Freddie Freeman’s enduring free company saga is stuffed with tears, anger and blame

We’re all suckers. The gone free agent goes again to the place he began. Followers bathe him with affection. Tears are shed, hugs exchanged. The passage of time makes the bittersweet second much less bitter, sweeter.

That is what you thought you noticed when Freddie Freeman got here again to Atlanta final weekend, proper? Properly, we now know that an undercurrent of anger fueled Freeman’s emotion, with the bitter rivaling, if not surpassing, the candy.

Freeman’s choice to depart the brave for the Dodgers was one of the crucial regrettable free agent ends in latest reminiscence, and for which each and every social gathering — the Braves, Freeman’s brokers at Excel Sports activities Administration, Freeman himself — bears the blame.

The episode mirrored on a lot of what’s unsuitable with skilled sports activities within the twenty first century. Groups extra involved with payroll effectivity than loyalty to the gamers rewarding them. Brokers extra involved with setting a monetary normal than honoring their purchasers’ needs. Fan favorites fly to different golf equipment as a result of… effectively, why precisely?

Freeman’s choice to hitch the Dodgers on a six-year, $162 million free agent deal appeared unlucky when it occurred greater than three months in the past. It seemed even worse over the weekend, when Freeman shed sufficient tears to water the enjoying floor at Truist Park for the following three months.

And surprisingly, the saga continues to be not over.

On Sunday evening, throughout ESPN’s broadcast of the Dodgers-Braves collection finale, all baseball brokers obtained a “don’t contact Freddie Freeman” e-mail from the Main League Baseball Gamers Affiliation. The Syndicate solely points such orders on the request of a participant. In such instances, the participant usually needs to keep away from being inundated with calls or messages from his former company, or different brokers serious about representing him.

A number of brokers mentioned Sunday evening that Freeman determined to fireside Excel. Freeman declined to remark. Athleticism on Sunday and once more on Monday. Casey Shut, Excel’s chief agent, didn’t reply to requests for remark.

ESPN reported on Tuesday that Freeman had give up Excel, however Freeman nonetheless would not verify publicly, describing the state of affairs as, “fluid.” At this level, it could be a shock if Freeman stayed with the company. Possibly he simply is not prepared, for some motive, to make the information official.

Freeman, 32, lastly appears to appreciate he wants to maneuver on, telling reporters on Tuesday, “there needs to be a shutdown,” after told me in an interview for Fox Sports activities on Saturday, “I am not seeking to have a closure. I do not need to shut down one thing that was so particular to me for 15 years. However to borrow a time period steadily invoked by gamers, all events concerned should “put on it”. One after the other, this is why:

The courageous

Let’s begin with the property of Liberty Media, which reported $568 million in total Braves revenue for 2021, a season during which, ahem, Freeman helped the workforce win its first World Sequence title in 25 years.

Liberty Media and the blue jays‘, Rogers Communications, are the one two main league house owners who, as publicly traded entities, should report earnings. The Braves’ success, each on the sphere and within the Liberty-owned Battery improvement adjoining to Truist Park, spurred Liberty to set a second straight payroll report, rising from $131.4 million on Sport Day. opening in 2021 at $177.8 million in 22.

So why draw the road with Freeman?

That choose, it appears, largely rested with president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos, who, regardless of Liberty’s latest largesse, is not operating on limitless assets. The Braves, even after growing their payroll, solely rank ninth among the many majors. So when Anthopoulos in August 2021 provided Freeman a five-year, $135 million extension — $5 million greater than the Cardinals gave an arguably superior first baseman, Paul Goldschmidt – he won’t have been snug going a lot additional. Whether or not he elevated the supply to $140 million as soon as Freeman was a free agent is in dispute.

My perception – and the idea of various baseball brokers and executives – is that Anthopoulos most well-liked the case to proceed exactly because it did, with the Braves buying and selling for a extra affordable facsimile younger and cheaper from Freeman, Matt Olson. Is Olson nearly as good as Freeman proper now? Most likely not. However his eight-year, $168 million contract covers his 28-35 seasons. Freeman’s cope with the Dodgers covers his campaigns from 32 to 37 years.

Olson price the Braves 4 prospects of their commerce with the Athletics, however his common annual worth of $21 million left the workforce with extra payroll flexibility than Freeman would have at $27 million or $28 million per particular person. The Braves, who excel at scouting and participant improvement, included receiver Shea Langeliers as a centerpiece of their A-deal, partly as a result of that they had one other younger receiver, Guillaume Contreraswho emerges this season as a possible star.

