Yesterday the Braves agreed to an eight-year, $135 million deal with Freddie Freeman. They separately agreed to a two-year, $13.3 million deal with Jason Heyward, buying out his last two years of arbitration. Today Jon Morosi draws a conclusion from that:
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.
The headline calls it a “clear choice,” and from it Morosi concludes that the team has gone all-in with Freeman, that Heyward will become a free agent in 2015 when his deal is up and that “Freeman is the face of the team.”
Except I have no idea how he can conclude such a thing based on the information currently known.
Nowhere is it reported that the Braves didn’t offer Heyward a deal longer than two years. Indeed, they offered him such a deal last year. Heyward rejected it. That may have happened again. If you’re Heyward it would probably be smart to reject such a thing. He’s coming off of a year which began with an appendectomy and ended with a broken jaw. The two years before that he struggled at times. Despite this he really came on late last year and still has all sorts of promise. And he just turned 24. It is not at all unreasonable to think that 2014 and/or 2015 could be breakout years for him and, if they are, he’s poised to make serious money following the 2015 season. Did the Braves reject him, or did he reject them?
That aside, why is Morosi so certain the Braves can’t extend Heyward at some point before 2015, giving them both Freeman and Heyward as “faces of the franchise?” Dan Uggla and Justin Upton’s deals both run out after the 2015 season. Between them that’s $27 million off the payroll when Heyward hits free agency. Think maybe, if Heyward plays well for two years, that the Braves may find room for him then? I do. At worst it could mean that the Braves have a choice between Upton and Heyward then.
All of this seems like a contrived narrative that attempts to read more deeply into the situation than the facts warrant. Which can be a useful exercise at times if what one is attempting to determine is itself useful. But to do so in the interests of naming “the face of the franchise” seems silly. Especially when the Braves’ chances over the next two years — and they have legitimate chances to contend for a championship in that time — depend on both Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward.