Freddie Freeman Rumors


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 The cleanest comp -- Justin Morneau's January 2008 extension with the Twins (six years, $80MM) -- is unquestionably out of date.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 MLB.com'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).

Freeman-Freddie

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 GammonsDaily.com 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 MASNsports.com'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, MLB.com'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.



Poll: The Braves' Potential Arbitration Hearings

One of the most notable "file and trial" teams in baseball, the Braves have a team policy that they will not negotiate once arbitration figures are submitted. This is of particular note given the fact that three of their best players -- Craig Kimbrel, Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward -- were unable to come to an agreement in advance of the filing deadline. Now, all three are likely headed for hearings.

The gap between Kimbrel and the Braves is the largest, as he submitted a $9MM figure while the Braves countered at $6.55MM. As MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz pointed out back in November, Kimbrel's arb case is perhaps the most interesting of the offseason as there is truly no precedent for a closer doing what he's done to this point of his career.

Freeman is fresh off his first All-Star nod and a fifth-place finish in the NL MVP voting. He's looking at a $1.25MM gap between his $5.75MM figure and the Braves' $4.5MM figure. The gap between the Braves and Heyward is a mere $300K ($5.5MM vs. $5.2MM), which one would think is small enough that an agreement can be worked out.

However, GM Frank Wren flatly said, "We're done," following the exchange of arb figures, indicating that he does indeed plan on heading to trials. It's worth noting that the team did avoid arbitration with Jeff Francoeur the night before his scheduled hearing back in 2009, but the team's strict policy has been adopted since that time. With all this said, let's vote on each case. You can keep track of the results by clicking here.

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Arbitration Links: Hearings, Braves, Duda

Bluebird Banter looks at both the Blue Jays' most recent arbitration hearings and, more importantly for the general MLBTR readership, the most recent arb hearing from each team. The Indians have gone the longest without an arbitration hearing, having not taken a case to court since Jerry Browne and Greg Swindell back in 1991. Anibal Sanchez and Emilio Bonifacio are the two most recent players to win arb hearings, both coming against the Marlins in 2012. The whole table is worth checking out, featuring notable names like Kyle Lohse, Andruw Jones, A.J. Pierzynski and Oliver Perez. Here are some more links related to the possible arb cases we could see next month ...

  • With several star Braves players (Craig Kimbrel, Freddie Freeman, and Jason Heyward) set to face a hearing, writes MLB.com's Mark Bowman, the effects on the organization could be long-lasting. First of all, if Kimbrel wins the $9MM salary he has requested, he would set himself up for two more massive arb paydays that could force Atlanta to deal him. As for Freeman and Heyward, both of whom are represented by Excel Sports Management, Bowman says that the confrontational hearing process could potentially make it at least marginally harder (or, at least, more expensive) to keep them around for the long haul. 
  • The Mets will continue to negotiate with first baseman/outfielder Lucas Duda after exchanging numbers, reports Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. The respective salary submissions ($1.35MM vs. $1.9MM) did not fall among the most difficult-to-bridge gaps, as noted in my roundup of notable arbitration situations from Friday.
  • Club GM Sandy Alderson also said today (courtesy of Rubin) that Duda could see time in the outfield next year, and could conceivably break camp with the Mets alongside Ike Davis. Since Duda has an option remaining, his 2015 arbitration case could suffer from a lack of playing time if he does not force his way onto the active roster for a substantial portion of the coming season.

Jeff Todd contributed to this post.

 



Arbitration Filing Numbers

MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker is the place to go to see the arbitration contracts agreed upon thus far, as well as the figures exchanged between teams and players that were not able to reach agreement before today's noon deadline to swap salary positions. Matt Swartz's arbitration projections are available here.

As MLBTR has previously explained, 146 players officially filed for arbitration (after some eligible and tendered players had alread reached agreement). Of those, 40 players will exchange figures with their clubs. Of course, those players can still reach agreements before their hearings (which will take place betwee February 1st and 21st). If the case goes to a hearing, the arbitrator must choose one side's figures, rather than settling on a midpoint.

For the Braves players listed below, however, Atlanta says it will cease negotiations and take all cases to a hearing. Two other teams that have swapped figures with some players -- the Nationals and Indians -- also have employed variations of the "file and trial" approach with their arbitration cases.

Though a tweet from FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal indicates that the Reds have joined the list of teams employing "file and trial," GM Walt Jocketty did not seem to echo that position in comments today to MLB.com's Mark Sheldon. It turns out that the team has only taken that position with respect to players whose deals were valued under the $2MM level, tweets Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.

We will use this post to keep tabs on the the highest-stakes arbitration situations remaining -- those where the player files for at least $4.5MM:



Braves Will Go To Arbitration Hearings With Kimbrel, Freeman, Heyward

Braves GM Frank Wren says that his club will take its arbitration case to a hearing with the club's three remaining arbitration-filing players, reports David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (via Twitter). Wren says that the club will not have any further negotiations with closer Craig Kimbrel, first baseman Freddie Freeman, and outfielder Jason Heyward.

The Braves are a noted "file and trial" club, and Wren's statements indicate that the club intends to stand by its position. "We have an organization philosophy of the filing date is our last date to negotiate prior to a hearing," said Wren. "We're done." None of the other "file and trial" clubs -- the Blue Jays, Marlins, Pirates, Rays, Reds, and White Sox -- has any players yet to reach agreement. (The Pirates and Reds are new additions to the list, per tweets from MLBTR's Tim Dierkes and FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal.) For the first time ever, no players went to an arbitration hearing last year, but that apparently will not be the case for 2014.

As O'Brien explains, the Braves have not had a hearing since John Rocker back in 2001. The club avoided arbitration in 2009 with Jeff Francoeur just before a hearing, but has adopted its strict negotiating policy since that time.

Needless to say, those three players represent both a critical component of the team's young core and a substantial portion of its current and future payroll. Kimbrel, in particular, represents a fascinating arbitration case given his historic early-career performance from the back end of the pen. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects him to earn a $7.25MM salary in his first trip through arbitration, with Freeman and Heyward projected to take home $4.9MM and $4.5MM, respectively.

Wren discussed the club's negotiations as well, as Mark Bowman of MLB.com reports on Twitter"At the end of the day," Wren said, "we went well above the recommended salary arbitration numbers for all of our players."

The filing splits between player and team show that the Braves' filing numbers were in the ballpark of Swartz's projections. (The club may, of course, have been willing to go somewhat higher to avoid a hearing.) Kimbrel asked for $9MM, with the team countering at $6.55MM, while Freeman ($5.75MM vs. $4.5MM) and Heyward ($5.5MM vs. $5.2MM) also landed right around the projected dollar amounts.



NL Notes: Mets, Cardinals, Braves

The Mets made one of the best under-the-radar improvements this offseason by upgrading their outfield defense, ESPN's Mike Petriello writes (Insider-only). With Juan Lagares starting in center field for the entire season, and Curtis Granderson and Chris Young on either side of him, the Mets should be much better off defensively than they were with Lucas Duda and others last season. Petriello also lists the Cardinals' defense, in both the infield and the outfield, as one that should be dramatically improved as a result of this offseason's moves. The Cardinals acquired Peter Bourjos for David Freese, improving their outfield while allowing Matt Carpenter to shift back to third. Another new addition, Mark Ellis, figures to help at second base. Here are more notes from the National League.









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