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Pirates sign David Freese

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Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

MLBTR is reporting that the Pirates have signed third baseman David Freese to a one-year contract.  To make room on the 40-man roster, they designated left-hander Jesse Biddle, who will spend this season recovering from Tommy John surgery, for assignment.  According to Rob Biertempfel, Freese will get $3M with no incentives.

Freese, who will turn 33 on April 28, has played all or parts of seven seasons in the majors, five with the Cardinals and the last two with the Angels.  He's been a consistent hitter, posting an OPS+ between 104 and 129 in every year but one.  Even in that year, which was 2013, he posted a 99 OPS+ despite being hampered by a back injury.  His career slash line is 276/344/417 and his line from 2015 was 257/323/420.  He has a moderate platoon split, with a career OPS of .828 against left-handers and .739 against right-handers.  UZR considers him an average defender at third.  His career UZR/150 is -3.0, which is skewed a bit by an outlier of -22.7 in 2013, which again likely resulted from the back problem.

The signing obviously changes the Pirates' infield picture.  Freese still appears to be a solid hitter -- in fact, it's puzzling that he had to wait so long and then accept a one-year contract at a relatively low salary -- so there's no particular reason to expect that he'll just be a bench player.  Initially, of course, he'll no doubt replace Jung-Ho Kang at third.  What happens when Kang returns is hard to guess.  The Pirates haven't used Kang at second and Freese has never played there.  Freese could provide some insurance at first, but he's played only 21 innings there in the majors and only slightly more in the minors.  He's never played the outfield as a pro.  One thing that seems clear, though, is that Alen Hanson's chances of filling in for Kang early in the year are gone.