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World Series Champs Off-season 2021-2022


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DOB spoke with AA about Freeman and other topics

 

“Look, he’s a free agent,” Anthopoulos said. “By rule, obviously I can’t say a whole lot, other than what I’ve said in the past — we love him, he’s great, we want him to stay, he wants to stay. How the process plays out and goes from there … I can’t really get into any specifics. But very similar to what I’ve said in the past, our goal is to sign him and keep him a Brave.

“We’re in the free-agent process now, and that’s probably all I can say at this point, following rules.”

A source familiar with the contract discussions said the holdup so far has been years — the number that Freeman is asking for in a new contract, and the number the team is offering. Around the industry, conversations during the postseason had outside observers and officials with other teams speculating that Freeman on the open market could command a five- or six-year deal worth close to $30 million annually, perhaps with options for another year or two tacked on.

After posting a robust 1.102 OPS and 187 OPS+ in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, Freeman had a .896 OPS (3 points above his career mark) and 133 OPS+ this season, led the NL in plate appearances (695), and hit .300 with a .393 OBP and 31 home runs, the third-highest homer total of his career.

He completed his 11th full season but has shown no sign of decline or any indication he might need to move off of first base in the foreseeable future. Even if he did eventually, the NL is expected to have a universal DH as soon as next season, and no one in baseball doubts that Freeman, with his simple swing and naturally large but not heavily muscled physique, will still be able to hit at a high level into his late 30s.

Anthopoulos was asked if there was any regret at not getting a Freeman extension done earlier, given that he produced another elite-level season and helped lead the Braves to their first World Series title since 1995, factors that might further increase the value of his services in the view of some suitors.

“I just don’t view things in that way,” Anthopoulos said. “Obviously, we’re well aware of our players and their contractual status. We know years ahead of time — we know the whole roster, when they’re scheduled to be free agents and so on. So, just generally speaking, when you’re talking about players and signing them, sometimes … not every negotiation goes the same way. There’s just a process that has to take place.

“Some of them take a little more time. I remember Nick Markakis, we signed (him to a new contract) in January, I think, off the top of my head. Tyler Flowers, that year, we signed him back early. So you just don’t know how things are going to go, what the process and the timing (will be). At the end of the day, as long as you reach your goal of signing the players that you want to sign, you don’t care when it happens. As long as it does occur.”

Of course, Markakis and Flowers, as important as they were to the Braves during their rebuild and for the first three years of their current run of four division titles, were not in the same category as Freeman. Anthopoulos conceded as much when asked later if corporate owner Liberty Media would decide how much could be spent on a Freeman extension or whether that was up to the GM.

“Terry McGuirk is the one I report to,” Anthopoulos said of the Braves’ chairman, who is effectively the liaison to the Colorado-based ownership group. “He’s the one I talk to about the roster. He’s the one that sets payroll. So from that standpoint, obviously I keep him in the loop with everything that we’re doing, everything we discuss. He’s aware of everything that we’re doing. Beyond that, I can tell you that it’s been a very good environment for me to work in, whether that’s trade deadline, offseasons and so on. It’s as good of a structure and setup that I could ask for as a GM.

“Not every player is the same, clearly. Players that have been here for a long time, and Hall of Famers, or going to be Hall of Famers — speaking of Freddie Freeman specifically, he’s a Hall of Famer. I don’t know what his career stats are right now, but in my mind, he’s going to be a Hall of Famer. He’ll be one of the greatest Braves that ever played. Won an MVP, won a World Series. He’s done everything.

“We’ve been very clear, we want him to stay. And he wants to stay. So … we’ve seen other examples of players who’ve gone through this. Sometimes, it just takes time. And there’s a process that takes place.”

The day after the Braves were feted in a parade that drew hundreds of thousands of fans both on the downtown route and in Cobb County, Anthopoulos and McGuirk had a long discussion Saturday morning in which they went over the broad plan for the offseason and 2022.

Payroll will increase, Anthopoulos said, which was to be expected given that the Braves ranked second in baseball in home attendance and enjoyed huge revenue boosts in the second and third fiscal quarters of 2021 — exponentially better than in those quarters during the shortened 2020 season that was played without fans, but also quite higher than during the 2019 season.

Given that the Braves have 13 arbitration-eligible players, including first-timers Austin Riley, coming off a star-making season, and relievers Tyler Matzek and A.J. Minter, and repeat arb-eligibles, including Duvall, Max Fried, Dansby Swanson, Luke Jackson and Richard Rodríguez, they will need that bigger payroll if they are to keep together a good portion of the World Series team.

Duvall, the National League RBI leader, and the other three outfielders acquired in July trades – free agents Joc “Joctober” Pederson, NLCS MVP Eddie Rosario, World Series MVP Jorge Soler — all are uncertain to return in 2022. Duvall might be the most likely to return since he’s still under contractual control after rejecting a $7 million mutual option and getting a $3 million buyout.

