Recently, Jessica DeLine wrote a great piece showing that the Angels ranked near the bottom of the American League in On Base Percentage at a number of positions, most notably first and third bases. Here is a graph Jessica created that shows the dearth of the situation:
The need to improve On Base Percentage from these two areas, and pinch hitting is glaring. Even league average OBP would provide substantially more scoring opportunities and keep the roster turning over so Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani and Justin Upton get more plate appearances.
With limited finances and roster space available, Billy Eppler might turn to an old friend to help improve the club: David Freese.
For the year, Freese hit a solid .296/.359/.471. In the three years since he left Anaheim, his slash line is .274/.360/.411. His lifetime OBP? .349. The guy is consistent.
Take a look at the graph above and pencil in .340-.350 at either first or third and our lineup isn’t nearly as top heavy. Simply giving him the same 288 plate appearances Luis Valbueana sucked the life out of gives the Angels about 30 extra base runners over the course of the season.
But let’s take a look at where Freese could really help: against left handed pitching. In 155 plate appearances against lefties this year, Freese hit a very nice .321/.387/.489. Against the same lefties, Albert Pujols managed a pathetic .200/.274/.400.
With Pujols on the roster, any depth piece will need to be able to cover multiple positions. While Marwin Gonzalez is the free agent darling, his price will be several times higher than what the 35 year old Freese can expect. Marwin is more versatile than Freese, but his 2018 and career offensive numbers are actually worse. The Angels have defense in spades, we need base runners.
And Freese fits the current Angels lineup well. Obviously he should start at first over Pujols against any left handed starter and be brought in to hit for Pujols once an opposing manager has gone to the bullpen.
But his ability to play a passable third base (-0.3 dWAR per Baseball-Reference) means that Zack Cozart or David Fletcher could occasionally cover shortstop to give Simba a day off. Or in the event of an injury to one of those three, we don’t have to drop down to the Kaleb Cowart level of production. Freese simply takes third base for a while and two MLB caliber players are next to him.
The Angels could probably get away with a bench consisting solely of Freese, a fourth outfielder, and a backup catcher. A one or two year deal would keep Luis Regnifo in AAA for depth and development, but not be a big enough obstacle to delay his arrival at MLB should he knock down the door too hard. Jose Fernandez and Matt Thaiss stay in AAA as depth.
Yes, the Angels will need more. This is a move to raise the floor, work within budget and roster constraints, and make this team a little better. If used properly, probably a couple of wins better (Freese was good for 2.1 WAR according to bbref this year in only 280 PAs). And it is a move I’d be fine with Eppler making.
What are your thoughts?