Freddie Freeman: Will Braves be good in back-end of deal?


 Freddie Freeman signed an eight-year deal with the Atlanta Braves in 2013, worth $135 million. How good will the team be in the back-end of Freeman’s contract?

After winning the National League East for the first time in eight years back in 2013, the Atlanta Braves general manager Frank Wren broke the bank and signed many of the team’s players to long-term deals. 2014 was disastrous and 2015 was the first step in an inevitable rebuild.

With starting pitcher Julio Teheran possibly available on the trade market, it seems that only first baseman Freddie Freeman’s eight-year, $135 million contract with the Atlanta Braves will run its course. Was this by design or did the Atlanta Braves organization begin their rebuilding efforts based around Freeman’s long-term contract? Will the team be good in the back half of the deal’s life (2018-21)?

-= See Also: Atlanta Braves trade Shelby Miller to Arizona Diamondbacks =-

At 26 years old, Freddie Freeman has already made two National League All-Star rosters (2013-14) and finished fifth in MVP voting in 2013. Despite a nagging wrist injury that kept Every Day Freddie out of 44 games in 2015, Freeman is widely considered the best player on the Atlanta Braves and is one of the few marketable stars it has on its roster in 2016.

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2016 will go down as the swan song of Turner Field, where after only 20 years baseball on Hank Aaron Drive, the Atlanta Braves will relocate to SunTrust Park, part of the Atlanta Battery in the Cumberland area of Cobb County. Atlanta lost 95 games in 2015 and losing over 100 is in the realm of possibility for this club.

However, it seems as though the rebuild is working. I wouldn’t know since I’ve never seen a rebuilding effort in my lifetime with the Atlanta Braves, but the club has transformed itself from having one of the most barren farm systems in Major League Baseball to having the best entering 2016. President of baseball operations John Hart and general manager John Coppolella have made so many franchise-altering trades in the last calendar year plus that the team is nearly unrecognizable. All that remains from the 2013 team are Julio Teheran and Freddie Freeman, the team’s two marquee players.

Teheran’s contract with the Atlanta Braves runs through 2019 with a team option for 2020. Julio Teheran was part of the many Wren extensions in 2013, signing a six-year deal worth $32.4 million. Half way through the deal, Teheran’s contract is moveable, where Freddie Freeman’s (eight-year, $135 million) is not.

Hart and Coppolella projected that this rebuild was going to run its course in a couple of years, hoping to enter new SunTrust Park in 2017 ready to contend. With a 95-loss season in 2015, that plan may have shifted back a year to 2018. However with promising young prospects like Dansby Swanson, Sean Newcomb, Kolby Allard, and Aaron Blair still in the Minors and players like Matt Wisler, Mike Foltynewicz, Hector Olivera, and Manny Banuelos already at the Major League level, 2018 may actually be the year Atlanta can again contend.

Remember that when Bobby Cox to over the Atlanta Braves’ front office in 1986 after taking the Toronto Blue Jays to the American League Championship Series, he made a plan to make Atlanta a championship caliber team by 1990. He was only off by a year and Atlanta went on to win 14 straight division titles and the 1995 World Series. Could history repeat itself in Atlanta in 2018?

What would stand as a major difference from 1991’s team to potentially 2018’s is that it will certainly have a perennial All-Star well entrenched in the starting lineup in Freddie Freeman, who will be 28 years old and making $21 million. Freeman’s contract is a back-loaded one, as he made $13.625 million his first two years of the deal and will make over $20 million annually starting in 2017, topping out at $22 million in 2020-21.

Next: Atlanta Braves: Shelby Miller trade makes team better in 2016

Ideally, the Atlanta Braves will play their best ball when Freddie Freeman is making the most money. Was this intentional? Not exactly, as Frank Wren couldn’t have known that he was going to play a part in the rebuild when he offered Freeman the eight-year contract. However, this apparently did play a part in the team’s construction going forward. Freeman’s massive deal won’t loom so large if and once the team gets back into contention, hopefully in the next few years or so. Go Braves!