Just In: Atlanta Braves are set to extend the star’s contract…

Atlanta Braves discussed extension with Max Fried prior to 2023 season.

Braves Rumors: Max Fried extension unlikely, potential reunion, Ohtani buzz?

The Braves worked to try and sign Max Fried to an extension earlier this year, but couldn’t agree to terms

One of the most common refrains we hear about the Atlanta Braves and specific players is about how lefty ace Max Fried needs to be signed to an extension, with many fans worried that he’s going to leave in free agency after the 2024 season.

Turns out, the Atlanta Braves tried to sign him last offseason and couldn’t agree to financial terms.

Beat writer Justin Toscano, reporting in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution ($), cited a source with “knowledge of the situation” about Atlanta’s (ultimately futile) efforts:

“The sides had a back-and-forth dialogue and exchanged numbers, but those conversations eventually reached an impasse. That is believed to be the last time the Braves and Fried talked about an extension.”

The extension discussions, which occurred after a 2022 season in which Fried went 14-7 with a 2.28 ERA, was named both an All-Star and a Gold Glove, and was the runner up for the National League’s Cy Young award (won by Miami’s Sandy Alcántara), can be interpreted as either promising or concerning, depending on your level of pessimism.

The optimistic observer can see it as a good sign, because it indicates that the California-born Fried is comfortable staying in Atlanta rather than it being a foregone conclusion that he signs with a West Coast team after the season.

The pessimistic observer can interpret this as his demands being too high for Atlanta to meet with two years of contractual control, and salaries for that type of player don’t usually get cheaper as a player gets closer to free agency.

(And to dispel a myth we’ve seen floating around: Fried’s abbreviated availability due to forearm and hamstring strains won’t make him cheaper to sign to an extension now than he would have been last offseason. Ace pitcher prices, like housing prices in a great neighborhood, very rarely go down. At best, the price might not have gone up as much as a 2nd straight Cy Young runner-up type season could have raised it.)

I was standing next to Alex Anthopoulos when Justin asked on Tuesday evening if Fried’s contract status impacted how the Braves approached this offseason. Anthopoulos’ answer, as expected, was non-committal:

“We’re always aware of where everyone’s at in their contractual status, contractual control. We have him under contract for ‘24; he’s not under contract for 2025. Obviously, anything beyond that, we’re going to keep that private. I can go into all the comments about how great he is, but I’ve done that many times in the past. Look, we have him. We’re worried about 2024 right now. We always have an eye on ‘25, but the focus for us is ‘24.”

How significant this is, again, depends on your level of optimism. Atlanta’s strong offer to Aaron Nola showed how willing they are to pay for starting pitching. Atlanta’s track record with homegrown stars leaving in free agency (Dansby Swanson last year, Freddie Freeman the year before) showed that there’s limits to what they’ll pay.

But I took something away from Anthopoulos when we met on Tuesday evening at the MLB Winter Meetings: The Braves don’t target a position, they target specific players.

Atlanta didn’t target a left fielder, they targeted Jarred Kelenic specifically. They didn’t target a lefty reliever, they targeted Aaron Bummer specifically.

And if they decide that Max Fried needs to be an extension target next offseason, there’s a chance that they’ll get their man.

Because Anthopoulos doesn’t win them all – the Nola situation this offseason is an example of that – but he wins enough of them.

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