In this modern age of minimizing free agent overpays for the greater good, there are very few players worth breaking the bank for, especially at the age in which most players hit the market.
New York Yankees ace Gerrit Cole was certainly one of them, though he demanded a record-setting commitment in terms of both years and cash.
Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman is a member of this exclusive club, too, and his age makes him a slightly more enticing candidate, considering he won’t require the same number of years as a younger man.
Nearly 32, Freeman and the Braves may eventually come together yet again this offseason on a reasonably extravagant four- or five-year deal, considering the pairing of the two parties seems too good to interrupt. But what if the Yanks decide to crash the party?
Entering the 2021 season, it seemed the Yankees were set at first base with the controllable Luke Voit for the foreseeable future. However, his injury issues took him off the field three separate times during the first half, leading the frustrated Yanks to add Anthony Rizzo without hesitation while attempting to shop their incumbent slugger.
Whether you agree with the notion or not, New York clearly thinks Voit is expendable, and his erratic pattern of play in recent weeks makes it seem like the team’s braintrust is hard at work trying to break yet another asset. Rizzo fit in perfectly at first, and has been a seamless clubhouse addition, but following his COVID absence, his bat has yet to regain its rhythm.
On Thursday, MLB insider Jon Heyman posited that the Braves’ reunion with Freeman still seems like an inevitability, but with a gulf remaining between both sides. Considering Voit’s been messed with and Rizzo’s been average, could the Yankees choose instead to fill that gap themselves?
Would the Yankees opt for Freddie Freeman over Anthony Rizzo and Luke Voit?
The Voit Conundrum seems decided already; as loudly as we’ve screamed, “Keep both, dammit!” from the rooftops, the Yankees have chosen to only use one of their two current first basemen since Rizzo’s return, and it ain’t King Louis. All out of rhythm, Voit has gone from supernova to “Guy Who Pinch-Hits and Whiffs Once Every Two Days” since his late-August hot streak. The Yankees suck at this.
So it once again comes down to Rizzo and Freeman. Both men are 32. Both will command contracts this offseason; Rizzo might settle for three years, but Freeman will probably require more. Rizzo’s sweetheart deal with the Cubs made him $8.3 million AAV over nine seasons, which doesn’t help whatsoever in evaluating his current value; perhaps Marcus Semien’s $18 million over three years is more commensurate? $18.5 million?
Freeman, on the other hand, is an MVP candidate who’s showing no signs of regression and — yes — also bats from the left side of the plate. Rizzo might yet regain his 139 OPS+ form from 2019, but since then, he’s been an above-average hitter rather than an exceptional one. Freeman? He hasn’t been below 130 since 2012.
A superstar teammate, a calming presence, and a 2018 Gold Glover, Freeman brings Rizzo’s exact package at a slightly advanced skill level.
His expiring deal in Atlanta is currently worth $16.87 million annually, also a ridiculous bargain. In order to add Freeman, though, you’ll have to remember the Yankees will need to overpay. Four years and $80 million won’t cut it; surely, the ATL braintrust can and will match that.
So, who’d you rather? The possibly-regressing Rizzo for three years and $55 million, or Freeman for five years and $120 million?
Or … Voit?