Freeman is now face of Braves

sports@macon.comFebruary 11, 2014 

The Atlanta Braves’ recent investment in first baseman Freddie Freeman must have eased the fears of fans who wondered if all the extra revenue was simply going into the new stadium fund. We now know this franchise is, in fact, willing to spend money to try and keep some of the young talent.

Each major league team is getting an additional $25 million this season and moving forward from the new national television deal. On top of that, it is believed the Braves have slight revenue increases in the bad local TV deal it has with Fox Sports South.

While the 2014 payroll might be around the same level (right below $100 million) it has been for the last decade, there is little doubt the team will have increased revenues when it moves into its new stadium in 2017. And looking at how the team spread out Freeman’s future salary, there’s no doubt it will increase that team payroll past $100 million per year.

The Braves will have to in order to pay Freeman more than $20 million per year, as it calls for in the back end of his contract.

But for now, the Braves will still be thrifty in making decisions. Don’t be fooled -- that extra TV money will help pay for the new stadium. But if that’s the price the Braves pay to ensure increased revenues in the long-term, it’ll be worth it.

The Braves just don’t have a lucrative local TV deal like many teams are getting, like the Philadelphia Phillies, who will get almost $100 million per year from their new contract. So the revenues from the new stadium are crucial for the Braves to maintain that competitive balance.

And the first big decision was a good one. Freeman is the perfect player to invest in for the long term. He’s a power hitter who plays great defense. His statistics have gotten better during his first three seasons in the big leagues, and there’s little doubt in his potential to be a run producer for years to come.

Freeman has stayed fairly healthy in his career so far, which is the exact problem with his good friend and teammate Jason Heyward. That’s probably why Heyward didn’t join Freeman in getting a new long-term deal.

Heyward is just a more difficult case. He has struggled at times and been great at times, but his two partial seasons have kept his stats from being more special. Heyward must come out this year and prove he can stay healthy and put up All-Star caliber numbers, which might ironically put him out of the Braves’ price range.

If Heyward struggles again, the Braves will not want to sign him long-term anyway. So that makes it very unlikely Heyward will be with the Braves past the 2015 season.

But this is Freeman’s team now. With Brian McCann now in New York with the Yankees, Freeman has the team’s big contract. We know Freeman is going to be around for the next eight years, and therefore he is the new face of this franchise.

It might be somewhat superficial, but the hugs Freeman hands out in the dugout mean something. He’s a leader, and a team that has needed a personality for a long time seems to lean on him for emotional support in both good times and bad. Don’t think the Braves didn’t think about that when making that investment.

There will be challenges for this team to get more young players signed for the long term, but the Freeman signing is an excellent start in keeping a talented core together for many years to come.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and e-mail him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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