The Angels, as expected, did not extend a $15.8-million qualifying offer to David Freese by Friday’s deadline, but they will continue to pursue the veteran third baseman in free agency.
“We’ll engage him in the marketplace — we love what he brings on the field and in the clubhouse,” General Manager Billy Eppler said in a text message. “I spoke personally with David, and we agreed that we should let our relationship continue organically and naturally on terms that we all agree upon.”
In other words, the Angels would like Freese back next season, but not for $15.8 million.
Had the Angels made a qualifying offer that was accepted, Freese’s 2016 salary would have consumed about half of the $25 million to $30 million the team has left under the $189-million luxury tax threshold and greatly reduced its chances of landing an impact bat for left field or a front-of-the-rotation pitcher.
Freese, who made $6.425 million last season, hit .258 with a .322 on-base percentage, .401 slugging percentage, 24 home runs and 111 runs batted in over 255 games in two seasons with the Angels, missing significant time in both 2014 and 2015 because of injuries.
He also is considered an average defensive third baseman — the Angels often replaced him with John McDonald in 2014 and Kaleb Cowart in 2015 when they had a lead in the late innings — but with so few third basemen available this winter, Freese could command a deal in the three-year, $30-million range.
The Angels also have two promising third-base prospects in Cowart and Kyle Kubitza, so they could let them compete for the job next season and spend their money elsewhere. If Freese signs with another club, the Angels will not receive draft-pick compensation.
The Angels also declined David DeJesus’ $5-million option for 2016, making the veteran outfielder a free agent, and reserve outfielder Daniel Robertson, who spent most of last season at triple-A Salt Lake, was claimed on waivers by the Seattle Mariners.
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