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Braves lock up Freddie Freeman for eight years; Giants kind of hosed

Dammit, Braves

Kevin C. Cox

A month ago, we took a look at comparable players for Brandon Belt, hoping to find a match with a recent contract extension. Here were the notable players and the deals they signed:

  • Anthony Rizzo, seven years, $41 million, two team options
  • Allen Craig, five years, $31 million, one team option
  • Paul Goldschmidt, five years, $32 million, one team option

All signed well before free agency. None of them were in arbitration, which is important. Still, they looked like solid comps. Belt would probably get that sweet, sweet post-cable-madness bonus, but those were the templates.

Dammit, Braves.

The Braves don't have that sweet, sweet post-cable-madness money. So they have to lock up their young players well before free agency. They gave Freddie Freeman an eight-year, $135 million deal, which seems insane. Because it is insane. I'd love to know what Freeman would have received on the open market this year, because I don't think it would be much different than that. Yet the Braves gave him that guaranteed money three years before free agency.

Eight years, $135 million.

Those players up there are decent comps for Belt. Freeman is just about the perfect comp.

Brandon Belt Freddie Freeman
Age 25 24
AB 1107 1686
AVG .273 .285
OBP .351 .358
SLG .447 .466
OPS+ 128 123
BB-Ref WAR 8 9
FanGraphs WAR 6 7

Freeman is 15 months younger, which is a consideration. But there isn't a better comparison out there for Belt.

Dammit, Braves.

This might mean something in arbitration, but it might not. The Giants could appeal to traditional stats and obfuscate Belt's true value in arbitration. Freeman had 94 RBI last year; Belt had 67. You know that means nothing. I know that means nothing. The arbitrator might think RBIs are really neat.

That's not the big concern, though. This is about keeping Belt around long term. And where the rabbit season/duck season of traditional stats/newfangled stats might work in arbitration, they're not going to convince Belt's people. They can point to Freeman, forever and ever, as the contract that set the market for valuable, young, left-handed first basemen with good-not-great power.

The Giants' saving grace might be that Freeman is a year younger, and he's coming off his best year, with stats that weren't muffled by park effects. Maybe the Belt camp doesn't think of Freeman as an absolutely perfect, rock-solid comp.

Or maybe Belt doesn't want an eight-year deal that would spit him out in his mid-30s. Maybe he would be happy with five years of guaranteed money that would get him out in time for another big contract. Could happen.

Or maybe Freeman will flop so badly in the next three years that an agent bringing him up as a comp would be like Starling Marte's agent using the Vernon Wells deal as a comp -- silly and counterproductive.

Or maybe Belt feels really, really comfortable here. Like he's safe, you know? Like he knows where he stands with his manager and GM, and he knows he won't get jerked around, so he'll totally take a discount.

Dammit, Braves.


Stop that.