Atlanta Braves had better not make this PR gaffe
The only thing worse than seeing the Atlanta Braves lose Freddie Freeman would be to bring back a player that fans don’t want.
The negotiating tack taken on by the Atlanta Braves regarding Freddie Freeman seems to be premised on the assumption that there isn’t another team willing to dive into the deep end of their money pool to sign him.
That bubble burst over the weekend when a report leaked out that the Yankees are prepping “a run” at signing Freeman:
Honestly, this should not exactly be a surprise to anyone. New York would be the most likely fit after Atlanta, and their front office is probably salivating at the notion of having his left-handed bat aim toward their short porch in right field.
Widely reported info puts the Braves’ offer around 5 years and $130 million ($26 million annually). Freeman’s reps are thinking more like 6 years and $180 ($30 million annually). The 6th year is what it will likely take to get him; New York might need a premium to cover the higher cost of living, but they seem ready to make the attempt.
Meanwhile, consider the problem with public relations, optics, and all the rest if — when? — Marcell Ozuna returns.
While he may have buried the hatchet with wife Genesis…
… Ozuna may still have a lot of explaining to do… to his teammates and to the ticket-buying (and ticket-booing) public.
Forget whether Ozuna has learned his lesson or whether Genesis and he are getting along well: Ozuna simply was not available to the team during their title run…his hand injury was suffered in a heroic effort, sure, but everything that ensued was simply self-inflicted… not counting the physical attacks on his wife.
Yet the Braves manager seems to be expecting Ozuna back the the fray this season.
So imagine for a fleeting moment that Freeman exits for the Bronx and Ozuna returns to Atlanta. How do you think fans would react?
This wouldn’t be just a simple sequence of boos, or a few brave souls offering polite applause. No: Braves fans will unload the kind of vitriol usually reserved for bad umpires, Bryce Harper, and alternate jerseys in the hands of Chris Sale.
How can the Atlanta Braves possibly do that to their fanbase?
Freeman is beloved. Ozuna is one step short of a defector.
Add to that Freeman’s role as team leader. As the hitter he is. As the family man he is. The optics of that outcome are unfathomable.
Yet it could happen. The Atlanta Braves need to have an improved offer on the table the moment the labor lockout ends. They’ve already ceded the high ground, though, and the door has been left ajar for others to waltz in with more money.
But please… the thought of having Ozuna without having Freeman should be anathema to all Braves fans. The Front Office had better step up.