With Freddie Freeman set to hit unrestricted free agency at the end of the season, Braves Country is rightfully beginning to panic a little. Last year’s NL MVP is once again putting together a campaign worth MVP consideration, and he will be courted by every team that can afford him this offseason, which could cause his price tag to skyrocket. Based on what I’ve consistently heard from Freeman and Alex Anthopoulos, I’m still of the mindset that a deal gets done, but it would be foolish to assume so at this point.
Regardless, the Braves aren’t looking four straight NL East titles in the eye just because of Freddie Freeman. This is a team loaded with talent, and if they want to have success for a decade-plus, they will have to lock up some of these guys long-term. However, with all of the Braves’ talent, it’ll be impossible to pay everyone, which is why it is so critical to choose the right ones. Here’s who I think the Braves should be turning their focus to after extending Freddie Freeman.
I probably wrote three articles last season about Dansby Swanson deserving a contract extension. I wasn’t surprised that the Braves didn’t give him one since it was only a 60-game schedule, but I was a little disappointed. Regardless, the Braves surely regret that decision now. Swanson is on a tear like no other offensively. In his last 87 games, he’s mashed 20 bombs and recorded an OPS near .900, all while playing incredible defense at the most difficult position on the diamond. Swanson is going to mash over 30 bombs this season, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he hit 40 homers in an upcoming season. He’s not just a good shortstop; he’s entering the elite category.
Unfortunately, 2022 is Swanson’s final year of arbitration, and he may have just priced himself out of the Braves price range. Someone will hand him a contract over $100 million. I think he’s worth that because of what he does on the field, but also because of who he is off of it and in the locker room. Swanson resembles everything the Braves organization stands for, and he deserves to be paid like it.
This very well could be Charlie Morton’s last rodeo, but he’s proven he still has plenty left in the tank if he wants to continue, and the Braves should be interested in bringing him back. He’s been a tremendous veteran presence amongst a youthful rotation, and he hasn’t been too shabby on the bump either. Since May 7th, Morton is 10-4 with a 3.15 ERA in 20 starts. If he wants to continue playing, the Braves should definitely sit down with him and get something done.
Duvall has a $7 million mutual option for 2022 with a $3 million buyout. The Braves will definitely pick up that option, but if I’m Duvall, I’m looking for a multi-year contract after the way I have performed over the last two seasons, and frankly, the Braves should be interested in that as well. I don’t care what is going on with Marcell Ozuna; Duvall has earned a spot on this team for years to come. He hits tanks, and he hits them in clutch situations. There are few players better in the business at what he does, and with the DH likely coming to the National League as early as next season, this is even more of a no-brainer. Adam Duvall needs to be extended this offseason.
Of the four players mentioned, Fried’s extension is probably the least critical. He has three years of arbitration remaining, but if Anthopoulos could potentially buy out the remainder of his arbitration years and purchase a couple of extra years on top of it, it would be another tremendous deal to put under his belt. Fried’s a winner — a real bulldog on the mound that has become the ace of this staff — and the Braves should already be looking to extend him for as long as possible.