Freddie Freeman is an Canadian-American professional baseball first baseman in Major League Baseball who is a free agent. Professionally, Freeman has played exclusively for the Atlanta Braves. He made his MLB debut in 2010 and is a five-time MLB All-Star.
Fifteen years with Brave, the last four as a top 10 MVP finisher, Freddie Freeman seems to be more valuable to the Dodgers than his only known team. This is understandable when the aging curve guides teams more than the hello effect of signing, developing and keeping a franchise player.
Atlanta was seen moving away from Freeman, 32, on Monday when it sent four young players to Oakland to get first baseman Matt Olson, who is four years younger (and two years away from his own free agency). Olson is capable of replacing Freeman. But he is not a Freeman.
Freddie Freeman Rumors: Monday
Maybe there’s a grand plan to keep Olson and Freeman, but no such signs from Braves. Last year Freeman told friends that if the Braves came up with a deal offer, he was ready to go back to his roots in Southern California. Atlanta cried out for the opportunity to lock up Freeman during the season and after the 2021 World Series title. They offered 135 million to Freeman over five years, which basically took the Paul Goldsmith contract (five years, $ 130 million) and added $ 1 million a year.
From an accounting standpoint, this can make sense. Instead of estimating the risk of Braves Freeman’s career loss, Olson is taking two major years (the cost of trading players combined) – which is not yet clear.
Freeman soon will become the seventh first basemen to sign for an average annual value of $23 million or more. The previous six were Miguel Cabrera, Goldschmidt, Ryan Howard, Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Chris Davis. All signed for at least five years and through at least age 36.
How did those deals turn out? Not good. In 39 seasons under those contracts (not including two years left for Cabrera and Goldschmidt), those players returned only 12 qualified seasons of average or better offense (OPS+ of at least 100), with three of those 12 seasons coming from Goldschmidt in his three years with St. Louis. Legacies die hard, especially first basemen because of their general limited athleticism.
In rebuild mode, Oakland did well to focus on middle-of-the-field young talent, but the cost was not especially high for Atlanta to get Olson. Outfielder Cristian Pache is a wonderful Gold Glove caliber center fielder who may or may not hit. Catcher Shea Langeliers already is 24 with only 151 career pro games (in part because of COVID, which canceled the 2020 minor-league season; trading prospects of the COVID generation is a case study in the making). Young pitchers Ryan Cusack and Joey Estes have the quality fastballs that the A’s can dream on.
Olson has terrific power, is a fine defender, grew up in Georgia and has been a team leader since the minors. Braves fans will be happy with Olson.
But here is when they will miss Freeman: when there is a runner at second or third base and Freeman isn’t there to get him in. Freeman has an awkward hitting stroke that some wonder how it will hold up as he ages. But Freeman has such good hands and a quick path to the ball that despite its lack of beauty the swing is built for the long haul.