After a still stunning departure from the Braves at free hand, former NL MVP Freddie Freeman fired his longtime agents at Excel Sports Management, reports ESPN’s Buster Olney. Freeman is currently listed in MLB’s central database as self-representing and, according to Jon Heyman of the New York Post (Twitter link) the MLBPA sent an email to agents requesting that they not contact Freeman – a common occurrence when a player is in the process of changing representation.
Freeman doesn’t characterize things so clearly, however. The Dodger Slugger issued a statement to MLB.com’s Mark Bowman, noting that he has not yet fully committed to parting ways with his representatives (Twitter link):
Last weekend in Atlanta was a very emotional time for me and my family. I’m currently working on some issues with my longtime agents at Excel. My presentation remains a fluid situation and I will update it as necessary.
That’s hardly an outright denial of the report, but at least leaves the window open for the relationship to be repaired and endure. Freeman largely deferred to his testimony when broaching the subject with LA Beat reporters (including Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register and Jack Harris of the Los Angeles Times). The five-time All-Star said he “learned a lot” about the free-agent process after speaking to “the other side” — believed to be a reference to his post-signing conversation with Alex Anthopoulos, the president of baseball Atlanta operations — but called it “time to move on and focus on winning championships with the Dodgers.”
Olney reports that the timing of the league’s suspension negotiations was particularly frustrating for Freeman, who had a five-year, $135 million permanent offer from the Braves when the transaction freeze was listed. Several counter offers from Freeman’s camp didn’t result in a deal, and the Braves turned to acquire/extend Matt Olson — a sequence said to have shocked Freeman. Olney’s article goes into more detail on the alleged sequence of negotiations for those curious about the alleged details.
The reports and Freeman’s statement follow an emotional weekend streak that saw Freeman return to Atlanta for the first time since signing a six-year, $162 million contract with the Dodgers. Freeman was scheduled to address the media at a press conference there, but had to step out upon entering the room and try to collect himself. An outwardly emotional Freeman fought back tears while professing a lifelong love for the Braves organization, despite signing elsewhere in free agency. He was emotional when he also received his World Series ring from manager Brian Snitker, and was understandably choked when Atlanta supporters showered him with a standing ovation as he stepped on the plate in his first at-bat of the series.
Whether Freeman stays with Excel or actually hires a new agency has little bearing on the future for most fans — though it’s obviously of keen interest to those working in the industry. Excel has represented Freeman throughout his career and negotiated an eight-year, $135 million contract extension that’s still the largest contract ever signed by a player with three to four years of service in the major leagues, despite him was signed in 2014.
Excel represents dozens of great players, including Freeman’s former teammate and would-be free agent. Dansby Swanson. When asked by Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Justin Toscano if the Freeman saga might make him think twice about his agency, Swanson replied that he would never leave Excel or that a decision made by Freeman would affect his own representation decisions (Twitter link).