As Jason Day once said, “It’s okay to dream big.” With that, Atlanta Braves fans may want to get on board with dreaming about Freddie Freeman because the latest rumors do not bode well for Braves fans. After the 2021 season, it was seemingly determined Freddie Freeman would return to the Atlanta Braves. How could he not? Freeman was drafted by the Braves in the second round of the 2007 draft and has spent every season since in the organization. Some teams have emerged as new suitors to include the Chicago Cubs.
With 12 seasons in Atlanta complete, Freddie Freeman has mashed a total of 271 home runs with a super impressive .295/.384/.509 slash line as well as a career 138 OPS+. The awards followed with five All-Star Selections, Gold Gloves, Silver Sluggers, and the coveted Most Valuable Player award in 2020.
Coming off of an eight-year, $135 million contract signed in 2014, Freeman is due for another big payday. Entering his age-32 season, Freddie Freeman should be in line for a contract north of the $130 million Paul Goldschmidt received from the St. Louis Cardinals in 2019.
My best guess is Freeman lands a six-year deal worth $160 million based on the enormous success of his last two years coupled with the fact that the designated hitter will now be in place during National League games. Here are Freddie Freeman’s top three destinations:
For obvious reasons, the Atlanta Braves make sense to re-sign Freddie Freeman. The fans love him and the organization loves him. Are the Braves willing to pay Freeman? They should be willing. Right now, the Atlanta Braves have about $60 million until they hit the luxury tax threshold giving them more than enough room to sign Freeman. The only first basemen on the Braves roster is Orlando Arcia and he would not come anywhere close to replacing Freeman’s production at the plate.
Last year, the Braves spent about $153 million on payroll. This year, they currently have $125 million for payroll leaving them just enough money to sign Freeman for the $27-$28 million per year he will garner.
Last year, the Chicago Cubs only reached 0.8 WAR amongst their first basemen. Admittedly, Anthony Rizzo did not play the whole season in Chicago and would have positively impacted the final number. However, Frank Schwindel took 244 plate appearances as the everyday first basemen once Rizzo was traded. Schwindel came on strong and finished with a .342/.389/.613 slash line to go along with 13 home runs and 19 doubles. Schwindel and Freeman could platoon in a designated hitter/first basemen position in order to give Freddie Freeman’s legs extra rest.
The Cubs would not sacrifice power or defense by switching Schwindel and Freeman between first and designated hitter. It comes down to money. Will the Chicago Cubs be willing to make a splash at first base? Is shortstop a higher priority for building blocks?
The Cubs will remain a long shot but they still have an opportunity. This deal does not come to fruition unless the Cubs feel good about an effective, inexpensive option at shortstop with a different prospect in mind as a building block instead of a current free agent. In other words, the stars would have to align for Freddie Freeman to play the majority of his games in Wrigley Field.
Our dark horse contender to sign Freddie Freeman is none other than the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners only have $70 million committed to players for the 2022 season leaving $106 million before the team hits the luxury tax threshold.
Ty France is slated to be the starting first basemen. In his first real sustained major league action, France proved himself to be above average at the plate. Although he struck out more than needed (106 Ks in 650 PAs), he was able to level it out with 18 home runs, 32 doubles, and a 128 OPS+. In 101 starts at first, France committed only one error proving his value in the field.
Again, if Freeman were to sign with the Mariners, you could see a DH/1B platoon with France and Freeman in order to give Freeman’s 32-year-old legs the rest they need to function throughout a 162 game season.
The money is there. Is the willpower there? Do the Mariners really want to make a big splash with young prospects progressing quickly to the majors? The answer is a resounding yes.