Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that Freeman rejected an offer of $135M over five years, though it’s unclear when that offer was tendered. You can understand why he said no. The average annual value on that contract would be $27M, which wouldn’t make Freeman – coming off an MVP season in 2020 and now a world championship – among the top 10 earners in his sport. Bryce Harper, whom Forbes identified as baseball’s 10th-highest-paid player, made $31M in 2021.
Alex Anthopoulos has said little about Freeman except that he wants to keep him. The same general manager wanted to keep Josh Donaldson after the 2019 season. He got an offer that Anthopoulos chose not to match. Donaldson signed a contract with Minnesota that’s worth, counting a mutual option in Year 5, at least $92M. The money wasn’t what gave the Braves pause. The years did.
Donaldson, then 33, will make $8 million in 2024, when he’ll be 38. That’s if the Twins buy him out. If they don’t, he’ll make $16M. The Braves might have been willing to do a four-year deal. The fifth year was where they drew the line. (Laugh all you want about “financial flexibility,” but where would the 2021 Braves have been without the resources to buy four outfielders in July?)
Freeman is 32. At the end of a six-year deal, which Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports Freeman wants, he’d be 38. As consistently excellent as he has been, there’s little chance he’ll be quite so good in 2027. That doesn’t mean some team won’t offer six years. Some team, perhaps the same team, might offer $200M. The Braves could end up doing both. Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors, who’s skilled at such estimates, believes he’ll re-up here for $180M over six.
Freeman is a first baseman. Over the past two decades, the worst non-pitching contracts have gone to first basemen – from Ryan Howard to Albert Pujols to Miguel Cabrera. Each deal involving an MVP-caliber player became a case study in what not to do. In 2019, Paul Goldschmidt signed for $130M over five years. Halfway through the deal’s duration, the Cardinals had reason to rue their outlay. Goldschmidt was great over the second half, allaying some fears.
In Freeman’s favor: The universal DH is almost at hand. If, five years on, he’s not as spry afield, he could still swing a bat four times a day without having to find an American League home.
A free agent doesn’t know his market value until he becomes a free agent. Sometimes it’s less than he expected. Every now and then, it’s more. Donaldson wound up getting one that proved too rich for the baseball-playing arm of Liberty Media. That could happen again, though I doubt it. The Bringer of Rain was a Brave for one year. Freeman has been a Brave all his adult life.
In 2002, this correspondent believed the only way that a certain Hall of Fame lefty would leave was if he got mad. Next thing you knew, the lefty was no longer a Brave. It’s hard to believe Anthopoulos would do anything to make Freeman storm off in a huff, but the scary thing about free agents is that you never know.
Yes, it’s impossible to imagine Freddie wearing another team’s uniform. Then you recall your first sighting, and the nausea it induced, of Tom Glavine as a Met.