The Atlanta Braves have a long offseason todo list and the status of free agent first baseman Freddie Freeman has to be near the top. Entering free agency for the first time in his career, Freeman will be free to sign with any teams as of 5 p.m. Sunday when the free agency period officially opens.
Speaking Sunday morning in his end of the season media call, Braves president Alex Anthopoulos reiterated that the team wants to keep Freeman in a Braves uniform longterm. Anthopoulos also confirmed that the team would issue Freeman an $18.4 million qualifying offer before the 5 p.m. deadline which is little more than a formality at this point.
“He’ll get a qualifying offer. That’s just a matter of process on our standpoint,” Anthopoulos said. “He’s a free agent. By rule, obviously, I can’t say a whole lot other than what I’ve said in the past. We love him. He’s great. We want him to stay. He wants to stay. How the process plays out and goes from there. I can’t really get into any specifics, but very similar to what I said in the past that our goal is to sign him and to keep him a Brave.”
During the call, Anthopoulos confirmed that the team’s salary will increase this offseason. Atlanta posted the highest Opening Day payroll in 2020 but a 60-game season played with no fans forced them to reduce payroll prior to 2021. Strong attendance numbers during the season allowed the team to add payroll and needed reinforcements at the trade deadline. Without going into specifics, Anthopoulos said that payroll will continue to rise.
How that impacts Freeman remains to be seen. Anthopoulos reiterated the team’s desire to lock him up long term but pointed to the situation being a process that must play out.
“Not every player is the same clearly. The players that have been here a long time and going to be Hall of Famers,” Anthopoulos said of Freeman. “Speaking of Freddie specifically, he’s a Hall of Famer. I don’t know what his career stats are right now, but in my mind, he is going to be a Hall of Famer. He’ll be one of the greatest Braves that ever played. Won an MVP, won a World Series. He’s done everything. We’ve been very clear, we want him to stay and he wants to stay, but we’ve seen other examples of players that have gone through this. Sometimes it just takes time and there’s a process that takes place. We’d love to have all these things done sooner, but sometimes it doesn’t work out that way.