It’s rare for a player to switch agents right after signing a monster deal. But Freddie Freeman is seriously considering doing just that, and is indeed expected to do so, as Buster Olney first reported.
Freeman obviously wasn’t happy leaving the Braves, even if it meant almost going home to the Dodgers (he’s from The OC), and he originally blamed Braves management, which is very budget-conscious, albeit it is a big money maker (they reportedly made $100 million in profits in 2021), can be very corporate and doesn’t tend to get warm or fuzzy. But as he gathered information about what happened, he now blames at least part of it on Excel, his longtime proxies. Another thing to wonder about: while it’s now clear that Freeman was keen to stay, did his agents receive and understand this message? It’s up to Freeman to decide who deserves the blame, but the Braves don’t seem to be at fault here based on what I’ve gathered.
That’s how the negotiations went, according to sources. For the record: Casey Close, Excel’s chief baseball agent, denied the story told by others here and said via text it was “false,” without further elaboration.
In any case, Freeman himself believes the Braves put in more effort than he previously thought (although their offers were comparable to the Dodgers’ deal from here, the Braves didn’t seem as keen on getting the Braves legend preserve, as one might imagine). While he responded to the original report that he was leaving Excel that the situation was “fluctuating,” it is expected that he is in fact likely to leave the agency.
No matter who you believe, something obviously went very wrong, as Freeman’s Atlanta tears told a story. He seemed so upset that he was no longer inducted into the Hall of Fame that Dodgers teammate Clayton Kershaw, also represented by Excel, publicly hoped the Dodgers weren’t “second fiddle,” reminding Freeman that that the Dodgers were a “pretty special” team, and suggested that he “would really enjoy being cozy here.”
As for the specifics, sources say the Braves offered $135 million for five years right after last summer’s close, upping their original bid of $125 million (equivalent to the annual salary of another Excel client, George Springer). While the Braves were only about .500 at the time, they chose to step over Paul Goldschmidt’s $130 million deal and agreed that Freeman was the better player with an even better resume. At the time, Excel suggested that the offer should last for six years.
Then, after the lockout ended, Excel called the Braves on March 12 to make them a couple of counter offers, letting them know they needed an immediate response and had to come up with their maximum bid, implying they were ready were to move. According to sources, Excel presented two options that night as “Braves awards,” which presumably meant a discounted deal for his preferred team: $165 million for five years or $175 million for six years. They also upped the urgency by telling the Braves they had exactly one hour to respond.
The Braves came back and said no thanks to Excel’s numbers, but since they had to try something for a legendary Brave after winning the World Series and the end of the lockout, sources said they downvoted their offer verbally to $140 million for five have increased. It wasn’t a huge increase for a legendary player, but Freeman’s reps could have countered at that point, and it’s hard to imagine the Braves wouldn’t have gone to at least $145 million given his value to the franchise. Instead, sources say the talks appeared to end amicably, with the sides beginning to talk about other Excel free agents, and the Braves believing the Freeman camp had something worth more than $175 million and was in the process of taking it.
At that point, the Braves, apparently thinking Freeman must be close to a deal elsewhere, turned their attention to other options. They tried hiring Anthony Rizzo the next day and got nowhere, being told Rizzo wanted to wait until Freeman got off the board (he would also have preferred a return to the Yankees, where he soon ended up). So, on March 13, Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos called A’s honcho Billy Beane and traded for Matt Olson the next day. The Braves announced an eight-year, $168 million deal soon after, showing how badly they wanted him.
The first issue is that Freeman obviously didn’t end up where he wanted, despite the Braves reportedly making two competitive bids.
The second is that he didn’t get a better deal in LA than the one the Braves are said to have offered. The $162 million over six years in LA is offset by an estimated $13 million tax hike in California over Georgia, which offset the $57 million in deferred funds in the LA deal for another estimated $13 million loss Dollars (the Braves didn’t defer anything) and about $1 million more in commission for Excel, considering the deal is $22 million more net of deferrals (assuming a 5 percent commission). So the estimated value of the Dodgers deal is about the same or slightly less for another game year. In any case, it at least seems like the hand was overdone given how badly Freeman obviously wanted to stay in Georgia.
Excel, the second largest agency in the game and a huge hit that has mentored Derek Jeter, Goldschmidt, Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and many other stars and garnered many excellent deals (e.g., $206.5 million for Greinke), stands about to lose his second big player make big deals. Trevor Story left after his $140 million, six-year deal with the Red Sox. Despite this, Excel is expected to collect about $15 million in commissions from the two deals.