Lefty Drew Smyly, who lost his rotation spot late in the season but had a key relief appearance in the postseason, is a free agent not expected to return.

The payroll increase Anthopoulos vowed for next season will surpass the approximate $150 million season-ending payroll the Braves had after adding several significant salaries at the trade deadline, he said. That season-ending total was similar to the payroll in place in 2020 before salaries were prorated for the shortened season.

“I know in 2020 it was the highest it’s ever been (in franchise history),” Anthopoulos said. “It started out lower in 2021, but we got it back up again after the trade deadline, as a credit to our attendance and the fans. And again, it’ll continue to climb. We don’t necessarily have anything locked in right now; I know it’s going to rise. But I have a general sense of where we’re going with it, and it’s going to be higher in ’22 than it was in ’21.

“It’ll be a higher number than (the total) when you factor in the additions that we made at the trade deadline. It’ll be north of that amount. To what level, that’s something that I’m not going to divulge.”

Anthopoulos said the obvious starting point on a needs list is to fill spots of players who became free agents.

“We’re going to look to improve all areas of the club,” he said. “And just by having free agents, it’s clear what the holes on the team are. So there’s some very obvious spots there that we need to fill. Those go without saying, and if we can get better in all areas — rotation, bullpen, offense — we’re going to do as many things as we can to improve the club. …

“We love this core. We think we have a very good core in place. We want to keep the majority of it, if not all of it, if we can. So we’re not looking to do anything drastic. (But) just realizing how hard it is and how much sacrifice — I think about how people have to put team first so many times. Starters, relievers, position players, playing time — just so many times Snit (manager Brian Snitker) had to make tough decisions, and these guys all put the team first.

“It was all because of the common goal and the desire to win the World Series.”

One area where there would be a glut if everyone returns is the outfield, where the July additions were needed after the loss of Ronald Acuña Jr. and Marcell Ozuna to injuries (and Ozuna to a subsequent arrest on domestic violence charges), and following the early-season struggles of center-field prospect Cristian Pache.

Acuña could be back from knee surgery in May, though there is no hard timetable for his return. Ozuna is in a diversion program that could see his charges dropped, but he still might face a lengthy suspension from MLB, and the Braves say they aren’t permitted to discuss his situation as it pertains to the team going forward.

How many, if any, of the trio of Soler, Rosario and Pederson will be re-signed remains to be seen, but if even one of them is brought back along with Duvall and arb-eligible backup Guillermo Heredia, it’s difficult to envision there being room for prospects Pache or Drew Waters after Acuña returns. Then again, the rash of injuries this season showed how quickly things can change.

“You can never have too many players,” Anthopoulos said of the outfield situation. “We just saw it (this year). It’s hard on Snit obviously because he has to keep these guys engaged and happy and (find them) playing time. It’s a really tough spot for him. But look, in terms of club control, obviously I still can’t talk about Ozuna. The league is still the only ones that can comment on that. But beyond that, under club control — Acuña’s under club control, Adam Duvall’s under club control, the other guys are free agents.

“Soler, Joc Pederson, Rosario are all free agents. Look, we know that we need more than three regardless. Someone’s going to get hurt, someone’s not going to perform. You’re going to need those bodies. So as much as it’s tough on the field staff to try to keep these guys happy with their playing time, you’re going to need a lot of guys.

“We have a lot of free agents and we’d like to have them all back because they all played so well for us. Realistically, it’s going to be hard to pull that off. But we’ll do our best to put the best club that we can on the field for 2022.”

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21 minutes ago, falconsd56 said:

Who ever wins the NL MVP is going to be the weakest winner in some time.

Freddie has comparable numbers to all 3 and actually lead his team to the playoffs....where as the other 3 **** the bed.

To see Freddie not even be a finalists is straight stupid.

 

You could argue Riley as a winner too. He had pretty similar numbers to Freeman. 2 more HRs and his OPS was 2 points higher than Freemans. Also more RBI. 

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12 hours ago, falconsd56 said:

Who ever wins the NL MVP is going to be the weakest winner in some time.

Freddie has comparable numbers to all 3 and actually lead his team to the playoffs....where as the other 3 **** the bed.

To see Freddie not even be a finalists is straight stupid.

 

Yep, purely hype machines except maybe Soto.  When the season was on the line and were needed, they folded. 

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32 minutes ago, Malachore said:

Man what would it take to get Olson from the A's?

Probably multiple prospects. Hes under control for 2 years. We'll get a better feel soon as multiple teams are already talking to Beane. I wouldn't be surprised if it's an MLB ready player, a near ready and a lower level prospect. I think he'll go for the quantity over the one big name and some fringe guys. 

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53 minutes ago, Unknøwn said:

Probably multiple prospects. Hes under control for 2 years. We'll get a better feel soon as multiple teams are already talking to Beane. I wouldn't be surprised if it's an MLB ready player, a near ready and a lower level prospect. I think he'll go for the quantity over the one big name and some fringe guys. 

Always liked him and believe he plays a pretty good RF.

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