Freeman: Extension talks 'a distraction'

April 21st, 2021

Before the Braves opened a two-game series at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night, indicated he is not interested in negotiating a potential extension with Atlanta while attempting to concentrate on the regular season.

"I don't know if we could really even talk right now,” Freeman said. “That would be a distraction, and I don't like distractions. ... I don't think there is going to be much talking any time soon."

Freeman provided a surprise a week before the regular season began when he told that the Braves had not yet approached him about a potential extension. Both parties have expressed the desire to extend their relationship beyond this year, so the assumption had been that some discussions would be completed during Spring Training.

“There [are] no negotiations,” Freeman said. “I’m worried about [Yankees starter Jameson] Taillon tonight, and that’s about it.”

Freeman is progressing through the final year of the eight-year, $135 million deal he signed before the 2014 season. This has proven to a very valuable investment for the Braves, who saw the four-time All-Star win his first National League MVP Award last year.

Freeman has finished among the top 10 in NL MVP balloting five times in the past eight seasons. His 145 wRC+, dating back to the start of 2018, ranks fifth in the NL, trailing only Christian Yelich (161), Juan Soto (151), Anthony Rendon (147) and Justin Turner (147).

Yelich (nine-year deal, $23.9 million average annual value), Turner (two-year deal, $17 million AAV) and Rendon (seven-year deal, $35 million AAV) have each signed a contract since the start of the 2020 season. Turner doesn’t really serve as a comparison, though, because he signed his deal at age 36.

As for Yelich, he seemed to leave some money on the table while gaining a long-term guarantee with two years left on his previous deal. So it may be more accurate to say he got a seven-year, $190 million extension, which would equate to a $27.1 million AAV. Rendon simply benefited from the tremendous riches that can be gained via free agency.

Whether Freeman reaches the free-agent market remains to be seen. The 30-year-old first baseman has made it clear he would be interested in spending his entire career with the Braves -- much like Chipper Jones, who completed his 19-season Hall of Fame career without ever flirting with free agency.

Acuña update
With another off-day on Thursday, it would make sense for the Braves to rest Ronald Acuña Jr. until Friday’s series opener against the D-backs in Atlanta. But manager Brian Snitker hasn’t ruled out the possibility of Acuña playing in Wednesday’s series finale against the Yankees.

“We’ll see,” Snitker said. “He’s day to day. We’ll just see how he feels tonight and tomorrow.”

Acuña was forced to exit Sunday night’s win over the Cubs with a lower abdominal strain. He first showed discomfort while diving back to first base and then exited after diving headfirst across the plate a few minutes later.

An MRI exam performed on Monday showed just a mild strain. This was a relief to the Braves, who were worried about the possibility of having to place the young superstar on the injured list.

“He feels a lot better, which is good,” Snitker said. “He’s getting treatment. I kind of feel like we dodged a bullet there.”

Martin cleared to throw
Snitker provided an encouraging update when he said right-hander Chris Martin has been cleared to begin playing catch. Martin has been sidelined since feeling numbness in his fingers while pitching in Philadelphia on April 4. The top setup man was placed on the IL a few days later with right shoulder inflammation.