Inbox: Freddie drama; Wright or Ynoa for rotation?

March 21st, 2022

What was the biggest surprise to you with all of the Freddie Freeman drama over the last week?
-- @gaaronkirby

Given what I was hearing within the first few days following the lockout, I was prepared for Freeman to end up elsewhere. Still, nearly a week later, it’s hard to understand how an agreement was never reached.

Even though there was financial uncertainty coming out of the 2020 COVID-shortened season, the Braves should have made a more genuine attempt to extend Freeman before the 2021 season started. Once the financial outlook became much more optimistic, they did eventually provide a five-year, $135 million offer after learning Freeman wanted something slightly better than Paul Goldschmidt’s Cardinals deal (five years for $130 million).

But Freeman then said he was looking for a sixth season and his representatives seemed steadfast in finding such a deal for him. As a source close to the negotiations recently pointed out, there really wasn’t any reason for Freeman to insist on the additional year. Had he still been healthy at the end of a five-year deal, could the Braves really part ways with him?

Had Freeman signed a five-year contract with the Braves, the deal would have expired when he was 37 years old, the same age Chipper Jones was when he signed a three-year extension that carried him through 2012, which was his final season.

There’s no doubt the COVID season and lockout made things more challenging. But the end result makes things far more baffling. Freeman and his wife, Chelsea, wanted to remain in Atlanta, and both were heartbroken when it was announced the Braves acquired Matt Olson from the A’s to be their new first baseman.

Should the Braves have moved on and made the Olson deal? Yes. At some point, Alex Anthopoulos had to move on and construct his roster.

Another reality is it’s not like Freeman gained an incredibly greater offer to go elsewhere. The Braves were willing to offer five years and $140 million ($28 million per season). The five-time All-Star ended up signing a six-year, $160 million deal ($26.7 million per season) with the Dodgers. When you account for the difference between California and Georgia taxes, there is very little difference in these packages.

Beyond the financial aspect, Freeman no longer has the comforts he had in Atlanta, where he didn’t even need to get on the interstate if he wanted to get to and from Truist Park. He will no longer make his daily visits to Cupanion’s, where he could grab the Freddie Omlet and casually eat without being bothered.

At the same time, Freeman is now closer to his grandfather, dad and brothers in the Los Angeles area. And while he might lose some of the iconic status he seemed destined to get in Atlanta, he will be a Braves Hall of Famer and there’s a chance he one day adds to the Braves’ representation in Cooperstown, N.Y.

These two things can both be true. It’s a shame Freeman is no longer with the Braves. But they could be just fine with eight years of Olson and the financial flexibility that allowed them to also add Kenley Jansen and Eddie Rosario last week.

Freeman has been part of our lives since he was 17 years old. It has been a pleasure to see him develop into a potential Hall of Famer and great family man. He will be missed, but never forgotten.

So when players are under representation, are they restricted by their agent from talking directly with the clubs?
-- @JasonKellyAF

If nothing else, this Freeman episode should remind everyone that the agents work for the players. The players understandably trust the agents to guide them in the right direction. But players have the final call on all matters.

The strong friendship between Anthopoulos and Freeman will not be affected by what transpired.

Does Kyle Wright beat out Huascar Ynoa for the 4-5 rotation spot?
-- @coachelkins706

Let’s just start by saying Charlie Morton, Max Fried and Ian Anderson are the only three projected locks for the Opening Day rotation. With Ynoa possibly given extra time to prepare after ending last year with a sore shoulder, the top candidates for the final two rotation spots are currently Wright, Kyle Muller, Touki Toussaint and Tucker Davidson. Toussaint and Davidson both completed two innings during Monday’s 5-0 loss to the Red Sox at JetBlue Park.

My anticipation is Anthopoulos will attempt to add a starter once teams start making roster moves near the end of Spring Training. Remember his late spring addition of Aníbal Sánchez in 2018? If he can find something that valuable, the rotation might be just fine this year.

You see Michael Harris II in the big leagues this year?
-- @adamhamlin8

Harris, the Braves’ No. 1 prospect, will rise up the list of MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects this year, but you will likely need to wait another year before seeing him with Atlanta. The No. 65 overall prospect in the game is a great talent, but we won’t get a real feel for his ETA before he is introduced to the Double-A level this year.

I really just want a realistic update on Mike Soroka. No emotions. Realistic return time, even if it's September or next year?
-- @downtownjtbrown

Right now, it’s just a guessing game. But given the amount of caution that will be shown, I would think a return during the 2023 season would be more likely. If Soroka is nearing a return during the final months, they may have him pitch in Minor League games. But right now, I think everyone is just hoping he will beat the odds and effectively pitch in the Majors again.