Freddie Freeman Rumors

NL East Notes: Dietrich, Upton, Hamels, Papelbon

Cole Hamels fired a no-hitter against the Cubs in what could have been his final start for the Phillies. Cubs manager Joe Maddon thinks the studly performance will help the Phillies to land a top prospect, tweets Todd Zolecki of Meanwhile, the Nationals welcomed back Anthony Rendon, and the Braves activated Freddie Freeman. Washington also expects Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman to return soon.

Here’s more from the NL East:

  • The Marlins have drawn trade interest in utility fielder Derek Dietrich, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Miami would move him for the right return. Rosenthal adds that some teams view him as a potential starter at second or third base. Dietrich is hitting .301/.378/.548 in 82 plate appearances at the top level this season. The Marlins have used him as a platoon bat against right-handed pitchers while Dee Gordon recovers.
  • The Mets were rumored to be in pursuit of Padres outfielder Justin Upton, but nothing is imminent, writes Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Upton is currently sidelined with a mild oblique strain. Lin lists Upton and Tigers outfielder Yoenis Cespedes as the top hitters on the market. The Mets have the worst offense of any contender, although tonight’s outburst should help the season numbers. They’re currently third to last in team wRC+. The Phillies and White Sox are the only teams trailing New York. The acquisition of Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe will help, but only so much.
  • The market for Hamels includes the Dodgers, Cubs, Red Sox, and Rangers, writes Jayson Stark of ESPN. He mentions the Red Sox as non-traditional buyers with a desperate need to succeed in 2016. Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald tweets that some Phillies talent evaluators are “very high” on prospect Manuel Margot.
  • Earlier today, we learned the Nationals were interested in Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon. Add the Cubs and Blue Jays to the list of engaged clubs, writes Zolecki. Both Chicago and Toronto are practical fits for Papelbon who has said he won’t accept a trade to serve as a setup man. The Nationals would either need to change his mind or demote Drew Storen despite excellent performance.

NL East Notes: Mets, d’Arnaud, Freeman, Desmond, Marlins

The Mets aren’t likely to acquire an outfielder in advance of the trade deadline, sources tell Adam Rubin of ESPN New York (Twitter link). Collectively, the Mets outfield has batted .236/.297/.369 this season, with much of that production coming courtesy of Curtis Granderson‘s very solid .243/.340/.417 batting line. The offensive contribution from Mets outfielders has been roughly 10 percent worse than the league-average batting line when accounting for park factors, evidenced by their wRC+ of just 90. Michael Cuddyer, Juan Lagares and John Mayberry Jr. have all provided little to no contribution with the bat, leaving considerable room for an upgrade. The Mets do have one of the best outfield prospects in baseball in the form of 2014 first-rounder Michael Conforto, though to this point all media reports pertaining to a Conforto promotion have indicated that such a move is not close.

Elsewhere in the National League East…

  • The return of Travis d’Arnaud to the Mets‘ anemic lineup would be another way to boost the club’s run production, and Marc Carig of Newsday tweets some positive news on his recovery. D’Arnaud is out of the brace he had been wearing on his injured elbow and is participating in “limited baseball activities,” GM Sandy Alderson tells Carig. The timetable on d’Arnaud’s return remains cloudy, but the update is nonetheless encouraging for Mets fans.
  • News on the Braves‘ injury front isn’t as positive, as president of baseball operations tells Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Freddie Freeman may be sidelined into the month of August. The Braves had hoped Freeman would be activated right after the All-Star break. “It’s more serious than we expected,” said Hart. “…He’s working hard to get back but it’s a slow-healing injury and it still gives him pain when he swings. … We gave him an injection and thought he would be back in two or three days but it was no better. We did further tests and found it was more serious than we thought.” A prolonged absence for the club’s best hitter does little to instill confidence that the 42-47 Braves can right the ship.
  • On the heels of a dismal first half for shortstop Ian Desmond, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo gave a vote of confidence to the struggling star. “He’s our shortstop, he’s gonna be our shortstop,” said Rizzo to James Wagner of the Washington Post. “He’s a leader of the ballclub. He’s a three-time Silver Slugger that we think he’s going to be Ian Desmond in the second half. He’s got a great attitude, a great work ethic.” The strong words seem to indicate that there are no present plans for a changing of the guard at short, even an internal switch such as giving the revitalized Danny Espinosa some more at-bats at shortstop. Desmond, of course, is a free agent at season’s end, so the poor first half comes with serious financial implications.
  • Though Marlins players generally like manager Dan Jennings, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports that the GM-turned-skipper did upset some of the club’s pitchers when stating that pitching help was on the way in the form of Jose Fernandez. Some within the clubhouse took the comment as a slight. Jackson hears that some within the clubhouse think Jennings’ motivational tactics are better suited for a room of executives than a group of players.

