In the wake of a still-stunning departure from the Braves in free agency, former NL MVP Freddie Freeman has dismissed his longtime agents at Excel Sports Management, reports ESPN’s Buster Olney. Freeman is currently listed as self-represented within MLB’s central database, and, according to the New York Post’s Jon Heyman (Twitter link), the MLBPA sent an email to agents requesting that they not contact Freeman — a common occurrence when a player is in the process of changing representation.
Freeman, however, isn’t characterizing things quite so definitively. The Dodger slugger issued a statement to Mark Bowman of MLB.com suggesting that he has not yet fully committed to parting ways with his reps (Twitter link):
Last weekend in Atlanta was a very emotional time for me and my family. I am working through some issues with my longtime agents at Excel. My representation remains a fluid situation and I will update if needed.
That’s hardly a firm denial of the report but at least leaves open the window for the relationship to be repaired and remain in place. Freeman largely deferred to his statement when addressing the topic with L.A. beat reporters (including Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register and Jack Harris of the Los Angeles Times). The five-time All-Star said he “learned a lot” about the free agent process after speaking with “the other side” — presumably a reference to his post-signing chat with Atlanta president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos — but called it “time to move on and focus on winning championships with the Dodgers.”
Olney reports that the timing of negotiations coming out of the league’s lockout were particularly frustrating for Freeman, who had a standing offer of five years and $135MM from the Braves once the transaction freeze was listed. Multiple counteroffers from Freeman’s camp failed to produce a deal, and the Braves pivoted to acquire/extend Matt Olson — a sequence that is said to have shocked Freeman. Olney’s piece goes into more detail on the purported sequence of negotiations for those curious about the ostensible specifics.
The reports and Freeman’s statement come on the heels of an emotional weekend series that saw Freeman return to Atlanta for the first time since signing a deferral-laden six-year, $162MM contract with the Dodgers. Freeman was set to address the media at a press conference there but, upon entering the room, had to step out and attempt to collect himself. An outwardly emotional Freeman fought back tears while professing a lifelong love for the Braves organization despite signing elsewhere in free agency. He was emotional upon receiving his World Series ring from manager Brian Snitker as well, and was understandably choked up when the Atlanta faithful showered him with a standing ovation as he stepped to the plate in his first at-bat of the series.
Whether Freeman remains with Excel or indeed hires new representation has little bearing for most fans moving forward — though it’s obviously of keen interest to those working within the industry. Excel has represented Freeman throughout his career, negotiating an eight-year, $135MM contract extension that still stands as the largest contract ever signed by a player with between three and four years of Major League service time despite being signed back in 2014.
Excel represents dozens of big leaguers, including Freeman’s now-former teammate and free-agent-to-be, Dansby Swanson. Asked by Justin Toscano of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution whether the Freeman saga might make him think twice about his agency, Swanson replied that he would never leave Excel nor let any decision made by Freeman impact his own representation choices (Twitter link).