The New York Yankees have interest in first baseman Freddie Freeman, but is he the right free agent target?
Freddie Freeman would be great on the New York Yankees.
There’s a whole laundry list of reasons as to why. Phenomenal teammate. Former MVP. Smooth lefty power swing that’s perfect for Yankee Stadium. Not to mention, the 32-year-old just helped lead the Atlanta Braves to their first World Series title since 1995.
Freeman is now one of the countless free agents without a team as MLB’s lockout continues. Baseball or no, the New York Yankees could have a vacancy at first base, and longtime MLB insider Jon Heyman reports the Bronx Bombers will “take a run at” Freeman.
The Yankees are expected to take a run at Freddie Freeman, who they love. Though 1B isn’t their real need, they’d love to fit one of the game’s best lefty hitters into their lineup. With the Braves not quickly wrapping up their star, all are options are on the table for Freeman.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) February 5, 2022
Freddie Freeman is a bit of a surprise in this case, especially given the Yankees’ greater need at shortstop. Yet, with Luke Voit’s injury history and Anthony Rizzo also still unsigned, New York has some decisions to make.
Let’s take a look at some players who may be able to help the Yankees and bring home that 28th World Series.
Let’s start with the man of the hour himself. Freeman’s career resume speaks for itself at this point. The five-time All-Star is a .295 career hitter with 271 career home runs entering his age-32 season. Barring a major injury and/or a massively shortened season, he will notch his 1,000th career RBI in 2022.
But as much as we love the vision of Freddie Freeman signing with the Yankees, hitting 132 home runs over the short porch in right (and in a single season!), he should be viewed as a long shot. The man has been popular and beloved in Atlanta for a long time.
Even though he’ll demand a raise from the $135 million deal he just wrapped, it’s hard to imagine him not returning to the Braves.
A more realistic option for the Yankees, meanwhile, may come from in-house. Rizzo was acquired from the Chicago Cubs at the trade deadline and became an immediate fan favorite. He hit .249 with eight home runs and 21 RBI in just 49 games as a Yankee, and his having grown up a Yankees fan only made him a better fit.
Like Freddie Freeman, Rizzo is entering his age-32 season. However, given his being a streakier hitter, he may come cheaper. Bob Klapisch of NJ.com reported back in October how Rizzo was “eager” to re-sign with the Yankees. Rizzo implied the same in December when he appeared on former Cubs teammate Ian Happ’s Compound Podcast.
There’s probably a deal to be made, so general manager Brian Cashman would be wise to keep Rizzo on a front burner.
Except there’s a problem, and not one that can be fixed by calling Ghostbusters, Caesar the exterminator, or others of similar random pop culture references. Luke Voit is still technically under team control for three more years and has proven himself as a reliable power bat…when healthy. Leading MLB in home runs in the shortened 2020 season is a distant memory.
Now, Voit is an oft-injured 31-year-old power bat who, to add insult to literal injury, isn’t a good enough fielder to keep around long-term.
Thankfully for the Yankees, it sounds like Voit too may want out. He wasn’t exactly subtle with how unhappy he was about New York trading for Rizzo. But now his knee is supposedly healthy and the Yankees may have no other option at first base, particularly if they miss on Freddie Freeman and Anthony Rizzo. Hopefully, regardless of if he’s a Yankee in 2022, he manages more than 68 games.
But rather, what if the Yankees pursued a free agent who addressed some infield concerns while also having similar charisma as Freddie Freeman and Anthony Rizzo?
Like the former, Kris Bryant is also a former MVP and hit .265 with 25 home runs and 73 RBI with the Cubs and San Francisco Giants last year. He also just turned 30 and, along with Rizzo, broke the Cubs’ World Series curse in 2016.
Here is where things get complicated. Bryant was mostly a third baseman in Chicago and has very limited experience at first base. 2021 also saw him play more innings in the outfield, and Bryant isn’t a particularly strong fielder.
The analytics-minded Yankees may stop short at that, especially since it’s likely Bryant would play one of third or first base while DJ LeMahieu manned the other. That would clear a logjam, yes, but what about Gio Urshela?
Freddie Freeman and his lefty bat would obviously be a great match in the Yankees’ righty-dominant lineup. But if he’s unavailable and Bryant is, then Cashman could certainly do worse.
Then again, the Yankees don’t necessarily need to rely on free agency or in-house options to find their first baseman. The Oakland A’s were in the middle of a firesale before the lockout, with even star slugging first baseman Matt Olson available. I even put together a potential trade proposal for Olson back in November.
In a way, Olson is similar to Freddie Freeman. He has a great lefty swing perfect for Yankee Stadium and has a strong glove at first base, but Olson also has some added perks. He’s still just 27 years old and has two years of arbitration left. As in, unlike Freeman, he’ll cost far less then hundreds of millions of dollars.
Cashman can absolutely pull off a trade for Olson, but only if he’s willing to part with some top prospects.