A month after breaking his wrist, Freddie Freeman’s had his cast removed. His return from the disabled list is likely still weeks away, but it’s drawing closer—which means that it’s time to start talking about, uh, moving him to third base!
Freeman is by far the most exciting player on the Braves’ roster, off to the best start of his career with a .341/.461/.748 line and 14 home runs when he went down. While he was a third baseman throughout high school, he’s never played anywhere other than first base in his seven years as a major-leaguer. (The only exception is one interleague game spent at DH.)
But his injury replacement at first base, a hastily-acquired Matt Adams, has been far better than expected so far. Given the fact that he was never consistent enough to earn steady playing time in St. Louis during the last two years before this trade, that isn’t saying too much, but he’s hit .296/.349/.635 in his 29 games with Atlanta. And because Adams is a proven liability anywhere other than first base, the Braves are apparently planning to keep him there when Freeman returns—and just shift their franchise cornerstone to the hot corner.
First-to-third isn’t exactly a conventional transition for an established player. (“I can’t think of any, really,” manager Brian Snitker said when asked to think of a successful example.) Freeman is positioned as the future of a rebuilding franchise, and rightfully so; Adams is a temporary grab acquired for the low, low cost of a non-prospect. But the switch was Freeman’s idea, something he brought to the front office after watching Adams’ hot start, and now they’re going for it.
The Braves, six games under .500, are playing for nothing right now and therefore have nothing to lose—but this is still something of an odd way to use that flexibility for risk-taking.