Earlier in the week the Atlanta Braves made waves in the baseball world by signing Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward to contract extensions. Instead of just reporting the news that hundreds of other sites beat us to, we’ll try to react to something interesting and developing that is just now a footnote of this story.
FOX’s Jon Paul Morosi states that the Braves were signaling to the world their choice between Freeman and Heyward.
You could have described this as the Braves committing multiyear contracts to a pair of 24-year-old stars who already have earned their first All-Star selections. But the chasm of more than $120 million tells you what this really was: a choice between the two.
At first my intuition said to me that the Heyward deal was a simple two-year bridge to a longer term contract. It would allow the Braves time to see what happens with Heyward before guys like Dan Uggla come off the books – and rightfully so. As high as we once were on Heyward, he remains one of baseball’s great enigmas. He has lost a little luster on his once flawless diamond.
But Morosi just might be right. This is really going to follow one of two possible paths. Neither of which look like the long-term future of Heyward is a certainty in Atlanta. We see Heyward putting together the best full year of his career this season in Atlanta, and then in 2015 in his contract year he has a MONSTROUS season and plays himself into a contract the Braves now probably can’t afford. The other path would be if Heyward simply remains a solid player. At that point he’ll probably still ask for too much we assume, and Atlanta would allow him to seek a contract they don’t see him worthy of in another city.
By committing the big dollars to Freeman, Frank Wren has gone with the safer option. And the Freeman contract is unlikely to end badly. Even if his ceiling might be a bit lower than Heyward’s, his floor looks to be higher at this point. He has a future that should be full of All Star appearances, even if he never wins an MVP. If Heyward ever puts it all together, he’ll bring home that award. But he’s been puzzling at best during his short career.
Over the next few years it will be interesting to see how Atlanta attempts to manage this situation with Heyward.