"I think when you look at what Freddie's accomplished in his first three years here as our first baseman, I think there was no doubt in our mind that we had found our first baseman, not only for the present, but of the future," Wren added. "He's turned into one of the best players in the National League ... and he just continues to get better. I think that was our focus as we looked at our team going forward. He could be a key component of that, and we wanted to make sure he was here for a long time."
The Atlanta Braves have reached an agreement with first baseman Freddie Freeman on an eight-year contract extension to avoid arbitration.
The Braves tweeted confirmation of the news:
The Braves have agreed to terms with @FreddieFreeman5 on an eight-year contract. The contract runs through the 2021 season.— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) February 5, 2014
Jon Morosi of Fox Sports clarified the monetary amount while David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution had the breakdown of Freeman's salary:
Freddie Freeman's deal is worth $135 million, source confirms to @FOXSports1.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) February 5, 2014
Confirmed #Braves Freeman's salary breakdown: $2.85M signing bonus, $5.125M in '14, then $8.5M, $12M, $20.5, $21M twice ('18-19), $22M twice— David O'Brien (@ajcbraves) February 6, 2014
Freeman spoke about the deal via Adam Berry of MLB.com:
"I don't ever think of that aspect of the game. I play this game to have fun, and I just try to go out there and work hard. For them to believe in me with this kind of contract, it's truly an honor and humbling," the 24-year-old Freeman said Wednesday as he sat between general manager Frank Wren and manager Fredi Gonzalez. "To have it this young, I never thought that would be even possible or imagined that. But I'm happy.
Wren also spoke about the decision to lock Freeman up for the long term:
News of the Freeman extension comes just hours after the Braves announced an extension for outfielder Jason Heyward. Both 24-year-old sluggers are key pieces of the Atlanta lineup, and the Braves hope these new deals are the first step toward keeping it that way for awhile.
The Braves have agreed to terms with outfielder Jason Heyward on a two-year contract, avoiding salary arbitration.— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) February 4, 2014
The Braves were a team to watch heading into arbitration hearings because they had three important players with uncertain salaries for 2014. Now, as David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution points out, only closer Craig Kimbrel remains:
O'Brien also reports that this would be the largest deal in Braves history:
Largest #Braves contract to date was Chipper's six-year, $90 million extension for 2001-2006.— David O'Brien (@ajcbraves) February 4, 2014
Chipper Jones weighed in on the contract:
Oh my! @FreddieFreeman5 got broke off! Can ur new chauffeur get a lil bit? Jk bruh, u deserve it! Dinner tmrw night. Ur treat???— Chipper Jones (@RealCJ10) February 4, 2014
Freeman is coming off his best offensive season to date. In his third full MLB season, the first baseman hit .319 with an on-base percentage near .400 to go along with 27 doubles and 23 home runs. He was the team's most consistent producer at the plate, adding 109 RBI.
Is Freeman worth the monster contract to the Braves?
He was a key reason the Braves pulled away from the favored Washington Nationals in the NL East. Atlanta started hot and never let Washington back into the race, winning the division by 10 games before getting knocked out of the playoffs by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Heyward and Freeman are among the latest examples of Atlanta's continued success when it comes to developing players. The franchise can't contend in free agency with the big-market teams, so it has to build from within and has still enjoyed plenty of success.
O'Brien also provided some comments from Heyward, who said he was happy to have the contract situation sorted out so he can focus on baseball. Freeman will probably feel the same way with spring training right around the corner.
#Braves Heyward: "I’m just excited that I don’t have to worry about the (arbitration) process any longer.... It can be a distraction."— David O'Brien (@ajcbraves) February 4, 2014
Freeman's extension in particular shows the front office believes he can be a cornerstone offensive player—not to mention his quick glove work around the bag at first—for many years to come.
The Nationals figure to bounce back from a frustrating season in 2014, which means the Braves can't expect to run away with the division for a second straight season. But the future continues to get brighter with each new deal given to one of the franchise's multiple high-upside young players.
Freeman's development has been the steadiest of the bunch, and now Atlanta has rewarded him for it.