If you were to ask any baseball fan at the start of the offseason about the possibility of Freddie Freeman leaving the Atlanta Braves, most would have probably said there is no chance. When you think of the current Braves organization, you think of Ronald Acuna Jr. and Freeman, much in the same light as thinking of Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. when the Blue Jays get brought up in conversation.
Fast forward to today, and it appears that the lefty slugger may be on his way out when the lockout ends in the hopefully not-so-distant future.
ESPN’s Buster Olney is reporting that there has been an apparent shift from those in the industry, with many believing that Freeman and the Braves will part ways this Winter. The Braves did reportedly offer Freeman a contract worth $135 million over five years but the slugger not only wants more money (reportedly $180 million) but is also looking for an additional sixth year, leading some to believe that Atlanta will look elsewhere for a first baseman.
Freeman will be one of the top names available when teams are allowed to sign free agents again and the Blue Jays have already done their due diligence with the World Series champion, speaking with his representatives prior to the lockout. While this may not have seen like too much before the lockout, it now sets the stage for a larger discussion on how the Jays may be one of the teams looking to sign the California product once they are able to.
With the recent reports indicating Freddie Freeman signing elsewhere this offseason, can the Blue Jays entice him to come North of the border?
Adding a player of Freeman’s calibre is going to require some serious capital and the Blue Jays are one team that has the ownership capable of funding such an addition (if they so choose). Heading into the 2022 campaign, the franchise is shaping up to have about $159 million in payroll with an estimated $50 million in additional space before hitting the current (and possibly changing) luxury tax limit as per Spotrac.com.
While the likes of Kevin Gausman, Jose Berrios, and George Springer taking up a serious chunk of change, not to mention the possibility of long term mega extensions for Bichette and Guerrero Jr., the club was reportedly interested in adding Corey Seager and according to Jeff Passan, were very much in the running but were unwilling to go as high as the Rangers with their 10-year $325 million commitment. Seeing the organization be so willing to compete at the level of trying to sign a player like Seager should mean that they should have the funds to sign Freeman if they are willing to compete with teams across the league for his services.
In terms of the roster, Freeman would obviously slot in at first base, meaning Guerrero Jr. would either have to either tandem with him at the position as well as move in as the designated hitter, or move back across the diamond to third base, where he began his career. Having a Gold Glove winner and five-time All-Star at first base would be an absolute blast on the roster, but moving Guerrero back to third does present a potential defensive liability, evident by his .936 fielding percentage at the position. This could change heading into the upcoming season, as Junior is not the same player that debuted with the Jays back in 2019 and is in better shape, but it is a defensive risk if the club chooses to go that route.
Offensively, the Blue Jays batting order becomes one of the best in the game, especially with Freeman being able to hit from the left side of the plate. Inserting him alongside a bevy of right-handed hitters would be a pitcher’s nightmare, with an opposing pitcher having to deal with Springer, Bichette, Freeman, Guerrero Jr., and Teoscar Hernandez all within the first two innings of a ballgame. Freeman’s .295/.384/.509 should play well at the Rogers Centre and his 271 home runs and .893 OPS makes this club even more deadly. For his career North of the border, through 11 games, the lefty slugger owns a 1.200 OPS through 47 at-bats with two doubles, five home runs, and 12 RBI.
The Jays are also a young and contending team, evident by how they almost made the postseason last year and did so the year prior, and they look to be only getting better as their young core starts to gain some steam with the more games they get under their belts. Throw in a healthy veteran mix of Berrios, Gausman, and Springer, who are all signed to long-term deals, and it gives off a pretty good impression to any player looking to join a team with a bright future and playoff aspirations ahead.
For those of you who also enjoy Canadian players suiting up for the Jays, although born in California, both of Freeman’s parents were born in Ontario and he does hold dual citizenship.
Overall, why the defensive fit on the field may cause some problems, the addition of Freeman creates such a dynamic lineup that it would be hard to not vault the Jays up the leaderboard for potential World Series favourites. It appears the club has the funding to get the job done if the Seager pursuit was any indication and the biggest hurdle to bringing Freeman to Canada would be the competition from other teams, especially if the New York Yankees get involved in the sweepstakes (which all indications are pointing to them being all-in).