The Braves seem to be headed down the same eery path with the ace of their staff that they went down with Freddie Freeman and Dansby Swanson, who are now competing with other teams in the same league.
Max Fried is now a little over a year away from free agency, and there have been no indications of movement on an extension. That’s not to say they aren’t happening behind the scenes, because that’s usually the case in these situations, but for the next year, there will be nonstop talk about whether the Braves will extend Max Fried until it happens. So, what are the odds this situation ends up differently than Freeman and Swanson?
First, let’s evaluate what the fair market value is for a pitcher of Max Fried’s caliber. Carlos Rodón was the last lefty ace we saw test the open market. He was coming off back-to-back top-six finishes in the Cy Young race and inked a six-year $162 million contract. That contract looks abysmal now, but there was no way of knowing he would get injured in year one of the deal. That’s the risk any team takes when signing a pitcher to a lucrative contract.
Rodón was a terrific pitcher with elite stuff, but I would say Fried has a far better track record. His career 3.06 ERA is much better than Rodón’s 3.72. Fried also has a second place finish in the NL Cy Young race from 2022 to go along with a fifth place finish in 2020. Not to mention, he has loads of postseason experience and helped lead the Braves to the 2021 World Series. If he hits the free agent market after another fantastic season in 2024, he will be much more expensive than Rodón.
I would say a contract for 7-8 years in between $200-225 million is what Max Fried will be eyeing for an extension, and if the Braves aren’t willing to come close to that, he will assuredly test free agency, where someone will pay him what he’s looking for, just like teams did with Freeman and Swanson.
Over the years, Alex Anthopoulos has been adamant about adding frontline starting pitching to the staff. However, he hasn’t put his money where his mouth is once. The Braves have only traded for low-level starters and handed out short-term contracts to veterans since Anthopoulos became general manager.
If Anthopoulos wants to keep Fried, he’s going to have to open up that checkbook, which I know is a painful proposition for him. A lowball offer with no willingness to budge isn’t going to get the job done. Fried knows his value, and I have a feeling he’ll have no problem going back home if the Braves aren’t willing to pay him what he’s worth, just like Freddie Freeman before him.
Odds of a Max Fried Extension: 55%
I go back and forth on this subject and change my mind daily. On the one hand, this situation feels all too familiar. Fried may desire to play closer to home and doesn’t feel the need to settle for less money to stay in Atlanta. On the other hand, Alex Anthopoulos is constantly talking about how he’s looking for another ace. Is he really going to let the best Braves pitcher of the last couple of decades walk out the door? But at the same time, Anthopoulos hasn’t shown any willingness to hand big bucks to a starting pitcher as general manager. Something has to give in this situation, and as of right now, I’m leaning slightly towards the Braves finally ponying up the cash to keep one of their star players.
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