On Monday evening the Padres made yet another strange move, at least according to the many legions of Padre fans who are unsure of the direction of the team. That move was the signing of infielder/outfielder Skip Schumaker to a minor league deal for the 2016 season. While it remains to be seen whether Schumaker will actually make the team out of Spring Training, he provides a good potential bench piece, and depth in case of injury.
At this point, the Padres seem more or less finished with their offseason, although some minor moves similar to the Schumaker signing may remain. One interesting consideration the team could make is signing third baseman David Freese. Following the conclusion of the 2015 season, the Los Angeles Angels elected to not extend Freese a qualifying offer, and little has been heard about him since.
Considering Freese is coming off a somewhat decent season, and a part of a thin third base free agent class, it seems rather odd that he still remains a free agent at this point. Freese wasn’t anything fantastic in 2015, but he was 10% above league average at the plate with a slightly above average glove.
The Padres already have Yangervis Solarte manning the hot corner, and they appear confident with him in that role. However, it never hurts to have extra insurance, and Freese could provide that for a cheap cost. Prior to the 2015 season, the Padres acquired Will Middlebrooks to provide competition for Solarte at third. Obviously that didn’t work out for Middlebrooks, but Solarte did thrive and eventually take the job from Middlebrooks for good.
While the team does seem set with Solarte, Freese is an eerily similar player, and could provide additional depth at a relatively cheap cost. If you compare the numbers between Freese and Solarte, they are rather similar, with Freese having the slight edge in both wRC+ and WAR, and also a slightly better defender. This is nothing against Solarte, but a team can never have too much depth, especially in Spring Training.
Ending up in San Diego would also be fitting for Freese, especially considering he was originally drafted by the Padres in 2006 and spent his first two professional seasons with the team until ending up in St. Louis. With little apparent interest on the market for Freese, it seems likely that he would be willing to come back to San Diego at a discounted price.
It’s unclear whether the Padres front office would actually be interested in this sort of move, but it makes a lot of sense on paper. While the team likes what they have with Yangervis Solarte at third, depth is something that can never be overstated. Look no further than the Padres division rivals in Los Angeles to see how well depth pays off. Even if the Padres just signed Freese to a minor league deal, he would provide yet another option in the case of injury, or a trade piece midseason if everything goes well. Definitely a low risk, potentially high reward scenario. For A.J. Preller, that should be reason enough to pull the trigger.