Max Fried looks better than ever, and it will cost the Braves

Max Fried Braves

The Braves were able to bounce back nicely following a frustrating series with the Padres, wining two out of three at Wrigley Field. There were several notable storylines, but nothing stood out more than the brilliance of Max Fried.

The 30-year-old left hander tossed a complete game on Tuesday night, one in which he carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning. He’s bounced back nicely after a shoddy first few starts to begin the season, recording a 1.70 ERA over his last six outings. However, I’m not really sure the surface level numbers do it justice.

The way Max Fried has aggressively attacked lineups has been like an artist at work. It’s as if he’s toying with lineups, deciding which one of his wide array of weapons he wants to deploy on any given night. Three times has he taken a no-hitter into the sixth inning or later — twice he was pulled without even allowing a hit — and he has two complete games.

The stuff also appears to be improved. Max Fried has always had an embarrassment of riches when it comes to his repertoire of pitches. Few have as many places to turn when the going gets tough, but it’s been the increase in velocity that’s been eye-popping. For his entire career, Fried has sat 93-94 with his heater. So far this season, his fastball velocity is averaging 95.5 miles per hour, and has touched 99 on several occasions.

Since 2020, there has not been a better left-handed starting pitcher than Max Fried. He’s 43-15 over that stretch with a 2.66 ERA and 1.067 WHIP. From a consistency perspective, he is unmatched from year to year, and it seriously looks like we’re watching the best version of him right now.

On the one hand, that’s fantastic news for a Braves team that really needs Max Fried to step up with Spencer Strider out for the season. Atlanta’s World Series hopes very well could hinge on his arm. On the other hand, the better Max Fried performs, the more expensive he’s going to be in free agency.

Alex Anthopoulos showed some willingness to spend this offseason when he pursued Aaron Nola, but the Braves still were outbid by the Phillies for his services. If things continue to trend in this direction, Max Fried’s next contract is going to make Nola’s look like the dollar menu at McDonald’s. He was already looking at around $200 million coming into the season, and that was after a year in which he only made 14 starts because of an elbow injury. With another fully healthy campaign under his belt looking like this, $200 million won’t even get the conversation started.

The Braves have seen this story play out multiple times before. First with the Freddie Freeman, and then a year later with Dansby Swanson. If Max Fried hits free agency, it’s difficult to imagine him in Atlanta beyond this season, and if you’re Fried, why even consider negotiating with the Braves right now when a bidding war is waiting for you around the corner and you’re pitching this well?

I like to consider myself the ultimate optimist when it comes to the Braves because they consistently make the right decisions. However, the writing appears to be on the wall in this situation. Let’s just hope Max Fried’s final ride is one we remember for decades to come.

Photo: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire


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