Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman was in the company of Chipper Jones when the former Braves third baseman received the phone call informing him that he had been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. At Chop Fest over the weekend, Freeman told Fox Sports South that Jones has rubbed off on him.
Freeman said, “[Jones] never wanted to be a free agent. He was loyal and that rubs off on me. I want to be here forever. Hopefully, I can follow in his path. I don’t know if I’ll ever do what he did, but hopefully, I can be here for the rest of my career.”
Freeman, 28, signed an eight-year, $135 million contract extension in February 2014. Four years and $86 million are remaining on that deal, meaning he will be 32 when his contract expires. He’s been remarkably productive over the course of his eight-year career and particularly in the last two seasons during which he has posted a .968 and .989 OPS. Still, whether Freeman remains a Brave into his mid- and late-30’s really depends on his ability to stay healthy — he’s played in fewer than 120 games in two of the last three seasons — and remain productive.
Which is why it’s not the smartest thing to pledge one’s loyalty to a team because that loyalty isn’t reciprocal. If Freeman’s health declines and/or his offense wanes, the Braves won’t think twice about letting him become a free agent or trading him should a tempting offer come along. Being so open about his loyalty to the Braves hurts his leverage if he were to negotiate another contract extension or a new contract when his current one expires. It also creates an expectation among other players to act in a similar fashion, reducing player leverage across the sport. The sentiment is nice, but the MLBPA should help players find the right phrasing to express their happiness and gratitude with their situations.