NL East Notes: Freeman, Marlins, Hamels, Zobrist, Mets, Franco

A bone bruise in his right wrist has landed Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman on the DL, writes’s Mark Bowman. The team is hopeful that Freeman won’t miss too much time, but Bowman adds that it would be “optimistic” to expect that he will return on July 3 when he is first eligible to be activated.

A few more items pertaining to the NL East…

  • Though they’re 11 games under .500, the Marlins are not yet thinking of selling, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links). The team could revisit that thinking if things don’t improve after facing the Cardinals, Dodgers and Giants on the upcoming homestand, he says. Still, the team could soon have a surplus of starting pitching on its hands, once Jose Fernandez, Jarred Cosart and Henderson Alvarez are all activated from the disabled list. Mat Latos could end up being the odd man out, Rosenthal speculates, adding that veteran righty Dan Haren isn’t likely to be moved.
  • While reports of scouts watching a certain team/player can sometimes be overblown, there are a pair of NL East clubs scouting possible trade pieces tonight. The Nationals have a high-level scout watching the Athletics tonight, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports, noting that Washington has been linked to Ben Zobrist recently. Additionally, Jared Sandler of the Rangers Radio Network tweets that the Phillies have a scout in attendance for Chi Chi Gonzalez‘s start tonight. Gonzalez’s name has been floated in rumors connecting the Rangers to Cole Hamels.
  • Andy Martino of the New York Daily News joined SNY’s Mostly Mets podcast to discuss possible upgrades for the Mets‘ offense (audio link). “They’re moving cautiously, because my understanding is that they have payroll flexibility, but essentially, Alderson has one big bullet to fire that way,” Martino said. Alderson may have the ability to either add a few lower-cost pieces or pursue one more expensive player, but Martino points to Alderson’s history of not parting with significant prospect packages to outbid other clubs in speculating that the ultimate result of the Mets’ trade efforts will be adding a few lower-profile pieces.
  • The Mets announced today that Travis d’Arnaud has hit the DL with a sprain in his left elbow (Twitter link). At this time, there’s no immediate timetable for d’Arnaud’s return, though it’s at least positive that the injury is in his non-throwing elbow.
  • In the wake of Maikel Franco‘s scorching hot streak and his third homer in two games at Yankee Stadium, Jim Salisbury of tweets that the Phillies beat the Yankees‘ offer to Franco by a mere $5,000 back in 2010. Philadelphia offered Franco a $100K signing bonus, whereas the Yankees’ top offer was $95K. That’s probably another $5-10K that the Yankees wish they’d spent, though there’s little certainty when dealing with players of that age. (Franco was 17 at the time he signed with the Phils.)

NL East Notes: Freeman, Olivera, Shields

With the Braves in the throes of a rapid rebuilding effort, first baseman Freddie Freeman has now played more games with the Braves than anyone else on the roster, writes Mark Bowman of While Freeman is optimistic about the 2015 season, it’s worth noting that Justin Upton, Jason Heyward, and Evan Gattis represented 51 percent of the club’s home runs in 2014. Losing the three biggest bashers from an otherwise moribund offense could be seen as a major issue. Freeman hopes a greater emphasis on contact will help to counteract the loss of power.

  • The Braves held a private workout for Cuban second baseman Hector Olivera, reports Ben Badler of Baseball America. In attendance to watch the 29-year-old were manager Fredi Gonzalez and assistant GM John Coppolella. Olivera is likely to sign as a second or third baseman – both positions the Braves could improve upon. Current candidates for both positions include Chris Johnson, Alberto Callaspo, Kelly Johnson, Jace Peterson, and Phil Gosselin. The Padres and Giants have also been tied to Olivera per Baseball America.
  • The Marlins should consider a “Hail Mary” offer for free agent pitcher James Shields, suggests Joe Frisaro of A two-year, $35MM proposal might represent the limit for what the club can afford. Since Shields rejected a qualifying offer, he’ll cost a draft pick to sign in addition to the financial considerations. Such an offer represents a long shot for both sides. The Marlins are thought to be up against their payroll limit, so an addition would require the approval of owner Jeffrey Loria. From Shields perspective, he’s thought to be seeking at least four years and $70MM.


