The Atlanta Braves signed first baseman Freddie Freeman to an eight-year deal on Tuesday, avoiding salary arbitration. The contract, the longest in both length and dollars in franchise history, is valued at $135 million, per Mark Bowman of MLB.com. According to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman, the deal will pay Freeman a $2.875 bonus, $5.125 million this season, $8.5 million in 2015, $12 million in 2016, $20.5 million in 2017, $21 million in 2018 and 2019, and $22 million in both 2020 and 2021.
The new deal will reportedly not just buy out Freeman's arbitration years, but will lock him up five years into free agency. Freeman, 24, was in just his first year of arbitration and had been set for a hearing on Feb. 11.
"Freddie has established himself as one of the best young talents in the game," said Braves general manager Frank Wren in a statement. "We are excited to sign one of our own homegrown players to a contract that will keep him in a Braves uniform for the next eight seasons."
Freeman had filed for $5.75 million in 2014 while the Braves were offering $4.5 million, a difference of $1.25 million.
Freeman broke out in 2013 with a .319/.396/.501 line with 23 home runs. Those numbers were good enough to earn him his first All-Star nod and a top-five finish in NL MVP voting. The Braves are likely hoping he will be a key cog in their lineup for years to come. Locking him up now could go a long way toward aiding future contract negotiations as well.
It appears Wren may be straying from an organizational philosophy of not negotiating with arbitration-eligible players after the filing date. Freeman is now the second Brave to sign in a short period after outfielder Jason Heyward agreed to a two-year deal worth $13.3 million earlier on Tuesday. The multi-year deals indicate Atlanta may be willing to negotiate with players on long-term contracts but will refuse to work on one-year stopgaps before a hearing. Certainly signing Freeman to a huge contract that locks him up into free agency is a special exception to the team's style.