So Anthopoulos and the Braves might very effectively find yourself wanting sensible. Their followers had no downside embracing Olson, who grew up in Lilburn, Georgia. However Freeman was an immensely common homegrown expertise, a worthy inheritor to Corridor of Famer Chipper Jones, exactly the sort of participant who ought to spend his total profession with one workforce. If the Braves actually needed it, they did not push arduous sufficient.

Excel

The feelings Freeman displayed in Atlanta confirmed he was delicate. He mentioned he made it clear to Excel early on in talks with the Braves that he needed to remain in Atlanta. At this level, Excel’s mission ought to have been clear. Discuss to different groups. Exert as a lot leverage as potential. However in the long run, make the absolute best cope with the Braves.

Freeman needed six years assured, or at the least Excel needed six years assured for him. Excel can level to 2 prime gives made by low-income folks Rays, according to ESPN — six years, $140 million or seven years, $150 million — as proof the Braves did not attempt arduous sufficient. However Excel ought to have identified his consumer and the way he would react if he left the Braves. If Freeman’s overwhelming precedence was being in Atlanta, nothing else ought to have mattered.

Excel will accumulate the fee on Freeman’s cope with the Dodgers, which, at baseball’s normal charge of 5%, could be $8.1 million over the course of the deal. Freeman’s loss, nonetheless, would mark the second high-profile departure of a newly signed free agent consumer from the company previously two months. second baseman Trevor’s Storywho signed a six-year, $140 million contract with the Red Sox in an settlement that grew to become official on March 20, switched to Wasserman Baseball finish of April.

Freeman had motive to belief Excel, who negotiated his eight-year, $135 million extension with the Braves in February 2014. The extremely revered company represents Corridor of Famer Derek Jeter in addition to a quantity present stars, together with Goldschmidt, Clayton Kershaw, Kyle Schwarber, George Springer and – ahem – the present Braves shortstop Dansby Swansonwhich is in its marching 12 months.

Excel, nonetheless, ought to have anticipated Freeman’s response. The company lastly bought a assured sixth 12 months from the Dodgers, however to what finish? Freeman’s $162 million deal, given increased California tax charges and deferred funds within the contract, might be comparable in internet value to the $135 million the Braves are identified to have provided. And in line with sources, one in all Freeman’s motivations for leaving Excel is to stop the company from trumpeting his deal as its newest triumph.

Freddie Freeman

So who was operating the present right here, anyway? Freeman doesn’t work for Excel; the company works for him. And it is Freeman’s fault, greater than anybody else, that he did not find yourself precisely the place he needed to.

As a lot as he might need thought he had made his needs clear to Shut and Victor Menocal, the Excel consultant he often communicated with, Freeman ought to have been extra straight concerned within the course of. He’s not the primary participant influenced by his agent to hunt the most important contract on essentially the most snug touchdown spot. He additionally would not have been the primary participant to overturn his agent’s choice, even when it meant much less cash for each events.

That mentioned, Freddie worries an excessive amount of.

The Dodgers weren’t precisely an undesirable touchdown spot for Freeman, who hails from Orange County in Southern California. Freeman and his spouse, Chelsea, spent the offseason at their oceanfront residence in Corona Del Mar, an hour from Los Angeles. And the workforce has made 9 straight playoff appearances, an much more spectacular run than the Braves’ 4 straight division titles.

Freeman, if he does certainly go away Excel, wouldn’t want an agent for contract negotiations till his present contract expires, and a lawyer or enterprise supervisor might help him with endorsements and different questions. He’ll be advantageous, though nobody needs to be shocked if his outpouring of emotion final weekend raised eyebrows amongst his new teammates.

Kershaw appeared to ship a not-so-subtle message to Freeman, telling the Atlanta Journal-Structure, “I hope we’re not second fiddles. They are a fairly particular workforce right here too. Dodgers supervisor Dave Roberts, nonetheless, defended his new first baseman’s response by saying Athleticism Fabien Ardaya“If anybody has an issue with that, it is on them. It should not be an issue. This man has helped us win a ton of video games this 12 months and can proceed to take action.

Honest sufficient, however final weekend turned out to be much less of a celebration and extra of an consciousness of all that went unsuitable. A participant, a workforce and an company, all achieved, mixed to provide an unlucky and pointless consequence. Too bitter, not candy sufficient.

(Freddie Freeman prime picture: Bob Andres/Related Press)

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