David Freese and the St. Louis Cardinals avoided arbitration, settling on a 1 year deal worth $3.15 million. That means the team continues it’s streak of not having a player case reach arbitration since Darren Oliver in 1999. It also puts the team’s projected Opening Day Salary Obligations at $113.9 million, up from $111.8 million last year.
Freese, the hometown hero of the 2011 World Series, had filed for arbitration at $3.75 million with the Cardinals filing at $2.4 million. They were due to meet up in a hearing over the next couple weeks to determine which salary Freese would earn in 2013, his first arbitration year. It ends the speculation of the team maybe being comfortable in their position going into the arbitration hearing and letting it get there.
After the news of the agreement came out, Freese told the Post-Dispatch that he wanted to be a Cardinal for life. That would entail a long-term deal for a player who will be turning 33 shortly after earning his first chance of free agency after the 2015 season. With Matt Carpenter, who will be where Freese is now, and a glut of third baseman picked in this past year’s draft, Freese’s future with the Cardinals is as questionable as ever.
If there had been a framework for a long-term deal, I think it would have been done. The Cardinals have historically been very careful about the players they’ve elected to invest in long-term. Health, off the field demons, and age are three very big questions the Cardinals will need to consider as they look at the prospects of giving him a long-term deal. It sets up a potentially divisive offseason if the Cardinals decide he isn’t worth as much as he wants. Maybe Pujols-like, but on a smaller scale.
In the end, if Freese can continue to produce and can stay on the field, cost will be the only question. The team will have some interesting decisions to make in the coming years as Allen Craig, Jon Jay, and Fernando Salas lead the next wave of players who become arbitration eligible next year. There may be some unpopular decisions by Mozeliak and the front office to make about whether to trade off players for cheaper internal options.