Braves: The Athletic projects Max Fried’s next contract

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Outside of what’s going on the field, the most tantalizing storyline surrounding the Braves in 2024 will be the impending free agency of Max Fried.

The 30-year-old left-hander is entering the final year of his contract, and after what has happened in previous years with Dansby Swanson and Freddie Freeman, most expect Fried to follow suit and exit in free agency. The Braves don’t pay sticker price for anything, and Fried will be one of the best pitchers on the market next offseason. The bidding war for his services could get astronomical if he turns in another healthy season in 2024.

But what might that potential contract look like? Recently, Tim Britton over at The Athletic projected a number of contracts for 2024 free agents, including the Braves ace, whom he has receiving a deal close to $200 million.

Max Fried (30)

Controlled through 2024
Last year’s projection: Six years, $144 million

Fried’s 2023 wasn’t what he wanted it to be, as he missed time with a hamstring strain, a forearm strain and a blister. Taking that season at face value would leave Fried in the Kevin Gausman Tier of contracts, probably around the $24 million AAV I projected this time last year.

But Fried has typically been healthy, none of those 2023 injuries foreshadow something too ominous down the line, and he performed close to his usual standards when on the mound. (He posted 1.9 wins above replacement in 14 starts; in a healthy season, he would have doubled both.) So an extension should take that into account.

A typical Fried season in 2023 would have placed him just below pitchers like Cole Hamels and Zack Greinke in value.

Let’s value his free-agent years at $30 million per year for six seasons — he’s a year older than Burnes — to add on top of this year’s salary.

2024 salary: $15 million
Extension projection: Seven years, $195 million

I’ve probably talked about this topic 50 times over the last year, and these are exactly the numbers I have suggested when it comes to Max Fried if he hits the open market. Somewhere around six years, $180 million to seven years, $200 million — potentially even more depending on how he pitches in 2024 — seems like a fair projection.

If that’s the case, I’m not sure he will be playing for the Braves past this season, but I’m still holding out hope Alex Anthopoulos can get something done before then.

Max Fried has to be monitoring Blake Snell’s free agency closely. They are two of the best left-handed pitchers on the planet, and Snell hasn’t exactly had an enjoyable free agent experience as he remains unsigned. A lot of that has to do with his agent Scott Boras and his negotiation tactics, but it could serve as a warning for Fried that the market may not be as hot as it might seem.

In that case, it could make some sense for Fried to strike a deal with the Braves before free agency. That way he avoids the risk of injuring himself and costing himself millions. The Braves were willing to make Aaron Nola a lucrative offer this offseason; I don’t see why they wouldn’t be willing to offer a similar contract to Fried. It won’t be seven years, $195 million, but perhaps something around six years for $160 million could get the job done.

Photo: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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