Freedie Freeman's 135 Million Dollar Contract

mabrowndog

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Dec 23, 2003
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Good idea, Nip. 
 
MLBTR's Steve Adams breaks it down relative to recent deals for other studs at similar points in their careers:
 
Freeman, like teammate Jason Heyward (who reached a two-year contract agreement earlier today), is represented by Excel Sports Management. His agents have secured him a larger guarantee than the five-year, $105MM promise made by the Brewers to Ryan Braun when he still had less than four years of service. It also bests the $120MM guarantee given by the Rangers last year to Elvis Andrus, when he had four years on his clock. The deal slots in beneath the eight-year, $159MM guarantee made by the Giants to Buster Posey (with less than three years of service) and the seven-year, $154MM deal given Adrian Gonzalez by the Red Sox back in 2011 (when he was a year away from free agency).
 
And some perspective on how rapidly MLB pay rates are expanding:
 
For an idea of how this deal reflects on league-wide salary trends, consider Justin Morneau's January 25, 2008 extension with the Twins. With 3.168 years of service under his belt, and coming off of an MVP and then an All-Star campaign, the fellow first baseman was promised $80MM over six years. Though younger, Freeman signs his deal at a point at which he has shown a somewhat lower high-water mark and, arguably at least, a less-promising overall trajectory than that of Morneau. 
 
Indeed (as Adams notes on Twitter) the Braves seem to have paid a hefty price for the five free agent years covered by the new contract. Even making the aggressive assumption that Freeman would earn $30MM over his arbitration period -- quite unlikely, since he stood to make less than $6MM this year already -- then the contract pays him a $21MM AAV for his free agent years. That implied free agency value, which is surely a low estimate, seems like a fairly steep price for a promise made three full seasons before Freeman would have hit the open market.
 
Giancarlo Stanton is 2 months younger than Freeman. He's been far more productive offensively (69.1 RAA vs 55.0 RAA the last 3 seasons per Fangraphs). This despite playing on a far shittier offensive team (ATL's OPS+ the last 3 years: 90, 90, 97; MIA: 93, 85, 73; NL overall 94) and in a far less offense-friendly home park (ESPN HR Park factor rankings last 3 years for ATL: 17, 22, 18; MIA: 18, 26, 30). Plus he plays a premium defensive position and has been far less of a defensive liability the last three years per Fangraphs (Freeman -45.3 RAA, Stanton -13.3 RAA).
 
WIth a $6.5M salary, he's making $2M more this year (also his first year of arb eligibility) than the Braves intially offered Freeman for this season (Stanton and the Marlins agreed to terms before their arb figures were exchanged).
 
I'm having a hard time seeing how Stanton wouldn't get an 8-year deal for at least $200M on the open market today. As such, I don't see how any MLB club would trade for him without getting a long-term deal done in advance.
 

mastergasket

lurker
Dec 10, 2012
16
My reading of this is that teams like the Braves are learning not to differentiate between arbitration salaries and free agent salaries. This way, they get Freeman, who will probably continue to be a solidly above-average player, through what will most likely be his prime. This extension won't run out until he is 32, then they can let him leave. When he hits the open market again, some foolish team can overpay him for his declining years, like the Angels are doing with Pujols and the Mariners will do with Cano. It's all the same money, so why not use it to pay for a player's true peak/superstar years, then let him become someone else's problem.
 
This is what a mid-market team like the Braves can afford to do. The A's and Rays aren't really wealthy enough to sign players to any major extensions, but most other teams can. Pujols is a great example. His first extension ran 8 years, and in those 8 years, he made $116 million while producing 60.7 WAR (per Fangraphs). The Cardinals paid less than $2 million per WAR.  The Angels, on the other hand, are on pace to pay almost $11 million per WAR. (Yes, that includes his mostly injured 2013, but that's balanced out by the presumption of Pujols' continual decline.)  I know inflation has gone crazy over the last few years, but really, even if the Cardinals had doubled the AAV of that extension, they still clearly come out ahead in terms of value.
 
I think we're going to see more of this. Teams saying, "Let's forget about what arbitration years are 'supposed' to cost. Let's buy out the prime years of a solid player, then let some other team overpay for their decline."