Freddie Freeman earned the nickname The Offense last year, and this offseason has done nothing to make one suspect anyone will challenge him for that title for a long, long time. While the Braves have apparently shifted their attention from trying to acquire every pitcher they can get their hands on to stockpiling catchers, organizational depth at offense is, well, lacking.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though, because we do have Freddie, and we still have this picture that made us all become Freddie fans for life:
After signing the largest contract in Braves history last offseason, Freddie could not quite put up the numbers he had in his MVP-caliber 2013 season. His line of .288/.386/.461 was down from .319/.396/.501, and he hit only 18 home runs, the lowest number of his career. He also grounded into 18 double plays, nearly twice his total from 2013. He did play in all 162 games (including every contest during the last two months of what the Braves called “baseball” but I just called “painful”), so tiredness may have impacted his performance; however, you would think that if anyone could play in every game in a season, a 23 year old could. Of course, he wasn’t a bad offensive player. He did reach base safely multiple times in 89 games last season, more times than anyone else in baseball. He just wasn’t his 2013 offensive self.
I have gone through dozens of Andrelton Simmons highlights this winter, and one thing I have repeatedly noticed was how impressive Freddie was on the receiving end of many throws. I know defensive metrics do not rank him highly due to limited range, but I like what I see. I’m perfectly fine with having his defense around for the next seven years.
So, what should we expect from Freddie’s 2015? Well, considering his 8 year/$135 million deal runs through 2021, I think one certainty for him about this season is that he is not going to be traded. That’s not a certainty many other Braves have. Other things to watch for: a third straight All-Star appearance, if he has a decent first half (the Braves have a few pitchers who may be worthy of the honor, but Freddie will surely be in the discussion on reputation alone and has a legitimate shot as long as he doesn’t catch the Uggla/BJ bug, a sickness that no Brave will hopefully ever suffer from again); an offensive line somewhere between his 2013-2014 totals (say, .295/.390/.480—numbers I could live with); a bunch of Freddie Hugs, and more optimistic quotes that may be partially based in reality, or may just be PR at its finest.
Not that he’ll ever say anything publicly, but I would be curious to know if he now has any regrets about signing his contract. I mean, he signed it when it looked like the team had the core to contend and was the youngest team in MLB, an altogether bright future. When he signed the contract, I recall he also made several comments about how much he liked his teammates and wanted to play in Atlanta, but that was before his best friend (Dan Uggla) was cut, his other best friend (Jason Heyward) was traded, and the roster was nearly given a complete overhaul. Now, the next couple of years aren’t looking the brightest, and his teammates (and now ex-teammate) are joking about having to wear “Hello, My Name Is…” t-shirts at Spring Training. This is probably not quite what he was envisioning a year ago when he signed his contract.
That being said, he is still a Brave, and should be a Brave for a very long time if he has anything to say about it, according to the “contract” he signed for a fan at a Braves Caravan stop. The fact that he signed this and actually wrote “not my fault if anything happens” may have just earned him the distinction of being my favorite player (a position that has been sadly open since the Braves abruptly dropped Kris Medlen and the awesomeness that goes with him from the team).
So, regardless of what mediocrity we may have to endure from this 2015 season, we do still have Freddie so all is not lost. He may never be the second coming of Chipper Jones, but he’s a pretty great piece to have around. And we should get to watch him play in Atlanta for a long time.