Today we will explore Atlanta Braves extension candidate Freddie Freeman. The cornerstone of the franchise and a guy that loves the Braves, it would be great to lock Freddie up long term. He has stated many times before that he wants to be a lifelong Brave and there’s no reason why the franchise shouldn’t keep him.
Freddie Freeman’s Background
Everybody knows Freddie Freeman. He’s been around through what seems like it all. He played with Chipper, he survived the rebuild, and now he’s a perennial MVP candidate on a (hopefully) World Series contender. In his 9 full seasons of work he has built quite a resume for himself: 2011 rookie of the year runner up, 4-time All-Star, placed 5 times in MVP voting including 4 top 8 finishes, a gold glove, a silver slugger award, and now veteran leader in his prime.
Freddie has put up strong numbers almost every year of his career. He has been worth 34.6 fWAR so far, and has been between a 4 and 6 WAR player the past few years. FanGraphs has him projected for 4.3 WAR again next year, at ~$9M per win he would have a pretty large surplus value on his $22M contract next season. Since he has proven he is an MVP caliber player almost every year, there shouldn’t be any question marks, right? Just one: how will he play after his elbow surgery this offseason. We all saw how much he struggled in September and the playoffs. Over his last 13 regular season games he went 5-39, a .128 batting average, with no extra base hits. If that doesn’t prove something was off, I’m not sure what does. The good news is the surgery was successful and Freddie said he should be more than ready for Spring Training. He also said after the surgery that his elbow felt the best it had in years.
The Case for Extension Candidate Freddie Freeman
There are not many players in the MLB that are both as good as Freeman and as happy with the team that they’re on. The best examples for someone to compare with would be Joey Votto or Miguel Cabrera. It’s almost a guarantee that he will get an extension due to the body of work he has shown the last 9 years. He wants to play here and I can’t see the Braves letting him walk. His last extension, 8 years for $135M, has 2 years remaining at $22M a year. While Freeman probably won’t be getting better in the coming years, he’s still in his prime. I’d expect an average of 4 WAR over the next 5 seasons or so. 2020 will be Freddie’s age 30 season. For comparison, Votto’s age 35 season was his first big down swing in a while and Cabrera was elite until his age 34 season. If Freddie follows that curve, he should be elite for roughly the next 5 seasons and then start his downward progression.
The Contract Proposal for Freddie Freeman
Continuing the comparisons, Joey Votto received a 10-year, $225M extension prior to his age 30 season. Cabrera received an 8-year, $248M extension prior to his age 33 season. I propose that the Braves wait until next offseason to work out an extension with Freddie. This will give a year to ensure that his elbow is fine, then plenty of time to negotiate. Freeman has been a pretty similar player as Votto had been up to this point in his career, so I think that is the best number to use. At this time next season I would offer Freddie an 8-year, $180M contract extension. He would make the already signed $22M in 2021, then I would structure it $25M in ’22-’25, and $20M in ’26-’29. This extension would run through Freddie’s age 38 season and allow him to retire a Brave or sign another 1-2 year deal if he’s still playing at a productive level.
Freddie could certainly make more in free agency, however I am basing the deal off the fact the Freeman wants to be a lifelong Brave and is willing to play at a discounted rate. Think of how Tom Brady takes less money in his contracts to have a better team around him. I could be wrong, but I believe Freddie values winning highly at this point in career and the Atlanta Braves are where he wants to be.
If you enjoyed this piece, have a peek at the first in this series on Cristian Pache.
Thanks for reading!