Today we wrap up our roundtable series with a question that really doesn’t have anything to do with the trade deadline, but is in many ways just as important. It is really surprising that it is July 19 and we have not gained any clarity on this situation.
Will Freddie Freeman be with the Atlanta Braves in 2022?
Daniel - Since we hit Opening Day without an extension, I have leaned towards no, which is a feeling that grows stronger every day we get closer to free agency. Freddie is a fan-favorite, a (very) good player, and wants to stay, so we should in no way consider it a foregone conclusion that he is leaving, but based on everything this front office has done, the state of the team at the moment, and the fact that it now seems very likely that he will hit the open market, I just don’t think he will be back. One other consideration is that the compensatory pick for the qualifying offer may or may not exist, with the new CBA negotiation looming this offseason.
Ivan - The calculus the Braves have to make here is a difficult one. The issue isn’t really about Freeman in a vacuum, it’s about Freeman and how his personal aging curve is going to intersect with the team’s available payroll over the next half-decade. If he would accept a series of one-year deals, he’d already be signed. If he were showing very clear signs of an age-related collapse, this would be an easy “no” answer. But neither is true, so the Braves have to figure out exactly where the fulcrum point on the risk gradient is, and see if they can get him to sign a sizable deal that doesn’t expose them in too many future potential universes. I think they can do this, and right now I think they will, but it’s hard. So I’ll say “yes” if I have to pick, but I think it’s like 55/45 yes/no, and not like 75/25 or anything.
Eric - I am currently leaning no, but my feelings on that change every day it seems. I think there are baseball reasons why giving a guy with Freddie’s profile a long-term deal is problematic and I am certain the team knows that, but I am also certain that the fanbase is likely to revolt in a big way if he leaves and they also know that he is an incredibly important part of the Braves’ roster. My suspicion is that the Braves want to do a shorter term deal with some team options tacked on while Freddie is wanting some more certainty in what it is likely to be the last big contract of his career plus potentially entertaining the idea that going elsewhere (particularly the west coast because of his family) may not be the worst thing. I think both sides ultimately want him to be here, but if it were that simple the deal would have already been done. I also think that Freddie doing a media blitz lately (which he NEVER does) is about putting pressure on the Braves and framing himself in a positive light which doesn’t really scream “we are close to a deal” to me.
Scott - I really don’t know. I don’t think Anthopoulos will overpay for a first baseman approaching his mid-30s, but it’s also hard to envision the Braves winning big over the next few seasons without Freeman at first. I’ll say 51% yes he does return, but it is truly a coin flip for me.
Demetrius - If you had asked me just last week, I would’ve been telling y’all to get ready for life without Freddie Freeman in a Braves uniform. However, he’s done some interviews lately that seem to indicate that he legitimately wants to stay in a Braves uniform for the rest of his career. With that being said, fairy tale endings are extremely rare in the business of sports so the reality of how things are in baseball today could put a huge wrench in any plans that Freddie has going forward. I do think that Eric has nailed what’s the big divide in negotiations (whether they’re ongoing or happened during last offseason) between Freddie and the Braves, but I do think that it would have to take a mind-blowing offer from another team to actually see him signing elsewhere. So I’ve recently gone from a “hard no” to a “slight maybe” but that’s all subject to change at this point.
Kris - Yes, the Braves want him back and he wants to be back. It is unfortunate that it has taken as long as it has but I still have a hard time believing that a team that thinks its window is open, would be better off without Freddie Freeman. I’m not sure when it will happen, but I still strongly believe that a deal will get done.
Brent - A lot has been made about Freeman’s California ties, but I figure that will factor into about 1% of his decision. The rest will come down to the quality of the offer. Atlanta is the most likely team to employ Freeman next year, but this question puts Atlanta against the field. I’ll take the field.
Dillon - This will likely be the most important storyline for the Braves for the entirety of the second half, but I think the answer ultimately comes this winter. My gut says that Freeman stays, and that the Braves are simply waiting for the market to dictate a price for their franchise cornerstone rather than making an offer that may seem insulting. Freeman will be 32 on Opening Day, and signing first basemen to lucrative multi-year deals in their mid-30’s is generally not sound practice. The negotiations are also complicated by the fact that Freeman posted the best “season” of his career in 2020, which likely made extension talks even more difficult. I maintain that the club wants to allow the free market to dictate the price for Freeman rather than bidding against themselves and risking insult. Whether that strategy brings Freeman back to Atlanta in 2022 remains to be seen, but as of today I will guess (and hope) that he returns.
Shawn - I give it an 85% chance that Freddie Freeman returns. Beyond the narratives of how much he wants to stay and how much he means to Atlanta, it simply makes zero sense to pass on the certainty he brings when you have so much uncertainty elsewhere. I think with all the questions the Braves have elsewhere with pieces they thought were long-tend members of their core, it is riskier to let Freeman walk than investing in him long term. For at least the next few seasons, the trio of Acuna Jr.-Albies-Freeman is good enough to make the Braves a playoff contender each year (assuming they don’t have this bad of luck.) That is and will be the strength of your team. After this season, though a deal is not done, I feel AA has clear proof keeping Freeman is the top priority this offseason.
Gaurav - I fully believe Freeman will return. I say this because AA knows there is nobody in the minors even remotely ready to play first. It would be extremely difficult to replace that level of production with really anyone in the league, and he’s been the face of your franchise for so long and is in his prime. If the Braves want to come back and compete next year they need Freeman at first - and Anthopoulos knows that as well.
Matt - I’d bet almost anything on him returning. It doesn’t seem like he wants to leave or that the front office wants him to go, so it’s probably just a matter of when he is resigned as opposed to if he is resigned. He and his family love Atlanta, he knows he can win with a new year to reset the current situation, and he understands his legacy of playing for one team. It’s just so hard to picture him playing anywhere else for those reasons.
Wayne - I’m going the optimistic route and saying yes. I’ll echo what Gaurav said and reiterate that in house, there is no backup plan. To say it is a big need for the Braves is an understatement, both in what he brings to the plate and in veteran leadership. If it weren’t for Ronald Acuna, Jr. — who is a generational talent and one of the faces of all of baseball — this would be Freddie’s team. In a lot of ways, it still is, and I think when both sides can sit down after the smoke settles on this ever so odd season, all will be well in Atlanta.
AB - I would put it at 10%. Alex Anthopoulos will be pragmatic and try to put the best deal together for the future of Freeman and the Braves. But I can see the Padres throwing ridiculous money at him, even if that means adding 100 million dead dollars at the end of the deal. If you think they don’t want dead money, have a look at the contract of their current first baseman, Eric Hosmer, and his production. I am not sure he would land inside the division. The Mets are set at first base and I doubt Alonso could play third. The idea of the Phillies and Freeman together seems absurd, but maybe the Nationals would take a look.