BRENT STECKER

Is Freddie Freeman on Mariners’ radar? Maybe he should be

Feb 22, 2022, 1:43 PM | Updated: 1:56 pm
Mariners Braves Freddie Freeman...
Atlanta 1B Freddie Freeman celebrates a solo homer against the Astros in the 2021 World Series. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
(Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

The Mariners need a third baseman. Or a second baseman. Or an outfielder.

Two Takes: What under the radar move should the Mariners make?

But what if instead of adding a player who plays those positions, they break the bank and sign a five-time All-Star and one-time MVP first baseman?

Yes, I do believe it’s time to consider 2021 World Series champion Freddie Freeman as a potential Mariners target when the offseason eventually resumes.

Why now? Because while it was initially considered that Freeman returning to the Atlanta Braves was a foregone conclusion, a Tuesday report by ESPN’s Buster Olney has cast doubt on that assumption.

In an ESPN Insider article, Olney wrote that “there is a growing belief that Freeman will land somewhere outside of Atlanta because of the standoff in his negotiations.”

You know what is somewhere outside of Atlanta? Seattle!

Alright, but just how realistic of a fit would Freeman be with the Mariners? Ty France turned out to be a surprisingly strong fielder at first base while enjoying a breakout season at the plate in 2021, and the M’s already have a Gold Glove winner at the position in Evan White, who is hoping to be back after missing most of last season with a hip injury.

That’s all well and good, but I think the Mariners have options here. While France came a long way with his defense at first last year, who’s to say he couldn’t make a similar improvement if given regular time at third base? And as much as White could be the future at first for Seattle, he has yet to prove (or have enough time in the big leagues to prove) that he can consistently hit MLB pitching. Seattle, meanwhile, is in a position where it can win now, and if Freddie Freeman is available and the option of playing France at third is still there, it’s hard to come up with a better addition to the team.

If you need a reason to get excited about the (to this point still very slim) possibility of Freeman in a Mariners uniform, watch him hit a 460-foot home run into the night off Astros lefty Framber Valdez in the World Series. That seems pretty relevant considering who the M’s are trying to chase down in the AL West.

So why are we talking about Freeman now while Kris Bryant and Trevor Story are still without teams? Because there are more questions about how they will perform going forward than with Freeman, and if it’s between those three players, there’s no question he is the best of the three. Bryant has a long swing that has come up as a concern in reports because it may be an issue as he loses bat speed in his 30s. As for Story, he has the Coors Field stigma attached to him (which I’ve written about not being a worry for me personally) as well as an arm problem that could limit him to second base or perhaps even designated hitter.

Freeman, meanwhile, has been a remarkably consistent superstar for the past six years, and at 32 and playing a lower-impact position still has plenty left in the tank. He slashed .300/.393/.503 for an .896 OPS with 31 homers in 2021, and he’s hit under .300 just once (.295 in 2019) and posted an OPS of under .900 only twice since 2015. I could also see that sweet lefty swing having a lot of fun with the short porch in right field at T-Mobile Park.

I should mention that Freeman has experience playing third base, too, though you shouldn’t get your hopes up about that. He did that for all of 16 games in 2017 after coming back from injury to allow Atlanta to keep playing Matt Adams, who the Braves traded for to be Freeman’s fill-in. That’s almost certainly not a consideration going forward.

Freeman would cost a ton. He wouldn’t exactly be a square peg going into a square-shaped hole in Seattle’s lineup. But I think you would be hard-pressed to find an addition that would make the Mariners better than Freeman. If they’ve got the money, and by all indications they do, maybe Freeman makes the most sense as the next big splash by the M’s.

(If you’re interested in reading a more in-depth piece on Freeman as a hitter and how he would fit with the Mariners, I highly recommend this article by Luke Arkins from Prospect Insider.)

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