MLB

Inside the yearlong contract saga that split up Freddie Freeman and the Atlanta Braves

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THE SPLIT OF Freddie Freeman and the Atlanta Braves sent shock waves through the industry: It felt like the divorce of a seemingly happy couple, bringing to an end more than a decade of apparent joy and contentment. Freeman, the 2020 NL MVP, was a beloved favorite of Atlanta fans. For years, the Braves had presented him as the worthy heir to a legacy passed along by Henry Aaron, and by Chipper Jones, once Freeman’s teammate and now a close friend.

But after Freeman’s protracted contract talks with the Braves failed — a development that left him devastated, according to friends in the organization — he agreed to a six-year, $162 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He is scheduled to be introduced by his new team on Friday.

« I feel like I lost a family member, » says Jones, who mentored Freeman at the outset of his career and felt his friend’s pain over an hourlong FaceTime call the night that the deal with the Dodgers went down. « I lost a little brother. And that hurts. »

« I wish like anything that we could go back in time, just about a week, and have a do-over. Just for Freddie’s sake. »

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According to multiple industry sources who helped shed light on the negotiations, Freddie Freeman’s divorce from the Braves took shape over the past year, while discussions between GM Alex Anthopoulos and Freeman’s camp, Excel Agency, barely moved. Talks remained at an impasse until one final and immediate deadline that was set last Saturday and expired that same evening. When the sides couldn’t come to an agreement, the Braves pulled their long-standing offer to Freeman off the table, pivoted quickly and traded for Oakland first baseman Matt Olson, signing him to the richest contract in club history.

In the end, the total value of the deal Freeman accepted from the Dodgers turned out to be not far from where the Braves’ final proposal landed, especially considering the thick state tax of California (as well as possible contractual deferrals, a hallmark of a lot of the Dodgers’ deals in recent years).

For Jones, the hardest thing to swallow is how close the two sides seemed. « I have no doubt, the Braves would’ve gone to 145 or 150, » he says. « I’m not going to speak for Alex. I don’t know the interactions between Alex and Excel. But somewhere in there was miscommunication, lack of communication, something…

« From my conversations with Freddie, » Jones says, « he wanted to stay. I’m just not so sure the way that he and his camp handled it was the way to make it happen. »

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