Braves’ Max Fried on potential contract extension, arbitration case and more



NORTH PORT, Fla. — Amid the Braves’ flurry of extensions last year, fans’ attention always turned toward Max Fried, the pitcher who has ascended toward the top of the sport over the past couple of years.

Fried, who will be a free agent after the 2024 season, knows his future has been a recent topic of conversation. When asked if he would be open to signing a long-term extension with the Braves, the left-hander first acknowledged that he understands people – fans and media – have talked about this.

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“Me and the team have always had really good dialogue,” Fried said. “We’ve been able to have some good communication. I’ve really loved my time here, and I love the team. So if that comes to the table, then that’ll be something that we think about.”

The price might be high – in fact, from an average-annual-value perspective, Fried could be more expensive than any of the players the Braves have extended to this point. Starting pitching always is at a premium, and the market continues to reflect that every winter. Fried is an All-Star starter who finished second in National League Cy Young voting last year.

This week, Fried reported to North Port to begin another season as the Braves’ ace. Fried on Friday spoke to reporters for the first time, which allowed him to discuss his willingness for a potential contract extension while also offering his thoughts on his arbitration case and much more.

In 2022, the Braves gave contract long-term extensions to Matt Olson, Austin Riley, Michael Harris, Spencer Strider and Sean Murphy. As those occurred, one by one, you wondered if Fried might someday be next.

Some fans might believe Fried would be upset about the Braves extending others and not him. That doesn’t appear to be the case.

“I couldn’t be happier for them,” Fried said of his teammates. “They’ve worked really hard, and they’ve earned it, and they’re extremely talented. I was going up, giving them hugs and sitting in their press conferences. It’s kind of life-changing money for people, so it’s being able to just congratulate them and support them. We’re teammates, at the end of the day.”

This must be considered, too: The Braves prioritize being open and honest with players and their agents. Reading into Fried’s comments Friday, and past events, it seems clear the Braves have let Fried know how they feel about him and that they would like him to be part of their future.

For now, Fried will get ready to pitch in 2023. Recently, he lost his arbitration hearing, as an independent panel ruled in the Braves’ favor. The lefty will make $13.5 million (the number the Braves submitted) instead of the $15 million for which he filed.

“On my side, there’s no anger or animosity or anything,” Fried said. “It’s two sides going at it, and (it’s) business. Just kind of the way I see it.”

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This season, the Braves feature a potent lineup (again) and a deep bullpen (again). But their starting rotation, led by Fried, once again should turn in one successful outing after another.

Fried, Strider, Kyle Wright and Charlie Morton are the top four, with Mike Soroka and Ian Anderson (and others, such as Bryce Elder) fighting for the fifth spot. The Braves are one of the few teams in baseball with a rotation that conceivably could give the team a chance to win every day – though things don’t always work out as they seem on paper.

“I think, as a starting pitcher, that’s your job,” Fried said. “Your job is to go out there and give your team as many innings and keep you in the game as long as you can. We have obviously an extremely talented lineup that can go off for four or five runs in an inning at any given time.

“I know that’s what I take pride in. “A lot of the other guys have kind of been able to just go out there, take the ball when it’s their turn and just give you a really good chance to win that day. To be able to have five, six, seven guys in the rotation that are going to be able to do that for you, it’s definitely valuable over 162.”

In 2012, the Padres drafted Fried, who now has been in professional baseball for over a decade. He has developed into an ace-level pitcher, but said he can still learn from someone like 39-year-old Charlie Morton. “I think if you’re not looking to learn or you’re not looking to get better every day, that people are gonna pass up on you,” Fried said. He’s always looking to make adjustments.

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Fried, who always shows humility in interviews, said he doesn’t know if he ever thought he would finish as high as second in Cy Young voting. But Fried is more focused on his team’s success than his own accolades.

Could he one day win a Cy Young Award, though?

His manager, Brian Snitker, thinks so.

“He’s always going to be looking for a way to improve himself,” Snitker said. “I just don’t ever see Max being like he’s figured the whole thing out. He’s going to be driven to always try and make himself better. I think he’s always, in his own right, going to feel he can be better, which is going to allow him to really tap into what he has going forward.”

Fried is one reason the Braves are projected to be one of the sport’s top teams. They have won five consecutive division titles since president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos took the job in Atlanta.

“We’ve had really good clubs here, and we come in every year expecting to win and expecting to be good,” Fried said. “Spring training is always the time where we do that work, it’s where we lay the foundation of getting ready for the season, taking all of our drills and preparation as seriously as we can. We’ve had some really good success over the last couple years and we’re just trying to build off that.”

Years ago, Fried reported to spring training as a young player, unaware of what he might face or how he might fare. Now he’s one of baseball’s better pitchers, ready to lead the Braves as they chase their goals.

“I think it’s just all about giving everything that you have on the day that you’re given the ball,” Fried said. “You don’t take it for granted. Every single day up here is unbelievable. I think if you kind of take it for granted for all, you’re going to get passed up on, and it’s gonna catch up to you real quick. It’s always just being motivated and making sure that you’re doing everything you can that day to put your impact on the game.”

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