Quick Hits: Towles, Braves, Prospects

There have been 23 perfect games in Major League history and 16 instances of a player hitting four home runs in one game, and both of these rare baseball events have taken place on April 30.  White Sox right-hander Charlie Robertson threw a perfecto against the Tigers on this day in 1922; 39 years later, the legendary Willie Mays homered four times as part of a 14-4 Giants rout of the Braves.  Incredibly, there have been two other instances of a four-homer game and a perfect game on the same day — July 18 (Pat Seerey in 1948 and David Cone in 1999) and May 8 (Josh Hamilton in 2012 and Catfish Hunter in 1968).

Here’s some news from around the majors as we head into May…

  • J.R. Towles is fully recovered from a home plate collision that ended his 2013 season and is receiving some interest from Major League teams, MLBTR’s Zach Links reports (Twitter links).  Considered a top-55 prospect headed into the 2008 season, Towles hit .187/.267/.315 in 484 PA with the Astros from 2007-11.  The catcher spent 2012-13 playing for the Triple-A affiliates of the Twins, Dodgers and Cardinals, and is currently hitting well for the independent Bridgeport Bluefish.
  • Three years ago, Jason Heyward was seen as the Braves‘ signature star of the future while Freddie Freeman was projected to have a more modest ceiling, Sports Illustrated’s Ben Reiter writes.  Now, Freeman is emerging as one of the game’s best first basemen while Heyward has yet to truly break through thanks to both injuries and a hole in his swing.  Reflecting how the two players have switched roles, the Braves only locked Heyward up to a two-year commitment during their offseason extension frenzy, while Freeman was given an eight-year, $135MM contract.
  • In an Insider-only piece for, Jim Bowden looks at seven top prospects who could be making their Major League debuts sometime this season.
  • Fortitude is a quality that every scout wants to see in a pitcher, yet it’s one of those intangibles that is hard to both identify or even define, Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus writes.

Freddie Freeman And The Changing Extension Market

Freddie Freeman's eight-year, $135MM extension, signed as he entered his first of three years of arbitration eligibility, certainly appears to present a new model for extensions. As I noted yesterday in writing up the signing (along with MLBTR's Steve Adams), the deal wants for ready comparables.

Ryan Braun's five-year, $105MM guarantee with the Brewers came at a similar point in the players' service clocks, but Braun was both a next-level talent and already bound by five more years of an earlier extension. (In that respect, the second Evan Longoria extension is similar.) The cleanest comp — Justin Morneau's January 2008 extension with the Twins (six years, $80MM) — is unquestionably out of date.

One is tempted to look at two similarly-sized deals for an explanation. Buster Posey landed eight years and $159MM from the Giants just before playing out his Super-2 season. But Posey had a Rookie of the Year Award, two World Series titles, and an MVP award under his belt, and is one of the game's premier players at a premium defensive position. Looking at first basemen, Adrian Gonzalez's 2011 deal with the Red Sox (seven years, $154MM) appears to land ahead of Freeman's deal, but Gonzalez was less than a year shy of free agency and had posted five straight years of production that averaged out to Freeman's best single season.

Then, there is last year's $120MM promise made by the Rangers to Elvis Andrus. Particularly when one considers that the Andrus deal — unlike Freeman's — conveyed significant upside to the player via two opt-out provisions, that contract seems a closer mark. Granted, Andrus was a year nearer to free agency than was Freeman and probably carries a higher floor as a top-end, up-the-middle defender. But like Freeman, Andrus was 24 at the time of the deal and was promised big money for future years well before he was ready to enter the open market. Critically, unlike Posey, neither Andrus nor Freeman are fully established, superstar-level players. 

Both the Andrus and Freeman contracts raise an important question for market valuation of extensions. Though he rejects the Andrus deal as a comp given the differences in service time, Dave Cameron of Fangraphs argues that Freeman's contract represents a market correction — not an outlier. Utilizing MLBTR's Extension Tracker, Cameron looks at the recent history of four-year or longer extensions inked by players that were still three or more years away from free agency. The results show that such contracts have been startlingly team-friendly, and not just because the arbitration and pre-arbitration years included came at an understandably cheaper rate.

