August 15, 2022

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Freddy Freeman's long-running free agency saga is filled with tears, anger and blame

Freddy Freeman’s long-running free agency saga is filled with tears, anger and blame

We are all suckers for that. The departing free agent returns to where he started. Fans shower him with affection. Tears shed and hugs exchanged. The passage of time makes the bitter moment less bitter and sweeter.

This is what you thought you were seeing when Freddy Freeman He came back last weekend to Atlanta, right? Well, we now know that an undercurrent of anger fed Freeman’s feelings, bitter competition, and perhaps even supremacy, over the sweet.

Freeman’s decision to leave brave to Dodgers It was one of the most unfortunate free agent results in recent memory, and one for which each party is responsible – the brave, Freeman’s agents at Excel Sports Management, Freeman himself.

The episode reflected many errors in professional sports in the 21st century. Teams care more about salary efficiency than loyalty to the players they reward. Agents are more concerned with setting financial standards than honoring their clients’ wishes. The fan favorite trumps the other clubs because… well, why exactly?

Freeman’s decision to join the Dodgers on a six-year, $162 million free agent contract seemed unfortunate the moment it happened more than three months ago. It looked even worse over the weekend, when Freeman shed enough tears to water the playing surface at Trust Park for the next three months.

Incredibly, the saga isn’t over yet.

Sunday night, during ESPN’s broadcast of the Dodgers-Braves finale, all baseball agents received a “Don’t Call Freddy Freeman” email from Major League Baseball Players. The Federation issues such orders only at the player’s request. In such cases, the player generally wants to avoid being inundated with calls or messages from his previous agency, or other agents interested in representing him.

Several customers said Sunday night that Freeman decided to disconnect Excel. Freeman declined to comment on the athlete On Sunday and again on Monday. Casey Close, Excel’s lead agent, did not respond to requests for comment.

ESPN reported on Tuesday that Freeman has left Excel, but Freeman has not confirmed this publicly, describing the situation as “liquid. At this point, it would be a shock if Freeman stayed with the agency. Maybe he’s not ready, for whatever reason, to make the news official.

Freeman, 32, appears to have finally realized he needed to move on, telling reporters on Tuesday, “There has to be a shutdown,” after Tell me in an interview To Fox Sports on Saturday, “I’m not looking forward to any shutdown. I don’t want to shut down something that has been very special to me for 15 years.” But to borrow a term often invoked by players, all parties involved need to “wear it”. Here is the reason one by one:

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the brave

Let’s start with the ownership of Liberty Media, which mentioned $568 million in total revenue from Braves for 2021, the season in which Freeman helped lead the team to its first World Championship title in 25 years.

Liberty Media and blue jaysThe parent company, Rogers Communications, are the only two major leagues that, as publicly traded entities, must report their earnings. Braves’ success, both on the field and in developing the Liberty-owned battery adjacent to Trust Park, propelled Liberty to a second-straight payroll, jumping from $131.4 million on opening day in 2021 to $177.8 million in ’22.

So, why do we draw the line with Freeman?

That choice appears to be largely up to Chief of Baseball Operations Alex Anthopoulos, who, despite Liberty’s latest generosity, does not operate with unlimited resources. The Braves, even after the salary increase, are only ninth in the majors. So when in August 2021 Anthopoulos offered Freeman a five-year extension worth $135 million — $5 million more than basics Gave the leader of the first arguably superior, Paul Goldschmidt – He might not have been comfortable going much further. Whether he increased the bid to $140 million once Freeman became a free agent is a matter of dispute.

My belief—and that of a number of baseball agents and executives—is that Anthopoulos favored it exactly the way it did, with the Braves trading for a smaller, cheaper version of Freeman, Matt Olson. Is Olson as good as Freeman now? Mostly not. But his eight-year, $168 million contract covers his lifespan from 28 to 35 seasons. Freeman’s deal with the Dodgers covers his campaigns ranging from 32 to 37 years.

Olson commissioned the brave four prospects in their trade with Athletics, but his average annual value of $21 million left the team with more salary flexibility than Freeman had at $27 million, or $28 million each. The Braves, who excel in scouting and player development, included the catcher Shea Langeliers as the cornerstone of their pact with the A’s in part because they had another young hunter, William Contreraswho emerged this season as a potential star.

