Braves: What’s holding up a Freddie Freeman extension?

Braves: Ten over/under predictions for 2020

I’m sure everyone will reply to this article with one answer — Liberty Media. However, it goes a bit deeper than that. Owners around baseball saw revenue plummet during a COVID-19 shortened season that didn’t have any fans in the stands. Because of that, we’ve seen teams around the league completely slash payroll to record lows, creating the most enormous gap ever between the lowest payrolls and the highest.

The Braves have felt the effects as well. Their payroll entering 2021 will be significantly lower than it was heading into last season. Still, things should get back to normal this year. Even without a full house at first, demand for limited seats will be aplenty, especially as the season goes on.

I thought inking Freddie Freeman to an extension would be the easiest decision of this offseason, but it looks like it will be tabled until next offseason when Freeman is eligible for unrestricted free agency. Perhaps the hesitation would be warranted if Freeman’s 2020 MVP season was an outlier, but Freddie has been doing this his entire career. I don’t need to go into his laundry list of achievements. He is undoubtedly among the most consistent players in baseball, following in the footsteps of his good friend and Braves legend, Chipper Jones.

Freeman signed an 8-year, $135 million extension with the Braves in February of 2014 and has vastly outperformed his contract. Obviously, he is in line for a healthy raise, especially with how baseball contracts have exploded since Freeman was last up for an extension. However, he has expressed interest in being a Brave for the rest of his career, and there isn’t a player more deserving of a mega-contract — even from the Braves, who are unbelievably hesitant to hand out long-term deals. So, where is the disconnect?

Alex Anthopoulos is as tight-lipped as they come, and this all goes on behind closed doors. We don’t know if these conversations have even begun. I believe they have, considering Anthopoulos made it clear before the offseason that extending Freeman was the organization’s top priority. However, perhaps the Braves first baseman hasn’t put any pressure on the front office to this point, given how wonky the finances must be following the pandemic shortened season.

That’s far from abnormal, but it will make fans nervous even to imagine Freeman in another uniform. Not only is he the reigning NL MVP, but he was also the face of the franchise through a grueling rebuild. I have confidence the Braves will get this deal done; however, that won’t make it any less nerve-racking if we get to next offseason and Freeman is able to test the waters of unrestricted free agency. If that happens, he may find a deal from a team loaded with cash that he cannot pass up, which would go down as one of the most substantial mishaps in Braves history.

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