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Inbox: Could the Braves extend Freeman?

Beat reporter Mark Bowman answers questions from fans
@mlbbowman
November 22, 2019

With Freddie Freeman having just two years left on contract, is there talk of an extension? -- @mike97584286 We now know @mike97584286 is not Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos’ burner account. Even before Freeman’s right elbow became a problem near the end of this past season, Anthopoulos was providing every

With Freddie Freeman having just two years left on contract, is there talk of an extension?
-- @mike97584286

We now know @mike97584286 is not Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos’ burner account. Even before Freeman’s right elbow became a problem near the end of this past season, Anthopoulos was providing every indication he would address this possibility when the time was right, which would be closer to the completion of this current contract.

All indications are Freeman will be fine at the start of Spring Training. He quickly regained his range of motion after the bone spur and other particles were removed from his elbow last month. But his restored range of motion is not enough to create comfort to a club that is being asked to commit at least five years and more than $100 million to a player.

If Freeman extends his MVP-caliber production next summer, there’s certainly a chance we’ll hear chatter about a possible extension next winter, when the veteran first baseman will be preparing to enter the final year of his contract. But if there are any lingering effects, then we’ll be reminded of why general managers are reluctant to provide an extension too early.

It’s hard to predict what any player is going to be five years from now. It’s obviously much harder to make a sound seven-year projection. Still, given Freeman wants to stick with one organization throughout his career and the Braves recognize the significant value he provides, I’d say there’s a good chance we’ll be hearing more about the extension at the end of the upcoming season.

Why would we pay a reliever (Will Smith) $13 million to not be a closer? Or is that just PC talk to not upset the current back-end guys?
-- @mickthestick6

If we’re using salaries to define roles, then I guess it makes sense for Mark Melancon and his $14 million salary to be the closer. But in all seriousness, it would make sense to mix and match Melancon and Smith in the late innings based on matchups.

Left-handed hitters batted .157 (11-for-70) with a .357 OPS against Smith this year. Right-handers batted .297 with a .709 OPS against him. Melancon didn’t have a similar discrepancy. He limited lefties to a .680 OPS and righties to a .676 OPS.

Really, we continue to place too much emphasis on assigning someone the closer’s role despite knowing there might be nights when it just makes more sense for somebody like Smith to take care of left-handed hitters in the seventh or eighth innings.

What do you think Shane Greenes role will be?
-- @robertom22

Greene could also pitch somewhere in either the seventh or eighth inning if the Braves do end up tendering him a contract. The right-handed reliever could make somewhere in the neighborhood of $6 million via arbitration. That’s a comfortable salary if looking at the 2.30 ERA he produced over 62 2/3 innings with the Braves and Tigers this year. But his 3.78 Fielding Independent Pitching mark reminds you he’s just a season removed from posting a 5.12 ERA over 63 1/3 innings.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Braves attempt to trade Greene at some point this offseason. If they find the right value, they’ll make the move. If not, there wouldn’t be anything wrong with giving him a chance to enhance the bullpen’s middle inning depth.

Do Drew Waters and Cristian Pache prevent the Braves from making a big outfield splash this offseason?
-- @1MichaelLane

Not really. Both will need to spend more time at the Triple-A level before we get a better sense of when either of them might be ready to be promoted. At the same time, if the Braves were to make a significant trade this winter, there’s a possibility one of these two highly-regarded outfield prospects would be involved.

Is William Contreras a potential trade piece for the Braves to get a front-line player, considering the organizational depth at catcher and his lackluster Minor League career?
-- @coachjwoodall

Last winter, I considered Freeman and Ronald Acuña Jr. to be the organization’s only untouchables. I’ll now add Mike Soroka and Ozzie Albies to that list.

So, the direct answer to your question is, yes. Contreras could be included in a deal this winter. But you’d much rather deal from a position of strength. The organization’s catching depth has improved significantly over the past two years. But Alex Jackson hasn’t shown he can be an everyday option. As for Contreras and Shea Langeliers, they’re both plus defenders who have not yet created confidence they will hit at the Major League level.

So while Contreras might not be untouchable, I’d say the preference would be to only deal him if the return included a catcher that could be controlled for at least a few years.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.