• Exclusives

    Braves lock up Freeman, Heyward

    While Braves Country was expecting 3 arbitration hearings to determine contracts for Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward and Craig Kimbrel, Frank Wren was at work trying to make extensions happen with Freeman and Heyward. Wren was successful and deals were made official locking up Freeman for 8 years and Heyward for 2.

    Jason Heyward is nowcelebrating a 2-year contract, avoiding arbitration.

    Jason Heyward is now celebrating a 2-year contract, avoiding arbitration.

    Locking up Freddie Freeman to an 8-year, $135 million contract may be the smartest move Frank Wren and the front office of the Braves have made in years. Freeman has played in 471 career games with Atlanta, recording a .285 batting average, scoring 250 runs, knocking 68 home runs and driving in 280 RBIs. Freeman’s franchise-record contract, surpassing Chipper Jones’ 6-year, $90 million extension in 2001 (for the 2001-06 seasons), will lock Freddie in with the Braves through the 2021 season. Freddie’s contract will expire when he is only 32-years-old.

    A huge upside to signing Freddie Freeman is his durability. Over the past 3 seasons, Freeman has averaged of 150 games per season. In those seasons, he has averaged 82 runs scored, 31 doubles, 22 homers and 93 RBIs.

    What appears to be the Braves choosing Freeman over Heyward may actually be an attempt to spur on the talented Heyward who many believe has never played up to his own potential. In any case, the Braves are in a good position with Heyward who will be under contract until he hits the free agent market after the 2015 season. Heyward’s contract is worth $13.3 million over that 2-year span.

    Craig Kimbrel is headed to arbitration later this month.

    Craig Kimbrel is headed to arbitration later this month.

    In Heyward’s 532 games over 4 seasons he has recorded a .259 batting average, averaged 149 hits per season, 3o doubles and 22 homers. In additions to those numbers, he came in 2nd in Rookie of the Year balloting in 2010, was an All Star in 2010 and earned a Gold Glove in 2012.

    Frank Wren has said, as many believe, that revenue increases from the move from Turner Field to the new stadium in Cobb County will allow the Braves to compete when players hit the open market through free agency and will allow the team to hang onto homegrown guys like Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward. In the coming years, a sleu of talent will be arbitration eligible or hit free agency including Andrelton Simmons, Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, Alex Wood, Evan Gattis, Brandon Beachy and others. It would appear that with the Heyward and Freeman signings as well as the coming arbitration hearing for Kimbrel, the high-profile priority for the Braves will be shortstop Andrelton Simmons.

    Craig Kimbrel is still headed for arbitration. The hearing is slated for February 17th.

    Tara Rowe is an independent historian and beat writer for BravesWire.com. Follow Tara on Twitter @framethepitch.