Atlanta’s offseason could turn out to be one of the best in baseball, but that’s not the point here.
Atlanta should pride itself on its ability to keep homegrown stars. Despite losing Freeman, they once signed him to an eight-year contract extension in light of the arbitration process, and hoping to avoid it altogether. Yet, with a pair of young All-Stars in the making in Austin Riley and Dansby Swanson, Alex Anthopoulos chose a legal war over giving both players what they wanted in the short-term.
This is despite the record revenue Liberty Media brought in last year, and what’s sure to be another profitable season in Atlanta as the Braves chase a World Series repeat.
Braves can’t avoid arbitration with Austin Riley
The difference between Riley and Atlanta was a measly $205,000.
Swanson, meanwhile, missed out on a new contract by $800,000. In MLB contract terms, that’s not much.
At the time Freeman signed his eight-year contract in 2014, Anthopoulos was not the general manager. Instead, it was Frank Wren who negotiated the eight-year extension with the star first baseman.
“Freddie has established himself as one of the best young talents in the game,” said then-Braves general manager Frank Wren in a statement. “We are excited to sign one of our own homegrown players to a contract that will keep him in a Braves uniform for the next eight seasons.”
Anthopoulos is a superior general manager at this stage — most can agree on that. But perhaps he could take a note from one of his predecessors. It’s best to handle these sorts of things in house when possible and build camaraderie at the financial level.
Eventually, the Braves will want to sign Riley and Swanson to long-term contracts. Financial pressure will only build until then, especially because neither player will forget how cheap the Braves were in the arbitration process, when less than $1 million (and in Riley’s case less than $300,000) separated the two sides from unity.
The Braves could’ve avoided that situation entirely.
For the Braves’ sake, we can only hope history doesn’t repeat itself.