Cameron estimates that roughly 75% of the deals have worked out swimmingly for the team, noting that Andrew McCutchen's deal standing alone probably saved the Pirates more money than was wasted on the few failed extensions. Freeman's new deal could, Cameron suggests, render largely obsolete the recent early-career extension models.

While I would suggest that the Andrus deal represents a similar data point in the correction Cameron proposes, the point stands. Freeman's contract, perhaps, shows that the phenomenon has extended back earlier in the service time spectrum. Put together, the Andrus and Freeman deals show that non-superstar players can command prices more commensurate with their abilities — and, correspondingly, that such players have greater bargaining power than was previously possible at their levels of service.

This development is similar to that observed in this year's free agent market. As I recently wrote, the rise in free agent spending has been driven by a boom in two types of deals: two-year and four-or-more-year contracts. Simply put, with more TV money (national and local) on the market, players have seen an uptick in their ability to pry away money and years. Some of the types of players that used to settle for one year have been able to demand two; some of those that used to get three years have scored four or more. 

Likewise, non-superstar, above-average extension candidates appear increasingly to have enhanced bargaining power to demand more (and more expensive) years. Indeed, that seems to be precisely how Braves GM Frank Wren viewed the Freeman extension. As's Mark Bowman reports, Wren made some illuminating comments yesterday:

"The deal makes sense because the normal escalation the three arbitration years would have had naturally. Then he gets paid in his free agent years at the current market. What we're I guess gambling is that by the time his free agent years come in three years, that market may have inflated even further and we've got a good deal. We feel it's a solid market deal as [there] is for an above-average player." 

Viewing Freeman as a young and very good player, but not necessarily a top-line superstar, the Braves were willing (and, given their new stadium deal, able) to promise him current open-market rates for his future services. As Cameron notes, it was not long ago that McCutchen — coming off of a year that bettered Freeman's platform year, and playing a premium defensive position — sold three free agent years (the last one of which was not even guaranteed) for just $41MM in total. Freeman is promised $106.5MM over five free agent years. Simply put, the Freeman deal is different in concept.

One other salient point to be made, as Cameron also observes, relates to age. Masahiro Tanaka just commanded one of the biggest contract commitments ever made to a player ($175MM with posting fee included) despite having never thrown a pitch in North America. The reason he could command a financial output greater than that made for an established top-of-the-line free agent like Zack Greinke — just one year earlier, on the open market — boils down in large part to the fact that he is just 25 years old.

With an increasing appreciation for the analytical value of aging curves, it makes greater sense to make a long-term commitment at a point at which that commitment covers peak years of a player's career. In this sense, perhaps, the extensions of Freeman and Andrus (both 24 at the time of signing) represents an acknowledgement that earlier commitments deliver both a safer and higher-upside investment. Of course, the corresponding result is that young players could continue to see a substantially enhanced bargaining position even though they remain years away from free agency.

Of course, all of this does not necessarily mean that deals of this ilk will replace completely the old model of the "team-friendly extension" for non-superstars. The lesson, I think, is this: it is now demonstrably plausible for a younger, non-superstar player to make a credible demand for a more sizeable contract, rather than selling their future at a cut rate to avoid risk of injury or decline. At least when that player's team is sufficiently motivated and financially able to meet that price, such contracts are a reasonably achievable outcome.

Put another way: whereas Cameron calls the Freeman deal a market correction, as distinguished from being an outlier, I would suggest that it is representative of a new conceptual model that can still exist alongside others. (A fine distinction, to be sure.) Whether or not this new model comes to dominate the market remains to be seen, but its introduction both reflects a booming market and changes the scope of possibilities moving forward.

Ultimately, any player — particularly one who did not get a big signing bonus and has yet to reach multi-million arbitration paydays — must balance risk against the potential sacrifice of future earnings. As Cory Luebke recently reminded us with his need for a second Tommy John surgery after signing his extension, nothing is guaranteed until pen meets paper. Likewise, teams that lack the will or the capacity to guarantee current market rates for future free agent years, or that have genuine questions about the player's ability to continue or increase performance levels going forward, will remain hesitant to make Freeman or Andrus-sized commitments. 

