If there was one top free agent whose destination seemed apparent heading into the offseason, it was Freddie Freeman. The veteran first baseman, long a fixture with the Atlanta Braves, still seems unlikely to leave town just weeks after helping the franchise win its first World Series championship in more than two decades.
There is a difference between "improbable" and "impossible," however, and that difference is worth remembering until Freeman puts his pen to paper bearing the Braves' letterhead. Besides, Freeman may owe it to himself to feign interest in other clubs, even if it's simply a negotiating ploy to close the $65 million gap between his desired deal and Atlanta's proposal, as reported by USA Today's Bob Nightengale.
We here at CBS Sports are nothing if not the messy, speculative type. As such, we wanted to take a swing at highlighting five other teams who could get involved on Freeman if talks with the Braves fail to progress at an acceptable pace.
Before we go any further, here's what CBS Sports wrote about Freeman when we ranked him as the fifth best free agent available on the market:
It's hard to imagine the Braves allowing Freeman to leave. Still, we're including him for posterity's sake. Freeman is a sensational hitter who hasn't posted an OPS+ of less than 130 since he was a 22-year-old in 2012. He's also a mighty fine first baseman, and he's become a bastion of durability as of late: over the last four years, he's appeared in 539 of the Braves' 545 games (that's 98.9 percent, for those without access to a calculator). It's to be seen what kind of term Freeman seeks, but on paper he seems like someone who should age gracefully.
Now, onto the speculation. (Do note the teams are ranked in order of perceived likelihood.)
The Rangers are believed to be open to throwing around significant wads of cash this offseason, making them a dark horse candidate to land a number of top free agents. It stands to reason they'll find someone willing to take their coins. Should it prove to be Freeman, then his addition would double as two things: 1) a much-needed boost to a lineup that ranked last in the American League in runs scored; and 2) a flag-planting maneuver for a franchise that hasn't been nationally relevant in five years.
If the Giants are going to repeat as National League West champions, they're going to need to have a bold offseason. After all, Buster Posey has already retired while Brandon Belt, Kris Bryant, and most of their starting pitchers are on the open market. Signing a first baseman to a long-term contract wouldn't necessarily seem to be at the top of their to-do list, and it wouldn't fit into their seeming preference for versatile players, but Farhan Zaidi might make an exception given Freeman's talent level.
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General manager Perry Minasian is familiar with Freeman from their shared days with the Braves organization, and owner Arte Moreno loves him a big-time free-agent signing. Even so, the Angels would seem unlikely to prioritize Freeman to starting pitching given they had Jared Walsh on hand. Plus, Moreno might have reservations about locking in a first baseman to a long-term deal given how Albert Pujols' time with the organization played out.
The Dodgers are similar to the Giants in the respects that they have to replace a number of notable players and that they tend to favor protean defenders. Still, the Dodgers under Andrew Friedman's watch have never shied away from adding elite talent whenever and however they can. Freeman certainly qualifies, and the Dodgers' inherent flexibility could allow them to fold him into the lineup if they so desire.
The Yankees' sights appear set on the top shortstops, Carlos Correa and Corey Seager. In the event that New York comes up empty on both, perhaps Brian Cashman would consider changing gears and making Freeman his big offseason addition. While signing Freeman would render moot the "Anthony Rizzo or Luke Voit?" debate, it seems about as likely to happen as the Yankees dropping the pinstripes.