It’s a trade most Braves fans seem to be fond of. Sale’s injury history is a concern, but Boston is paying most of his 2024 salary and the rest of the money is deferred. Plus, the Braves have a club option they can exercise on Sale if things go well that would pay him $20 million. Not a bad price at all if he can stay healthy.
However, the acquisition of Sale doesn’t ease the concerns in regards to the future of the Braves rotation. Charlie Morton is on his last leg, and Sale could be out the door with him at the end of the year. But even more importantly, Max Fried is set to become a free agent, and Ken Rosenthal doesn’t believe the Braves will make a serious run at retaining him.
“Fried, in my opinion, is almost certain to leave as a free agent,” Rosenthal said on Foul Territory. “He’s going to be priced out of where the Braves want to be.”
Based on the past, I don’t think anyone can disagree with the sentiment laid out here by Rosenthal. The Braves let one of their best players in franchise history walk over an extra year. The following offseason, they didn’t even make a competitive offer for Dansby Swanson, who signed a $177 million contract with the Cubs. Even further, the Braves have never spent more than $75.25 million on a free agent, which came back in 2012 when the club signed B.J. Upton.
With that being said, this isn’t the same Braves franchise we’ve seen in the past in terms of spending. Their luxury tax payroll going into 2024 is already at $275 million and has continued to rise year over year. Next year, that number is all the way down to $166 million. That’s a lot of cash to play with, but there will also be several holes to fill.
We also know the Braves went hard after Aaron Nola this offseason, forcing the Phillies to up their offer to seven years, $172 million. If they were willing to spend that kind of dough on Nola, why wouldn’t they be in the market for one of their own in Fried?
I’m not nearly as certain as Rosenthal that Max Fried already has one foot out the door. The Braves will have gobs of cash to spend and a desperate need for another frontline starter. However, ignoring the past would be foolish. The Braves don’t pay sticker price for anything, and if Max Fried hits the open market, that will likely be the only way they can retain him.
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