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Should the Cleveland Indians regret not signing David Freese?

Freese has been great for the Pirates. He could have been great for the Indians.

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Veteran third baseman David Freese has been a great one-year player for the Pittsburgh Pirates, even earning himself an extension that could carry him into his age 36 season. The Cleveland Indians needed a third baseman in the offseason, and they went with Juan Uribe. Did they make the wrong choice?

Before even getting into the right and wrongness of any one free agent signing, it’s always important to note that we do not know what happened behind the scenes. The Indians could have offered Freese a seven-year, $120 million contract but he declined it because the Cavaliers had not won a championship yet (jokes on you, alternate-reality David Freese). But, assuming the Indians at least pursued him and could have gotten him for something close to the $3 million deal he signed with Pittsburgh, they might wish they grabbed him instead of Juan Uribe.

Based solely on his on-field production, the Indians should absolutely regret missing out on Freese

As far as on-the-field numbers are concerned, it’s not even close: David Freese was better than Juan Uribe. Here’s a quick and depressing look at how the two compared in 2016, keeping in mind that Uribe was designated for assignment after the Indians traded for Andrew Miller on August 1.

Juan Uribe 259 7 5.8% 18.9% .206 .259 .332 54 -0.80 0.1
David Freese 395 12 9.1% 27.1% .276 .357 .436 117 0.81 1.7

And did I mention that Uribe was $1 million more?

There is no real way to win the pro-Uribe argument here: David Freese was one of the best value free agent signings of the offseason. It gets kind of drowned out because he is on a middling Pirates team, but for $3 million the Pirates are likely to get two, to two-and-a-half wins out of Freese, depending on who optimistic you want to be about him over the rest of the season.

Freese does have a high BABIP at .366, but he has always been a high-BABIP hitter, at least when he was a great hitter earlier in his career. He is also drawing more walks than he has since his best season, 2012.

**Begin obnoxious self-congratulatory bullshit**

When it was announced that the Los Angeles Angels would not extend a qualifying offer to Freese after 2015, I wondered if the Indians should pursue him. The reason being he would be cheap and not cost the Indians a first-round pick, like some other targets the Indians could have been considering. And I even thought he’d cost somewhere close to $7 to $9 million, not the $3 million bargain basement deal the Pirates got him at.

I’m wrong about a lot of things — so many things. But can we give me this one, maybe? You don’t even have to put it in the comments. Made just a silent not to yourself that says "You did it, Lyons, you were right. You’re not a total failure. Only mostly."

**End obnoxious self-congratulatory bullshit**

Baseball is more than just numbers. What Juan Uribe brought to the Indians may have been a spark

So there is no obvious number argument for Uribe over Freese, but it does not have to end there.

Juan Uribe has a history of lightening clubhouses and being a great presence around everyone. He managed to keep Yasiel Puig under control in Los Angeles, and years later everyone in Chicago still loves him. Heck, he has a statue outside of Comiskey Park. It’s almost impossible to not love Juan Uribe.

His impact in the Indians clubhouse was apparent as well. In particular, Jose Ramirez and Uribe seemed to get along great, with the former even earning the nickname "Mini-Me" because of their father-son-like relationship on the field and in the dugout. Ramirez has exploded this season (maybe the AL comeback player of the year?), but would that have happened without Juan Uribe? We cannot know for sure, of course, at least until someone finds a way to travel to other dimensions.

In that alternate reality, maybe David Freese is a jerk, or maybe Jose Ramirez does not fully come out of his shell like he did this season and he stays a middle-of-the-road hitter instead of the clutch machine that we see him as today. And if that's the case, maybe the Indians lose a bunch of games they would have won without Ramirez's clutchtasticness.

* * *

I guess it depends on which side of the baseball spectrum you fall on. Do you think numbers rule all, and the fact that Freese hit better with the Pirates this season automatically means he would have been great for the Indians and allowed Jose Ramirez to remain in left field? Or does Juan Uribe’s clubhouse impact do enough to negate some of his awful bat?