Freddie Freeman and the Atlanta Braves reached a contract agreement on Tuesday to make him the highest paid player ever for the franchise. Both sides worked out an extension that will give him a record-breaking $135 million over the next eight years, and keep him in Atlanta until the 2021 season. In only his first four years in the majors, the slugging first baseman has become one of the faces of the franchise with his solid offense, impressive glove-work, and trademark hugs.
Although he is only 24-years-old, Freddie’s overall statistics and clubhouse persona have him as one of the MLB’s most impressive young talents. After very good seasons in his first two complete campaigns starting in 2011, Freeman’s excellent performance in 2013 catapulted him into an elite category among the baseball’s star players. He batted .319 with 23 home runs and 109 RBI, while he finished fifth in the National League for MVP.
The record-setting extension overtakes Chipper Jones’ $90 million contract that was signed back in 2000. Freddie Freeman’s franchise-record contract comes after the Braves did not make many significant off-season moves, allowing for extra money to be spent on keeping Atlanta’s core group of players together. The contract is big enough to be the twenty-eighth largest ever in MLB history.
However, this was not the only headline made by Atlanta today. They also reached an agreement with talented outfielder, Jason Heyward. Heyward and the Braves agreed upon a two-year deal that will pay him $13 million. The contract agreed upon by the two sides contains far fewer years and less money than that of Freeman’s because Heyward likely would not receive a large enough long-term contract due to injuries and some cold-streaks in his career.
Jason Heyward began his career with an explosive rookie season that caught the nation’s attention. Injuries have limited his playing time throughout his young career, but he has tremendous value on the field as well as extraordinary potential to become a star. In 2013, Heyward battled freak injuries including being hit in the jaw with a pitch and having appendicitis to produce a mediocre batting average of .254 with 14 home runs and 38 RBI.
The two extensions handed out by the Braves were part of their ongoing arbitration plans as they settled Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward’s cases. The only arbitration case yet to be settled for the team is pitcher, Craig Kimbrel, who will likely receive a large salary in the arbitration hearings.
With the departures of Tim Hudson and Brian McCann, who signed with other teams through free agency this off-season, the Braves are in dire need of a veteran presence who can provide leadership throughout the clubhouse. Even though Freeman and Heyward are young, they both are considered veterans for a young team who can contribute both on and off the field. But will it be enough for a team without a true leader and proven veteran?
This marks the club’s largest investment ever, with Freeman’s record-making contract showing hope that he can replace Chipper Jones as the new face of the franchise. The Braves are not known for spending large like the Yankees or Dodgers, and their payroll is normally located towards the middle tier of major-league teams. This historical contract with Freddie Freeman shows that the often-conservative Atlanta Braves are willing to unload a large amount of money to keep their primary talent with the team.
By Glen Parris