Freeman Joins Tribe from Columbus as Stamets Shipped Out
Bob Toth | On 16, Apr 2019
The Cleveland infield and bench continued its shuffle on Tuesday afternoon, as the Indians announced that the contract of veteran utility man Mike Freeman had been purchased from Triple-A Columbus. Rookie shortstop Eric Stamets was optioned back to Triple-A to make room for Freeman on the 25-man roster.
It marked the second infield-focused move by the Indians in as many days. On Monday prior to the start of the club’s series against the Seattle Mariners, Cleveland activated second baseman Jason Kipnis from the 10-day injured list and formally designated utility man Brad Miller for assignment in a move that opened up a 40-man spot for Freeman’s arrival.
Freeman signed early in the offseason with the Indians after spending last season with the Chicago Cubs organization. A veteran of 57 MLB games over the last three seasons, the 31-year-old was off to a slow start for Columbus, slashing .208/.424/.583 in nine games with three solo homers accounting for his RBI production. He has historically hit well at the top level of the minors, putting up a .304/.369/.418 line in 465 games over parts of six years.
He hit .222 in the spring with the Indians while appearing in just five games after being slowed by a knee injury in camp.
Freeman has done some travelling during his brief professional career. An 11th round pick in the 2010 draft out of Clemson by Arizona, he debuted for the Diamondbacks in June of 2016. He was a waiver claim by Seattle on August 1 of that season and was scooped up by the Los Angeles Dodgers the following May. He was released in August of 2017 and signed with the Cubs, spending 15 games with Chicago in 2017 and just one in 2018. He owns a career .134/.211/.207 line with eleven hits (three doubles, one homer) in 91 plate appearances. A true utility man, he has played every position on the field during his big league career except catcher and center field.
Stamets had a rough go to start his big league career with the unenviable task of replacing the injured Francisco Lindor. He went 0-for-16 before recording his first hit, a double off of the wall at Progressive Field against the Toronto Blue Jays, and added just one more in 48 total plate appearances with Cleveland. The 27-year-old heads back to the minors with a .049/.149/.073 slash in 15 games and will assume his old spot at shortstop in the lineup there.
The addition of Freeman seems odd given that the club already had Miller in the mix until Sunday night, when he was informed after the Indians’ third straight loss in Kansas City that he was being let go. The 29-year-old Miller had been one of the team’s best hitters over the previous week, hitting .389 in his last six games with seven hits (including three doubles and a homer) while driving in three runs and scoring three times. It marked a needed turnaround after going 0-for-12 in his prior five games.
Miller departed the roster with some pointed words at the organization, essentially guaranteeing that if he passes through the waivers process unclaimed that he will not be partaking in any sort of trip to the Tribe’s Columbus affiliate.
“They acknowledge that it wasn’t fair,” Miller was quoted in the Plain Dealer on Sunday. “I really enjoyed playing for Tito [Terry Francona]. That’s why I’m frustrated. I want to be here. I like this group. It’s a good team and I was hoping I’d be a part of it, but they have other plans.
“Obviously, they don’t want the best guys up here. So I’m just trying to take it somewhere else and see what we’ve got.”
The veteran will receive only the prorated portion of his $1 million contract with the Indians, as he had a 45-day advance consent clause in the deal that allowed Cleveland to cut ties with him within the first 45 days of the season without cause before the pact became guaranteed for the year.
Additional moves will be coming shortly in the infield for the Indians. Lindor is scheduled to begin his rehab assignment with the Columbus Clippers on the road in Louisville, Kentucky, against the Reds’ Triple-A affiliate, the Bats, on Tuesday night.
Photo: John Sleezer/Getty Images