So anthopoulos and the brave can end up looking smarter. Their fans had no problem embracing Olson, who grew up in Lilburn, Ga. But Freeman was a very popular local talent, a good heir to Hall of Famer Chipper Jones, and exactly the type of player who should spend his entire career with one team. If the brave ones really wanted it, they didn’t push hard enough.

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The feelings Freeman displayed in Atlanta made it clear that he was sensitive. He said he made it clear to Excel from the start of discussions with Braves that he wanted to stay in Atlanta. At this point, the task for Excel should have been clear. Talk to the other teams. Exercise as much leverage as possible. But in the end, he came up with the best possible deal with the Braves.

Freeman wanted six guaranteed years, or at least, Excel wanted six guaranteed years for him. Excel can refer to two excellent offers made by low income raysAnd the according to To ESPN – six years, $140 million or seven years, $150 million – as evidence that the brave didn’t do enough. But Excel was supposed to know his client and know how he would react to Braves leaving. If Freeman’s overwhelming priority was to be in Atlanta, nothing else should have mattered.

Excel will collect the commission on Freeman’s deal with the Dodgers, which will be $8.1 million over the course of the deal at the baseball record rate of 5 percent. However, Freeman’s loss would be a high-profile departure of the newly signed free customer from the agency in the past two months. second base player Trevor’s storywho signed a six-year, $140 million contract with red socks In a deal that became official on March 20, Transformed into a baseball Wasserman At the end of April.

Freeman had reason to trust Excel, who negotiated an eight-year, $135 million extension with the Braves in February 2014. The highly respected agency represents Hall of Famer Derek Jeter as well as a number of current stars, including Goldschmidt. , Clayton KershawAnd the Kyle SchwarberAnd the George Springer And – ahem – current shortstop Braves Dansby SwansonWho is in his year career.

Despite this, Excel should have expected Freeman’s reaction. The agency finally got a guaranteed sixth year from the Dodgers, but to what? Freeman’s $162 million deal, taking into account high California tax rates and deferred payments in the contract, may be comparable in net worth to the $135 million that Braves are known to offer. According to sources, one of Freeman’s motives for leaving Excel was to prevent the agency from promoting his deal as its latest victory.

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Freddy Freeman

So, who was running the show here, anyway? Freeman does not work with Excel. The agency is working for him. And it’s Freeman’s fault, more than anyone else, if he doesn’t end up exactly where he wants.

Insofar as he thought he made clear his desires to close and Victor Menocal, the Excel representative with whom he usually communicated, Freeman should have been more directly involved in the process. He is not the first player affected by his agent and is seeking the biggest contract on the most comfortable landing spot. Nor was he the first player to overrule his agent even if it meant less money for both parties.

Having said that, Freddy worries a lot.

The Dodgers weren’t exactly an unwelcome landing spot for Freeman, who is from Orange County in Southern California. Freeman and his wife, Chelsea, have spent the seasons in their oceanfront home in Corona Del Mar, an hour from Los Angeles, and the team have done nine straight games post-season, a race more impressive than their four consecutive Braves titles.

Freeman, if he does leave Excel, will not need an agent for contract negotiations until his current deal expires, and a lawyer or business manager can help him with approvals and other matters. He would be fine, although no one should be surprised if last weekend’s outpouring of emotions surprised his new teammates.

Kershaw appeared to send an inaccurate message to Freeman, telling the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “I hope we’re not the second mess. It’s a very special team here too.” Despite this, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts defended his fresh reaction to the first baseman Athletic Fabian dress“If anyone has a problem with that, that’s them. It shouldn’t be a problem. This guy helped us win the most games this year and he will continue to do so.”

Fair enough, but this past weekend turns out not so much a celebration as a realization of all that went wrong. Player, team and agency, all brilliant, combined to achieve an unfortunate and unnecessary outcome. Too bitter, not sweet enough.

(Top photo by Freddy Freeman: Bob Andres/The Associated Press)