It remains eminently possible, then, that below-market valuations on free-agent years will still remain a reasonable outcome as well. Extensions will continue to occur at the point that player and team incentives overlap. Surely, however, the Freeman and Andrus extensions have shown that the point of overlap may be rising. And they show that players with less service time (and less mileage on their bodies and more peak years yet to come) can drive their demands northward. 

The effect may well continue to trickle down. After all, the purpose of extensions is to increase the value of an asset (the team's rights in a player) by taking advantage of exclusive negotiating rights and leverage through team control. Though there are practical limits to the practice — including roster limitations, risk, and the relative availability of commensurate players — it stands to reason that the general theory applies nearly as much to good players as it does to great ones. Just as relatively marginal free agents have been able to increase their long-term security  by adding guaranteed years, more marginal extension candidates might increasingly be able to secure multi-year guarantees at reasonably substantial rates from teams looking to invest their money wisely. 

Players whose potential extension talks could be impacted include not only superstars like Giancarlo Stanton (3.118 years of service), but above-average players such as Pedro Alvarez (3.085). We knew already that Mike Trout (2.070) would command a massive deal, but will, say, Eric Hosmer (2.146) or Brandon Belt (2.128) command a Freeman-esque deal if they talk extension with their clubs next winter? Or might their clubs take a harder line, forcing the players either to wait for a big-dollar promise or take a smaller deal? Each of these outcomes is possible. Many other 2+ position players could have their extension situations impacted by the Freeman framework, led by names like Kyle Seager, Jason Kipnis, and Desmond Jennings.

Then, of course, there is the pitching market that just paid the youthful (but not MLB-tested) Tanaka like an established MLB frontline starter. Will that logic extend to the extension market? Increased risk has always factored into pitching extensions, but the standard five-year, $30-35MM extension could soon be busted as well. Can, say, Mike Minor (2.138) take down more guaranteed money than did Chris Sale just last year? That depends on the countervailing wills of the player and the club. But after Freeman's deal, Minor (and others like him) certainly can plausibly insist that the prevailing model is not the only way.

Braves Extend Freddie Freeman

THURSDAY: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports provides the contract breakdown (Twitter link): Freeman received a $2.875MM signing bonus. He will be paid $5.125MM in 2014, $8.5MM in 2015 and $12MM in 2016. His free agent years are valued at $20.5MM (2017), $21MM (2018-19) and $22MM (2020-21).

TUESDAY: Freddie Freeman has reached an extension with the Braves that not only gives him the franchise's highest-ever salary, but constitutes one of the biggest guarantees ever made to a player with less than four years of service time. The team announced the eight-year deal, which will reportedly guarantee the first baseman a stunning $135MM.

Freeman, like teammate Jason Heyward (who reached a two-year contract agreement earlier today), is represented by Excel Sports Management. His agents have secured him a larger guarantee than the five-year, $105MM promise made by the Brewers to Ryan Braun when he still had less than four years of service. It also bests the $120MM guarantee given by the Rangers last year to Elvis Andrus, when he had four years on his clock. The deal slots in beneath the eight-year, $159MM guarantee made by the Giants to Buster Posey (with less than three years of service) and the seven-year, $154MM deal given Adrian Gonzalez by the Red Sox back in 2011 (when he was a year away from free agency).


The 24-year-old Freeman is coming off a breakout season in which he finished fifth in the National League MVP voting and earned his first All-Star nod. Freeman slashed .319/.396/.501 with 23 homers for the NL East Division champs in 2013. But Freeman was somewhat less outstanding in his prior two seasons (the first of which was his rookie campaign at just 21 years of age). Posting a sturdy 1,255 plate appearances between 2011-12, Freeman slashed .271/.343/.452 and knocked 44 long balls. Though Freeman benefitted from a .371 BABIP last year, he also showed improvements in his strikeout and walk rates while carrying one of the league's best line drive rates. Clearly, the Braves expect Freeman to continue last year's output.

On the defensive side of the ledger, advanced metrics show mixed reviews but a clearly improving outlook. Freeman received his first positive UZR/150 rating this past year, and that metric sees clear and steady improvement across Freeman's early career. Meanwhile, Defensive Runs Saved reflects a similar upward trajectory and credits Feeman with saving a solid seven runs last year. Indeed, the Fielding Bible Awards voting tapped Freeman as the fourth-best fielding first bagger in the game.

