Sure, designated hitter and part-time first baseman David Ortiz, the face of the Boston Red Sox franchise, is going to retire after 2016. Sure, the Atlanta Braves have smoke surrounding them that looks like an imminent fire sale. But to suggest that we’ll see first baseman Freddie Freeman in a Red Sox uniform soon could be pretty premature.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported that the Braves’ general manager John Coppolella is publicly trying to pour water on any rumors that Freeman is on the trade table: “I cannot make it any more clear: We are not trading Freddie Freeman […] We are not. I’d give my right arm before we trade Freddie Freeman. It is not happening.”
Steve Adams of MLBTradeRumors.com stated that Coppolella’s words seem genuine, as it’s very unusual for a GM to deny rumors with such vigor of word choice. “For instance, there’s a misconception that A’s president Billy Beane said last offseason that he wouldn’t trade Josh Donaldson, but the comments pertaining to Donaldson were made by an anonymous team official.”
All of the talk for the past couple of weeks for the Red Sox has been about the pitching staff, both the starting rotation and the bullpen. By trading for Craig Kimbrel, Boston gave up four prospects, suggesting that any future moves will be handled by the free agent market, not in a trade. Especially by trading Manuel Margot, it makes another young outfielder by the name of Jackie Bradley Jr., previously held in trade rumors, to now be no longer a trade target.
There’s no denying that having Freeman on the Red Sox would be a wonderful thought. The 26-year-old lefty bat hit 18 home runs and 66 RBIs on a bad team, last season. His slash line of .276/.370/.471 was done with only 98 strikeouts and 56 walks. The closest first baseman, not counting Ortiz, who hit like that was Travis Shaw, hitting .270/.327/.487 with 13 homers and 36 RBIs.
Depending on how you look at those numbers, one could make the argument that Shaw cancels out Freeman’s production, except that Shaw only played 65 games for the Red Sox while Freeman played 118 games. Shaw started his time in Boston hitting .310, but quickly cooled off for the rest of the season by hitting .250 for September and October. Not terrible, but Shaw could have dipped even further if he had played the entire season.
With Hanley Ramirez poised to take over first base, as his albatross of a contract and injuries have forced him out of the outfield and the left side of the infield with no trade rumor in sight, his .249/.291/.426 will be a sore spot that the Red Sox will hope improve in 2016.
Since Ortiz is retiring after next season, if Ramirez can improve his bat and not get injured then he would be primed to take over the DH role on the team, leaving the defensive spot at first open for Shaw or another player to be added.
In any event, between the Red Sox desiring better starting pitching, the great Dominican hope at first already, another decent player waiting in the wings if needed, and the Braves’ GM entrenching himself in public denial of any trade, Freeman doesn’t look to be the answer.