Braves Rumors: Could The Braves Trade Max Fried?
A day after acquiring Sean Murphy, another wild rumor dropped: could the Braves trade Max Fried this offseason? This rumor was courtesy of Jim Callis of MLB.com, and at first glance, seems to come out of nowhere.
However, Fried is in his second-to-last year of team control before he hits the free-agent market, and, unlike several of his teammates, has not received a long-term extension. Could the Braves, looking for their sixth-straight division title, trade Max Fried, the NL Cy Young runner-up, this offseason?
Why the Braves might trade Max Fried
Since becoming a staple member of the Braves rotation in 2019, