for the “we don’t want to spend our money” Yankees.
With that big contract comes the fact that Freddie Freeman is going to be entering into his age-32 season for 2022 (and thus, he’s going to be 37 years old during his final year of that 6-year contract). Spending that money on a player in his decline years is a lot to expect from a team. First baseman also don’t historically age well.
And that’s about it for negatives.
The Simple Con’s: Contract Size (According to the Yankees), Age and Factors Related to Age
Freddie Freeman would be a great Yankee. In the AL East and Yankee Stadium, he would continue to be a very productive hitter into his mid-to-late 30’s and his very short injury list over the past 12 years does play extremely favorably to imagining this being a future reality.
Yes, a $30M average annual salary for a first baseman looks like a lot. No, I don’t care. Think about it:
The Yankees make $30 million like it is nothing. I forget where I read it, but given the size of television contracts and the shared revenue in the MLB, the Yankees are already making upwards of $100 Million (if not much more) before they sell even one ticket. (Now, I forget if that was $100 Million in revenue or profit over their payroll, but my next point still stands.) Now, let’s say that the Yankees sell 35,000 tickets (that’s a low number) to each of their 81 home games at an average price of $50 (the average is much higher). This nets them nearly $150 Million alone. Add in merchandise sales, revenues from food and drinks (especially the $15 beers, which if just 1/2 of those 35,000 people bought one at each game would give them another $20+ Million alone, and that is a low estimate).
Did I forget that the Yankees don’t pay property tax or rent (the stadium is technically owned by the city of New York)? No, I didn’t. It’s not like the Yankees need to worry about a huge bill to NYC at the end of the fiscal year.
Suffice it to say, the Yankees are a money making machine. They can easily afford a $180 Million contract for Freddie Freeman (especially when his signing would bring in additional revenue from excitement).
So I digress…
Freddie Freeman can easily become a Yankee without forcing them to make small money moves. Who doesn’t want the best first baseman in the MLB on their team? (Losers and people okay with losing, that’s who.)
Freddie Freeman would be a great Yankee. He would dominate in Yankee Stadium. He would dominate in the AL East. He would be perfect for this team.