Report: Extension talks with Max Fried “reached an impasse”

MLB: AUG 09 Braves at Pirates

Braves fans have watched fan favorites walk in each of the last two offseasons. Freddie Freeman walked the winter after the Braves reached the pinnacle of the sport, defeating the Astros in the 2021 World Series. It’s a sting that some fans still haven’t gotten over, and last offseason, Dansby Swanson inked a massive deal with the Chicago Cubs following the best season of his career. The Braves won’t have that happen this winter, but they may face an eerily similar situation this time next year with Max Fried.

The 29-year-old southpaw is set to turn 30 before the 2024 campaign and has developed into arguably the best left-handed starting pitcher on the planet. Since 2020, Fried boasts a 2.66 ERA and a 162 ERA+ (62% above league average). He finished second in the NL Cy Young race in 2022 and fifth in 2020. There may be more dominant pitchers around the league, but few have been as consistent.

Fried is deserving of whatever teams will pay him next offseason. With another high quality season in 2024, he could be looking at a seven or eight-year deal worth over $200 million. The Braves hope he never gets to free agency, where the bidding war will likely take them out of the conversation, but it now seems highly unlikely that’s going to happen.

According to Justin Toscano of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the two sides did have conversations about what a possible extension for Fried to stay in Atlanta would look like, but they went nowhere and have not been picked up since.

“According to a person with knowledge of the situation, the Braves and Fried’s camp had discussions about a potential extension before the 2023 season,” Toscano writes. “The sides had a back-and-forth dialogue and exchanged numbers, but those conversations eventually reached an impasse. That is believed to be the last time the Braves and Fried talked about an extension.”

The Braves have shown an increased willingness to spend in recent years. Their projected Opening Day payroll in 2024 is already higher than it has ever been before, and most expect them to keep adding before the start of the season.

There was also a report from earlier in the offseason that the Braves offered Aaron Nola a six-year contract before the Phillies upped their ante and went to seven years. This is a team that’s willing to spend, but perhaps injury concerns prevent them from reaching an extension with Max Fried before he hits free agency.

When on the mound last year, Max Fried was nothing short of spectacular — going 8-1 with a 2.55 ERA and 3.14 FIP in 14 starts, very much in line with the numbers he’s posted since 2020. However, he did miss over half the season after sustaining an elbow injury. Fortunately, Fried was able to avoid Tommy John surgery, but there has to be some level of concern about whether that could continue to bother him moving forward.

Like Freeman and Swanson before him, Max Fried will go down as a legend in Atlanta. He’s been the ace of the Braves rotation for half a decade and delivered the most important pitching performance of the last 25+ years in Game 6 of the World Series. However, as we’ve seen before, that’s not how the Braves operate in negotiations. If Fried is after the most money possible, we very well could be nearing his final season in Atlanta.

Photo: Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire

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