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Angels opt not to give David Freese a qualifying offer, should the Cleveland Indians pursue him?

Spoiler alert: Yes.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Just hours before the deadline to extend qualifying offers to departing free agents, the Los Angeles Angels opted not to do so for third baseman David Freese. Like every single free agent given a qualifying offer since the practice was implemented into the CBA three years ago, Freese probably would not have accepted it anyway, given that he is one of the very few third baseman on the free agent market this offseason.

Freese will likely not garner the $15.8 million that a qualifying offer would require, but the 32-year-old could easily get a three- or four-year contract out of a team with a short-term need at third base--a team like the Cleveland Indians.

The lack of a qualifying offer means that the teams are able to sign Freese without surrendering a first round pick in next year’s Amateur Draft. My personal favorite target for the Tribe heading into the offseason, Dexter Fowler, received a qualifying offer from the Chicago Cubs, which makes the idea of the Indians signing him even more remote. Daniel Murphy, another sort-of-third-baseman, also received a QO from the New York Mets and will probably not be considered at all by the Indians. Without having to give up a first round draft pick, dealing with Murphy’s defense may have been tolerable for an upgraded bat at third base, but not now.

David Freese is coming off another solid, if not spectacular, season with the Angels. His .257/.323/.420 slash is a shade below his career average, but is still much better than what the Indians got out of Giovanny Urshela in 2015. Steamer also sees Freese losing a bit his power next season, but still being above what Urshela will produce. Using Steamer600, which normalizes his 2016 projections over 600 plate appearances, Freese is projected to hit with a .256/.326/.404 slash and 16 home runs. Meanwhile, Urshela is expected to finish the season with a .242/.284/.381 slash and 15 home runs. Urshela’s glove is—and will always be—the deciding factor in comparing him to another player, but a bat is more valuable to the Indians right now.

Indians President of Baseball Operations, Chris Antonetti, previously said that the front office will primarily be focused on position players this offseason. However, the team only has about $13-15 million to play with this offseason, so that most likely means one or two free agents at best. Freese would come relatively cheap, likely in the $7-9 million per year range, and gives the Indians a chance to also sign a cheap reliever and trade for an outfield upgrade; someone like Marcell Ozuna.

The Indians arguably need an upgrade in the outfield more than third base, but there are better options that do not require giving up a first-round pick in the trade market than going through free agency. There are fewer third baseman available, period, and Freeze provides a solid boost offensively and a good-enough glove in the field. If the Indians can grab him without his contract being over-inflated in a bidding war, I say do it.