The Braves haven’t been shy about handing out contract extensions in recent years. Including the deals with Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies, the club has committed over $500 million to a handful of players. And the next candidate up for extension is Max Fried.
The ace has established himself as arguably the best lefty on the planet, coming off a second-place finish in the NL Cy Young race while recording a career-best 2.48 ERA, 2.70 FIP, and 5.9 WAR.
Fried still has two arbitration years remaining. He’s slotted to earn $13.5 million in 2023, and that figure could balloon to around $20 million in 2024. So currently, he has about $32 million remaining on his contract. The Braves would seemingly buy out those two years and extend him another 5-7 years. All this to say: Max Fried will not be cheap.
Tim Britton of The Athletic recently mulled over what it would take to lock the California native up.
Fried, basically the only player in Atlanta who isn’t signed through 2030, starts on sturdier footing than either Burnes or Bieber because he’s a Super Two player. Like deGrom mentioned above, Fried earned enough service time to reach arbitration a year earlier than those peers. That’s why he’s making more this year than either Burnes or Bieber, and he’s slated to make more in arbitration before hitting free agency at the same time. (I’d estimate Fried to earn about $32 million over the next two seasons.)
He’s pretty close to Bieber in terms of comps, coming in right alongside someone I brought up on Tuesday.
PLAYER SIGNED AGES FWAR(1) FWAR(3) FWAR(5) YEARS TOTAL AAV 2022 AAV 2012 27-32 5.0 12.4 20.2 6 127.5 21.3 25.5 2023 29- 5.0 12.4 15.8 2015 31-36 5.6 11.6 19.1 6 155.0 25.8 29.5
Cain’s deal valued his free-agent years at $27 million in today’s money, Lester’s at more than $29 million. Given that Fried’s a year older than Burnes and Bieber, let’s say Atlanta buys out four free-agent years at $28 million each. Add in the $32 million over the next two years, and you get a deal for six years and $144 million — what Hamels signed a decade ago as he was about to hit the open market.
A six-year deal averaging $24 million would make Fried the highest-paid member of the organization on a per-year basis. It would be one I would run to sign. It is lower than what the market calls for and only takes him through his age 35 season.
Age shouldn’t worry fans regarding Max Fried. Alex Anthopoulos has spoken at lengths about how he’ll be the type of pitcher to age like a fine wine, and it’s not uncommon anymore for starters to play into their 40s.
I think a good comparison for Fried’s contract would be Carlos Rodon, who inked a six-year, $162 million contract with the Yankees. Granted, New York didn’t buy out arbitration years, so we must keep that in mind. It’s hard to predict what the starting pitching market will look like in a couple of years, but it’s safe to assume Fried would earn more testing the open market instead of agreeing to a deal with Atlanta that includes buying out his arb years.
I wouldn’t be shocked if Max Fried garnered $200+ million over eight years on the open market. I’m not saying the possibility of him returning is slim, but the Braves past paints that picture. Thankfully, Fried has provided hope for an extension.
“Me and the team have always had really good dialogue. We’ve been able to have some good communication. I’ve really loved my time here and I love the team. If that comes to the table, then that’ll be something we think about,” Fried said, via Justin Toscano of the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
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