The Pirates have announced that they've extended David Freese through 2018, with a club option for 2019. Via Jon Heyman, Freese will receive $11 million guaranteed, with the contract taking an unusual front-loaded structure -- Freese gets $6.25 million next year, $4.25 million in 2018, and $6 million or a $500,000 buyout in 2019.
Freese is already 33 and is a complementary type rather than a star, so at first glance, it seems a bit odd that the Pirates would extend him. Their recent trade of Francisco Liriano suggested pretty strongly that a veteran contract gone wrong is a big deal for them, and they already have Francisco Cervelli, who's still productive but who's shown signs of wear this year, under contract through 2019. It might seem obvious that a player like Freese is worth $11 million, and maybe it is, but decline can come quickly for a player his age -- John Jaso, whose role on the team going forward now looks less stable than ever, is proof of that.
There's also the matter of why the Pirates are doing this. Freese is a good player, but they already have Josh Bell, who looks like a long-term answer at first, and Jung Ho Kang. Kang, of course, has a dark cloud hanging over his head right now, and signing Freese provides the Bucs with insurance in case Kang doesn't work out, for whatever reason.
Perhaps the most salient point here, though, is that Freese is a good player, and even if Bell and Kang are productive, the Pirates can find space for a good player as long as he doesn't decline too much. The Pirates' financial commitment, too, is modest. Freese has produced 5.8 fWAR over the past three seasons, and $11 million isn't much to pay for that kind of production, even if his skills are likely to erode. That the Pirates would promise $11 million to someone who projects as a bench player or fringe starter is pretty surprising so soon after the Liriano trade, but it's certainly a reasonable price for Freese's combination of on-base ability, pop and defensive versatility.