Revisiting off-season moves: Nate Freiman

How tall is he again, Fosse? Not sure I heard it. - Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Nate Freiman is getting a lot of love today. It's like I have a mancrush on him or something. Or maybe I'm just envious of the 16 inches he has on me in the height column. Either way, picking him up was smart and here's why.

In one of the more surprising moves of the offseason, the A's solved (again) a shortstop problem but broke up a successful platoon.  In shipping Chris Carter off with Brad Peacock and Max Stassi for Jed Lowrie, the A's broke what appeared to be a successful right-handed portion of the first base platoon with Brandon Moss.  Later on, during Spring Training, the A's took Nate Freiman from Houston on waivers (who had taken him from San Diego on Rule 5 draft status) and to the surprise of many, stuck him onto the Opening Day roster.

Insanity right?  Why would Beane et al take this guy, who had yet to play above AA, and put themselves in a position to have to keep him on the roster all year, else offer him back to his original team.  Well, let's compare Chris Carter to Nate Freiman right now:

Player PA HR wRC+ Fld BsR WAR
Chris Carter 469 25 111 -6.6 -2.8 0.3
Nate Freiman 177 4 113 1.5 -2.6 0.4

It's statistically a dead heat, but that's actually saying something, both about Chris Carter and Nate Freiman.  Many an A's fan last year simply hoped that if Carter got enough PAs, he'd be a valuable player.  That's clearly not the case.  Carter will almost certainly surpass 30 HR this year, and maybe get to 75 RBIs.  But he adds virtually no value in any other way.  Indeed, it's actually quite remarkable that he is "only" -6.6 in the field considering he has played 637 innings between 1B and OF this year (that works out to be about 70 games worth).

Freiman, on the other hand, is used sparingly; he only has 177 PA on the season (137 of those against LHP), which is only about 38% of the PAs Carter has had.  He also strikes out much less: 12.4 K% to Carter league-leading 37.5%. Carter has produced more with his bat overall, and that's true.  If batting runs are compared, Carter has produced 5.7 this year, to Freiman's 2.6.  Then again, Carter still has a substantial edge in playing time.  Stranger still, is that despite their similarities in stature, Freiman is a substantially different hitter, who is just fine slapping balls the other way.

In putting Freiman into a position where he is more apt to be successful, he is more valuable on a rate basis even though he doesn't have the raw power like Carter does when everything is taken into count.  Indeed, it may be that cutting that K% by a third produces a more valuable player even though Freiman doesn't have a 60-65 grade skill like Carter's power is.  All of this to say that this transaction looks like a good one so far.

The A's square off again against the suddenly more punchless Justin Verlander and his Detroit Tigers today.  After a roller coaster finish last night, let's hope today's win is much more uneventful.  Baseballgirl will have you thread covered tonight.

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