For an idea of how this deal reflects on league-wide salary trends, consider Justin Morneau's January 25, 2008 extension with the Twins. With 3.168 years of service under his belt, and coming off of an MVP and then an All-Star campaign, the fellow first baseman was promised $80MM over six years. Though younger, Freeman signs his deal at a point at which he has shown a somewhat lower high-water mark and, arguably at least, a less-promising overall trajectory than that of Morneau. 

Indeed, as MLBTR's Steve Adams notes on Twitter, the Braves seem to have paid a hefty price for the five free agent years covered by the new contract. Even making the aggressive assumption that Freeman would earn $30MM over his arbitration period — quite unlikely, since he stood to make less than $6MM this year already — then the contract pays him a $21MM AAV for his free agent years. That implied free agency value, which is surely a low estimate, seems like a fairly steep price for a promise made three full seasons before Freeman would have hit the open market.

Freeman and the Braves faced a fairly wide gap after exchanging arbitration figures last month, as Freeman filed for a $5.75MM salary and the Braves countered at $4.5MM (MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz had projected a $4.9MM payday for Freeman).

Though the Braves are a "file and trial" team, GM Frank Wren reminded after Heyward's new contract that said policy is only in reference to one-year deals. That line of thinking is common among file and trial clubs, as they are unwilling to continue negotiating one-year pacts after exchanging figures but will typically remain amenable to extensions leading up to an arbitration hearing.

Freeman had previously been controllable through the 2016 season, but this new contract extends well beyond his initial six years of team control. Freeman will not be eligible for free agency until 2022, when he will be 32 years old. As such, it's a significant deal for the Braves, who typically don't make that type of commitment to players in advance of free agency.

The only player with fewer than five years of service time that has been extended to a deal of this length under general manager Frank Wren was Brian McCann, who inked a six-year, $26.8MM contract heading into the 2007 season when he had just 189 big league games (696 PAs) under his belt. McCann had less than two years of service time under his belt at that point, while Freeman is currently at three years, 33 days. Freeman's deal is the largest in franchise history for the Braves, eclipsing the six-year, $90MM pact inked by Chipper Jones prior to the 2001 season.

With Freeman and Heyward now having agreed to extensions, the Braves can turn their focus to closer Craig Kimbrel — their lone remaining arbitration case. Kimbrel filed for a $9MM salary to the Braves' $6.55MM offer, making his gap significantly more substantial than the gaps faced by Freeman or Heyward.

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports first reported the agreement on Twitter. Jon Paul Morosi and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first reported that the two sides were nearing a multi-year deal (Twitter link). Morosi first reported that the deal was in the realm of eight years and nine figures (Twitter links). The Associated Press reported that the deal was for eight years and nine figures (via the New York Times). Peter Gammons of reported that the deal would pay Freeman $135MM (via Twitter).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AL East Notes: Davis, Yoon, Lobaton, Yankees

It's been a busy day for Orioles news, as so far we've heard that the O's are one of three finalists for Bronson Arroyo, Baltimore signed Jack Cust and Evan Meek to minor league contracts, Grantland's Jonah Keri explored the team's recent spending history and its MASN TV contract, and MLBTR's Steve Adams wrapped up even a few more O's items as part of an East Notes post.  Heck, why stop now?  Here are more Orioles tidbits plus more news from around the AL East…

  • Freddie Freeman's eight-year, $135MM extension with the Braves could very well change the parameters for the Orioles' possible extension with Chris Davis, observes's Roch Kubatko.  "If Davis comes close to duplicating his 2013 season, [agent Scott] Boras will view Freeman's salary as chump change," Kubatko writes.  The Braves' deal with Freeman, 24, covered his three remaining arbitration-eligible years and his first five free agent years, while the 28-year-old Davis has just one year of arbitration eligibility remaining before hitting free agency following the 2015 season.
  • Also from Kubatko, he questions if the Orioles would make a multiyear offer to Suk-min Yoon given his shoulder history and how the O's were recently burned by Tsuyoshi Wada's injury history.  With Yoon looking for a two-year commitment and the Rangers, Giants, Cubs and Twins all showing, a one-year offer might not be enough to get it done for the Orioles.
  • The Rays have been talking to the Nationals about a Jose Lobaton trade for at least a month,'s Bill Ladson reports, though the two sides can't settle on what the Rays would get back in return.  Though the Nats are one of several teams interested in Lobaton, Tampa Bay is in no hurry to deal the catcher and could wait until Spring Training begins to move him.
  • The Yankees' struggles to draft and develop quality minor league talent in recent years is chronicled by ESPN New York's Wallace Matthews and Andrew Marchand.
  • Over at Roto Authority, MLBTR's fantasy baseball-focused sister site, I looked at which of the Orioles' Manny Machado or the Blue Jays' Brett Lawrie is the better bet for fantasy success in 2014.

