With less than two weeks before an arbiter would choose a contract figure, the Cardinals and David Freese closed their considerable gap and agreed on a one-year contract worth just over $3M for 2012.

This is a good thing, if only to maintain a sense of peace and harmony within the Cardinals’ clubhouse. The difference between Freese’s demands ($3.75M) and the Cardinals’ offer ($2.4M) was significant enough ($1.35M) that an arbitration hearing over that gulf could potentially create hard feelings and a chilly player/team/fan relationship. Given that the Cardinals have steadfastly avoided arbitration hearings since 1999, there was little doubt that the two sides would come to some agreement before then.

By sextupling Freese’s 2012 salary, the Cardinals have once again shown a willingness to be generous to a fault. This is one of the largest raises the Cardinals have granted a first-year-eligible player since Ryan Ludwick in 2009.

Much like Ludwick did in 2008, Freese placed in the top 10 of all third basemen in most offensive categories during 2012, including average (6th), hits (10th), RBI (10th), slugging (7th), and WAR (8th). He also just missed the top 10 in home runs (11th). Added to that performance is Freese’s legendary 2011 postseason, still referenced with awe by an adoring fan base.

Funny thing about the Ludwick comparison, though. After giving Ludwick that large pay raise (due to his overachieving 2008 performance), the Cardinals shipped him off to the Padres for Jake Westbrook.

I’m not suggesting that the Cardinals would do the same thing with Freese that they did with the popular Ludwick, nor do I necessarily recommend it. Unlike Ludwick, Freese has some PR value for the team as a hometown boy and timely postseason hero. I find it hard to believe that the Cardinals could look at all of those Freese jerseys in the stands and realistically consider trading him right now.

But two things are bugging me about this agreement.

First of all, the Cardinals made an original offer that seems reasonable (a raise of nearly $1M), but also considerably undercuts Freese’s overall value. Fangraphs calculates that Freese’s 2012 performance was worth $18.4M, and his 2011 performance was worth $12M. That means the Cardinals received more than $30M in performance at third base from Freese for approximately $900,000 over those two years.

Given that Freese is a 30 year-old arbitration virgin, nobody would expect the Cardinals to pay Freese his fair market value. However, it seems that the team had little inclination to shower him with riches. Compare that offer with the contract lavished on Jaime Garcia in 2011, or the generous deal offered to Jason Motte this winter. See the difference?

The other thing interesting about this agreement is the lack of any apparent discussion of a long-term deal.

The Cardinals have made a habit of locking up players they think have lasting value. The aforementioned Garcia contract happened during Jaime’s first arbitration year. The team did the same thing for Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright in their first arbitration-eligible seasons. However, they didn’t do that with Freese.

Some of that involves the fact that Freese will be 30 years old in 2013 and will be a very ripe 33 year-old when he finally reaches free agency. I think another aspect involves Freese’s unpleasant injury history; he currently pivots at third base on ankles made out of angel farts. I also suspect that the Cardinals are secretly troubled by Freese’s addiction to hard partying and reckless driving. I think Freese is a nice guy and he’s a photogenic face for the franchise, but this is an organization that places a high priority on lifestyle and attitude.

I don’t think it was an accident that the team drafted three third basemen in 2012. Of their choices, Carson Kelly and Stephen Piscotty project Freese-like numbers (or better in the case of Kelly). These prospects are possibly two years away.

While I certainly understand that the fans adore Freese for what he did two years ago and for his “aw, shucks” smile, the Cardinals will be looking at him only in terms of pure numbers and risk analysis. A long-term contract for a surgically-repaired player in his thirties is a gamble, particularly when that player could be expensive and replaced easily by cost-controlled rookies.

Unless Freese produces something really incredible in 2013, I suspect that his time left in St. Louis is limited. The Cardinals are not acting like a team that wants to invest in him for many more years.

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About The Author

Lifelong Cardinal fan and general loudmouth.

  • FreeseFrame

    LMAO, Yep, All of that “hard partying” that random people post about on Twitter with absolutely ZERO ACTUAL photographic EVIDENCE of… (The ONLY pictures of this supposed “hard partying” show Freese QUIETLY posing with friends with absolutely NO drink in his hand, And since the photos are indoor photos, NOBODY can ACCURATELY say that they were taken
    at “2 a.m.” – They could have been taken at ANY time…) Yep… That there is some cold hard PROOF of Freese’s “addiction” to “hard partying”… Yep, Yessiree… *NODS*

    And, Of COURSE, The Thanksgiving ACCIDENT which the ST. LOUIS POLICE DEPARTMENT EMPHATICALLY STATED OVER AND OVER AGAIN in the OFFICIAL POLICE REPORT that absolutely NO alcohol was involved… Yep, That sure is an indication of
    “reckless driving”… MmmHmm… You got it…

    I surely am mesmerized and spellbound by the hardcore actual EVIDENCE that you have to back up your libelous and slanderous speculation and hearsay… Yup…

    It’s difficult to believe that a crackjack thorough
    investigator like yourself would somehow NOT know about all David Freese’s community involvement… Surely, If you KNEW about the time he spends making sick kids smile at Cardinals Glennon Hospital, Ronald
    McDonald House, etc., You would be HONOR BOUND to report THAT as well, No?!?!? Therefore, You obviously are somehow just simply NOT aware of this… Hmm…

