Braves ace Max Fried among The Athletic’s contract extension candidates

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Max Fried is the leader of one of the best pitching staffs in baseball. The Braves boast a talented rotation, and Fried is the ace. He’s under club control for two more seasons, leaving many in Braves Country wondering if they’ll have to say goodbye to yet another fan favorite.

Suppose the Braves were going to hand someone a lucrative contract extension. It seems to come one of two ways: following blockbuster trades — Matt Olson and Sean Murphy — or buying out arbitration/pre-arb years from those already on the roster — Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies, Austin Riley, Spencer Strider, and Michael Harris.

Max Fried could have his arbitration years bought out, but it’s looking less and less likely with each passing day. However, that hasn’t stopped The Athletic’s Jim Bowden from including the southpaw in his contract extension candidates that could get done before Opening Day.

9. Max Fried, LHP, Braves

Age: 29 Free agent: 2025
WAR: 5.9
W-L: 14-7 ERA: 2.48 SO: 170

The Braves have done as good a job of signing their players to long-term contracts as any team in MLB, as evidenced by the extensions they’ve reached with Ronald Acuña Jr.Ozzie AlbiesMatt OlsonAustin RileyMichael Harris II and Sean Murphy. Now they need to take care of their ace. Fried has a 54-25 record with 3.09 ERA in 632 1/3 innings over six seasons. He’s finished top 5 in the NL Cy Young voting in two of the past three years and won three consecutive Gold Gloves. He’s the most important Brave not signed to a long-term deal.

Following a second-place finish in the NL Cy Young race, many consider Max Fried the best lefty on the planet, finishing the 2022 campaign with a career-best 2.48 ERA, 2.70 FIP, and 5.9 WAR. As great as he’s been, that means his price tag won’t be cheap. Look at Carlos Rodon‘s six-year, $162 million deal as a precursor for any potential deal between Fried and the Braves.

Alex Anthopoulos explained why deals with guys hitting the free agent market, like Freddie Freeman and Dansby Swanson, are more difficult than younger guys who will get multiple deals — i.e., Strider, Acuna, Albies, and Harris.

“I think with these guys, when it’s their one big deal, there’s just a lot more involved. And the closer guys get to (free agency), it’s more challenging. And at that point, you’re talking free-agent dollars. They’ve established themselves as top-end.”

We can be as optimistic as we want, but all signs point to Max Fried playing two more seasons in Atlanta and then singing a lucrative free agent deal somewhere else.

Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire
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