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Sunday, November 14, 2021 – Daily Notes: Re-signing Freddie Freeman may take a while, Victor Vodnik doesn’t appear in Fall Star game

Sunday, November 14, 2021

-Clint Manry

Imagine, the Braves pass on re-signing Freddie Freeman. And for perhaps one more guaranteed year, or $20 million in total money, he lands with the Red Sox. The guy that’s been here through it all – the ups and the downs – gone with another team. And it’s THE RED SOX for crying out loud! Unfortunately… it could very well happen, even if it very much shouldn’t.

Per the rumor mill, Freddie and the Braves are one year and $65 million apart – not exactly the one and 20 I listed above, but also not incredibly far either. And remember, this is the very beginning of negotiations. These are starting figures. Both sides will undoubtedly inch closer together. The only question is… how close and how long will it take?

Although, for a mid-market franchise like the Braves (even though it’s on pace to bring in record revenues this year), a six-year, $200 million contract is quite a bit more than a five-year, $135 million one, especially when the team could use another marquee outfielder, perhaps another starter, and like always, plenty of depth all the way around. A World Series ring may constitute more spending in Atlanta, but we mustn’t forget who we’re dealing with here. This is still Liberty Media — a holding company that lists the Braves behind both SiriusXM and Formula 1 as its largest revenue streams.

But I have to admit, I am a bit surprised at how far off Freeman and the Braves really are. Just a few weeks ago, in its annual Top 50 Free Agent rankings, FanGraphs projected a five-year, $135 million deal for the former MVP, and MLB Trade Rumors pegged the contract at six years and $180 million. That’s the kind of separation I expected, and at a difference of only $3 million per season in salary (or $45 million overall) between the two sites, that’s the sort of disparity that seemed doable, or at least a gap the two sides could overcome in a somewhat quick manner. But where they are at right now?… that could take some time.

I know I don’t have to remind you, but Freeman has spent his entire career in Atlanta, including a dozen major league seasons that’s featured a second-place finish in 2011’s NL Rookie of the Year race, five All-Star appearances, an MVP in 2020 (to go with four other top-10 finishes) and 42.2 fWAR worth of value overall. Critics may say his best years are behind him, and there may be a little bit of truth to that. But it’s also true that, now in his 30s, Freeman has achieved both his best wRC+ in a single season (a 186 in ’20) AND beat his career average in home runs (with 31 this past year), not to mention he finally won his first MVP. I know we only have two seasons worth of data regarding Freddie in his 30s, and it will almost assuredly get worse, but that’s a helluva start and something that shouldn’t get overlooked. It’s impossible to predict whether or not Freeman will break the cycle of the father time decline, but if anyone were capable, I’d certainly put my money on him.

But back to the contract talks. As usual, the Braves will most likely remain incredibly quiet about its dealings with Freeman, and we won’t know anything until it happens. However, I’m afraid GM Alex Anthopoulos is looking at this as a situation best handled after the CBA deadline. And that my fellow Braves fans is a scary thought. All the experts are leaning towards a lockout, considering the players appear to have far less leverage at this point (not to mention a strike is essentially useless during the offseason). And though a favorable resolution for the owners this winter probably benefits Anthopoulos and the Braves when it comes to re-signing a superstar player, there are still all kinds of possible variables that throw a wrench in things. In a nutshell, for his sake I think it’s safe to say that it would be much more ideal for Freeman to be a free agent in literally any other offseason than this one. Although, and I’m being really selfish here, the uncertainty created by the war between the owners and the MLBPA could really water down the market, and in turn, eventually lower Freeman’s asking price. A lot of these players that know they’re in for a big pay day will want to hurry up and cash in before it’s too late, as most of us would.

But in the end, in a perfect world, I want Freddie to get the money he has earned AND the Braves to retain its franchise player. I believe that’s basically what we all want. And there’s still a scenario where that happens, even though it probably needs to occur before the end of the month. Although, given what we know now in regards to how far apart the two sides are, and the fact that the days are counting down before things really get tense within the league, this all may take a lot longer than it should.

Vodnik sits in AFL All-Star game

Given he had just started on Friday, Braves prospect Victor Vodnik wasn’t able to showcase his stuff on the mound last night in the Arizona Fall League’s Fall Stars game between the West and the East. In what wound up a close game, the East beat the West 6-5 on Saturday, as Vodnik was the lone representative from the Braves organization. With this week being the final week of the 2021 AFL season, before the championship starts Saturday, Nov. 20, here’s a look at how the seven Braves prospects have performed so far in Arizona…

Victor Vodnik, RHP16 IP, 5.63 ERA, 18 K, 7 BB, 4 HR
Indigo Diaz, RHP5.1 IP, 15.19 ERA, 7 K, 8 BB, 2 HR
Jake Higginbotham, LHP4.2 IP, 15.43 ERA, K, 7 BB, 3 HR
William Woods, RHP17 IP, 4.24 ERA, 17 K, 10 BB, 4 HR
Drew Lugbauer, C11 G, .405 AVG, 1.313 OPS, 5 HR, 13 RBI
Luke Waddell, INF13 G, .250 AVG, .664 OPS, 3 2B, 2 SB
Jesse Franklin V, OF12 G, .095 AVG, HR, 2B, 4 RBI

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