JUPITER, Fla. • One of the curiosities entering spring training was the number of free agents still available, including one Favorite Son of St. Louis, David Freese.
Despite a successful year with the Angels and an offer to return there, Freese hit the open market as a free agent for the first time -- and stayed there quite awhile. Jobs filled. Suitors turned elsewhere. And, as exhibition games started, Freese remained what he had never been before, a free agent.
The St. Louis native and 2011 World Series MVP has returned to the National League Central, signing a one-year, $3-million deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The club announced the deal on its Twitter feed.
The righthanded-hitting Freese could serve as an option at third base and first base for the Cardinals' rivals, who have failed to advance further than the division series in the past three postseasons. He'll likely start at third as the Pirates await the return Jung Ho Kang, and then he could be a part of a platoon at first.
Last season, Freese, who turns 33 next month, hit .257 with a .420 slugging percentage and 14 home runs for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. He had 56 RBIs and he played more than 120 games.
Since the Cardinals traded him to the Angels -- as part of the deal that netted the Cardinals Randal Grichuk -- Freese had 111 RBIs in 255 games and a .723 OPS. At his position, that was better than average.
Freese will wear No. 7 for the Pirates.
Freese last played in 2013 with the Cardinals, though he has continued to make St. Louis his home. The Lafayette High graduate was traded to the Angels in a four-player deal that sent former closer Fernando Salas west with Freese in exchange for outfielders Peter Bourjos and Grichuk.
He's forever remembered by fans here for his two-out, two-strike, two-run triple that tied Game 6 of the 2011 World Series against the Texas Rangers in the bottom of the ninth. Freese's homer leading off the bottom of the 11th won the game and tied the series at three games apiece. The Cardinals won Game 7, helped by another key RBI hit from Freese, and secured the franchise's 11th World Series championship.