by Julian Spivey
The Atlanta Braves made the decision to move on from the face of their franchise Freddie Freeman on Monday, March 14 when they acquired All-Star and Gold Glove-winning first baseman Matt Olson from the Oakland Athletics for four prospects, including two of their highest ranked minor leaguers in their system. Freeman is a free agent whom the Braves decided they weren’t going to be able to sign to a deal. I almost wrote “decided they weren’t going to be able to afford,” but that’s just not true.
Freeman has only been with the Braves franchise for his career, which has included the last 11 seasons in the big leagues. He was a five-time All-Star with the franchise, the 2020 National League Most Valuable Player and played a major role in the team winning its first World Series title in more than a quarter-century in 2021.
There had been a bit of a strain between Freeman and the organization going all the way back to last Spring Training when it was expected the team would re-up with Freeman well before his free agency even came around this offseason. When the team didn’t re-sign him quickly after the season before the lockout that lasted more than three months it was a bigger sign a reunion between him, and the Braves might not happen to the chagrin of much of the team’s fan-base.
The biggest hang-up in a potential deal between the Braves and Freeman seemed to be a sixth-year, which would’ve had Freeman in a Braves uniform at the age of 38.
Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos, who had been hugely popular among the Braves fan-base during his tenure with the team – something that may well change now, told The Athletic writer David O’Brien that the “team had to be put together and he decided last night (Sunday, March 13) to move forward [from Freeman]” to do so.
It’s never easy for a team to lose the face of its franchise, which Freeman has been for a decade since the retirement of life-long Brave Chipper Jones after the 2012 season. Braves fans have essentially been on “Freeman Watch” ever since the season ended – and especially since the end of the lockout last week and free agency ramped back up – and I know Monday was incredibly emotional for them. However, there are two things I hope we don’t see from the Braves fan-base: 1) don’t blame Freddie Freeman for not re-signing with the team. This is the organization’s fault. They had the means to sign him and if they were going to, they should’ve locked him up well before the end of the 2021 season. Please don’t boo one of the team’s all-time great players when he returns in another uniform to Truist Park in Atlanta. 2) don’t be hard on Matt Olson. It’s not Olson’s fault that Freeman is no longer with the Braves, and he shouldn’t be compared to Freeman.
The fact that the Braves could make such an acquisition in Olson in replacing Freeman is an amazing move by Anthopoulos and the team. If you’re going to lose an All-Star the best way to replace them is by gaining another All-Star. And, honestly, Olson might be a scarier fit in the Braves lineup than Freeman. Last year Olson’s power numbers were better than Freeman’s. Olson hit eight more home runs than Freeman and drove in 28 more runs and that was with an arguably lesser lineup of hitters around him. Olson’s batting average was 29 points lower than Freeman’s. Olson has averaged 35 home runs over the last three full MLB seasons (ignoring the 60-game shortened season of 2020). Freeman averaged 26. More importantly Olson will be 28-years old when the 2022 season begins next month, where as Freeman is 32. The Braves have Olson locked up for the next two seasons but hope him being from a suburb of Atlanta will sway him into signing on long-term.
As of the writing of this article on late Monday, March 14 Freeman hasn’t signed a deal with any franchise.