Braves Notes: Freeman, Heyward, Kimbrel, Uggla

Dave Cameron of Fangraphs looks at Freddie Freeman's massive eight-year, $135MM extension and concludes that the contract continues the trend of teams paying for youth over track record. Cameron notes that we saw a similar gamble with the Yankees' investment in Masahiro Tanaka — a player with literally no track record in the Majors but the allure of his prime years being for sale. Cameron draws comparisons to Ryan Braun and Shin-Soo Choo (whose contracts run through their mid-30s) in stating that the prime years of a "good-not-great" player are more valuable than the decline years of a superstar who is rewarded for what he has done rather than what he will do in the future. More on Freeman's deal and the Braves…

  • In an Insider-only blog post (subscription recommended), ESPN's Buster Olney writes that the Freeman extension has plenty of meaning for his teammates. For one, Olney feels that the deal all but guarantees that Jason Heyward will be playing elsewhere in 2016. Heyward will likely be too spendy for the Braves as a 26-year-old free agent if he plays well for the next two seasons, as the team won't be able to afford both him and Freeman. If Heyward doesn't play well enough to land a massive free agent deal, the Braves likely won't be interested in retaining him anyhow.
  • Likewise, Olney continues, the Braves are unlikely to be able to afford Craig Kimbrel in the long-term, and the Freeman contract gives the front office with "a greater foundation on which to explain to the fan base that difficult choices have to be made." Olney opines that the Braves would be wise to shop Kimbrel as soon as this summer, even if they are contending, as his value will be at its apex, and history shows that teams pay more for relievers in midseason trades than in offseason trades.
  • David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote earlier in the week (prior to yesterday's extensions) that though the Braves did not make any significant upgrades to their 2014 roster, the team is still well-positioned to contend. O'Brien points out that Atlanta will get a full season of Brandon Beachy to help offset the loss of Tim Hudson, adding that the Braves' rotation already ranked sixth in the Majors in ERA last season. Similarly, the Braves can expect ace setup man Jonny Venters back in May, which should further bolster their pitching staff.
  • O'Brien also addresses the unlikely issue of a Dan Uggla trade, noting that even with a monster Spring Training that had scouts starting to believe, the Braves would need to eat as much as $16-18MM of the remaining $26MM on his contract to facilitate a trade. In the event that they're able to trade Uggla, Atlanta would be content to let Tyler Pastornicky, Tommy La Stella and Ramiro Pena handle second base.

Braves, Freddie Freeman Close To Extension

The Braves are close to announcing an extension for Freddie Freeman, according to Jon Paul Morosi and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link). Freeman, like teammate Jason Heyward (who reached a two-year contract agreement earlier today), is represented by Excel Sports Management.

The 24-year-old Freeman is coming off a breakout season in which he finished fifth in the National League MVP voting and earned his first All-Star nod. Freeman slashed .319/.396/.501 with 23 homers for the NL East Division champs in 2013. He and the Braves faced a fairly wide gap after exchanging arbitration figures last month, as Freeman filed for a $5.75MM salary and the Braves countered at $4.5MM.

Though the Braves are a "file and trial" team, GM Frank Wren reminded after Heyward's new contract that said policy is only in reference to one-year deals. That line of thinking is common among file and trial clubs, as they are unwilling to continue negotiating one-year pacts after exchanging figures but will typically remain amenable to extensions leading up to an arbitration hearing.

It's unclear at this time if the Braves are looking at simply buying out Freeman's arbitration years, as they did with Heyward, or if they're pursuing a long-term deal that will buy out free agent seasons as well. This is Freeman's first time through arbitration, and he is currently under team control through the 2016 season.

This post was originally published on Feb. 4, 2014.