After all, Acuna is just starting a path that could eventually take him to the Hall of Fame.
But despite being on the wrong side of 30, the 32-year-old Freeman remains a top hitter.
He is fresh off hitting 31 home runs with a .300/.393/.503 slash line.
He accumulated 4.5 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) and was there to carry the Braves when Acuna suffered a season-ending injury in July.
On the strength of a phenomenal postseason showing by Freeman (.304/.420/.625 line, five homers, and a 1.045 OPS), the Braves lifted the World Series trophy for the first time since 1995.
A Brave For Life
Freeman is currently a free agent, and is said to be looking for a contract worth $180 million, covering six years.
The Braves can’t, under any circumstances, let him go to another team.
He is just too good and too important to the franchise for fans to accept that decision if they had to deal with it.
Freeman has been with the Braves since 2007, when he was drafted in the second round.
That’s an eternity in baseball, and loyalty is definitely worth something.
It’s understandable that the Braves are reluctant to go to six years, but it’s the price to pay for years of top production and the odds of him maintaining a high performance level for at least four or five additional campaigns.
Besides, the Braves have given their fair share of below-market extensions to other stars, so they certainly can afford to go over the top for their biggest star of the last decade.
They infamously signed second baseman Ozzie Albies, one of the top players of his position, to a seven-year, $35 million deal in 2019, and Acuna himself is on a very affordable contract (eight years, $100 million) for a player of his talent.
It's typical that agents criticize competitors' deals. But I've now heard from executives, players, analytics people, development side and scouts who are saying the same thing: The Ozzie Albies extension might be the worst contract ever for a player. And this is not hyperbole.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) April 11, 2019
They Have The Means
Many of their current stars and important contributors are, additionally, in the team control stages.
It’s true that Max Fried and Dansby Swanson are in for sizable bumps in pay, but even if there are some changes to the way teams compensate players with little MLB experience, the Braves have Luke Jackson, A.J. Minter, Mike Soroka, Tyler Matzek, Austin Riley, Kyle Wright, Huascar Ynoa, Ian Anderson, Tucker Davidson, William Contreras, and Kyle Muller controllable for little money, freeing up some space in the budget to bring back their icon.
Freeman has won MVP awards, Silver Slugger awards, Gold Gloves, and multiple All-Star berths.
He is a fan favorite, he puts people in the stands night in and night out, he helps the Braves make millions in merchandise sales, and he is a hit on the field.
— Devin Wilson (@Devbos) January 17, 2022
What are they waiting for, really?
Well, right now, they can’t sign him because of the lockout, but it should be their first order of work when the market is active again.
The Braves have absolutely no excuses to lose Freeman over an extra year late in his career.
They could still get top-end production out of him for a few more seasons.
Re-signing him is necessary.