    Not to mention the entire weekend that he spent helping out Make A Wish Chicago, Or the entire weekend that he spent helping out Jon Jay’s charity bowling tournament in Miami. And helping out the Food Pantry at Thanksgiving… As well as the ProCamps
    Baseball Camp at Lafayette that he hosts every summer on an off-day… And so on and so forth… I simply don’t have the time to list every single charitable event that David Freese enjoys participating in and/or sponsoring himself out of a genuine love that he has in his heart for
    the community and kids and helping people out…

    OBVIOUSLY, If you had actually KNOWN about all of the POSITIVE and GOOD things that David Freese does for his community, You would have reported THOSE as well, So, I’ll just give you the benefit of the doubt that you were somehow ignorant to it… *shrugs*

    You also *CLEARLY* don’t know about David Freese recently joining the Board of Guns N’ Hoses… I am SO SURE that the St. Louis Police Department would allow that to happen if they had ANY doubts WHATSOEVER about the “actual” cause of his Thanksgiving ACCIDENT, ESPECIALLY if they had seen any actual VERIFIABLE PROOF that he hasn’t really changed his off season lifestyle at all… Just because David Freese is now a World Series MVP/”Hometown Hero” does NOT mean that the St. Louis Police Department is suddenly “corrupt” and “looking the other way” in regards to David Freese and his driving record and even to the point of happily having him join the Board of Guns N’ Hoses… (And I HIGHLY doubt that they would appreciate people like you implying otherwise… #JustSayin’…)

    Anyway, Unlike other so-called “Insiders”, “Experts”, And sometimes even supposed “Psychics” that you are good friends with on Twitter, I am NOT going to claim to
    know what the future holds for David Freese… Maybe he’ll still be with the Cardinals after 2016, Perhaps he won’t be… NOBODY knows… ANYBODY who SAYS that they do is SPECULATING, NOT reporting actual
    FACTS…

    I won’t be returning to read your half-a**ed
    snarky replies that only a 3rd grade bully would actually think would actually “insult” me, But feel free to waste your time doing so anyway… Goodbye and Good Luck… Sincerely… :)

  • FreeseFrame

    LMAO, Yep, All of that “hard partying” that random people post about on Twitter with absolutely ZERO ACTUAL photographic EVIDENCE of… (The
    ONLY pictures of this supposed “hard partying” show Freese QUIETLY posing with friends with absolutely NO drink in his hand, And since the photos are indoor photos, NOBODY can ACCURATELY say that they were taken at “2 a.m.” – They could have been taken at ANY time…) Yep… That there is some cold hard PROOF of Freese’s “addiction” to “hard partying”… Yep, Yessiree… *NODS*

    And, Of COURSE, The Thanksgiving ACCIDENT which the ST. LOUIS POLICE DEPARTMENT EMPHATICALLY STATED OVER AND OVER AGAIN in the OFFICIAL POLICE REPORT that absolutely NO alcohol was involved… Yep, That sure is an indication of
    “reckless driving”… MmmHmm… You got it…

    I surely am mesmerized and spellbound by the hardcore actual EVIDENCE that you have to back up your libelous and slanderous speculation and hearsay… Yup…

    It’s difficult to believe that a crackjack thorough investigator like yourself would somehow NOT know about all of David Freese’s community involvement… Surely, If you KNEW about the time he spends making sick kids smile at Cardinals Glennon Hospital, Ronald
    McDonald House, etc., You would be HONOR BOUND to report THAT as well, No?!?!? Therefore, You obviously are somehow just simply NOT aware of this…
    Hmm…

    Not to mention the entire weekend that he spent helping out Make A Wish Chicago, Or the entire weekend that he spent helping out Jon Jay’s charity bowling tournament in Miami. And helping out the Food Pantry at Thanksgiving… As well as the ProCamps
    Baseball Camp at Lafayette that he hosts every summer on an off-day… And so on and so forth… I simply don’t have the time to list every single charitable event that
    David Freese enjoys participating in and/or sponsoring himself out of a genuine love that he has in his heart for
    the community and kids and helping people out…

    OBVIOUSLY, If you had actually KNOWN about all of the POSITIVE and GOOD things that David Freese does for his community, You would have reported THOSE as well, So, I’ll just give you the benefit of the doubt that you were somehow ignorant to it… *shrugs*

    You also *CLEARLY* DON’T KNOW about David Freese recently joining the Board of Guns N’ Hoses… I am SO SURE that the St. Louis Police Department would allow that to happen if they had ANY doubts WHATSOEVER about the “actual” cause of his Thanksgiving ACCIDENT, ESPECIALLY if they had seen any actual VERIFIABLE PROOF that he hasn’t really changed his off season lifestyle at all… Just because David Freese is now a World Series MVP/”Hometown Hero” does NOT mean that the St. Louis Police Department is suddenly “corrupt” and “looking the other way” in regards to David Freese and his driving record and even to the point of happily
    having him join the Board of Guns N’ Hoses… (And I HIGHLY doubt that they would appreciate people like you implying otherwise… #JustSayin’…)

    Anyway, Unlike other so-called “Insiders”, “Experts”, And sometimes even supposed “Psychics” that you are good friends with on Twitter, I am NOT going to claim to
    know what the future holds for David Freese… Maybe he’ll still be with the Cardinals after 2016, Perhaps he
    won’t be… NOBODY knows… ANYBODY who SAYS that they do is SPECULATING, NOT reporting actual
    FACTS…

    I won’t be returning to read your half-a**ed snarky replies that only a 3rd grade bully would actually think would actually “insult” me, But feel free to waste your time doing so anyway… Goodbye and Good Luck… Sincerely… :)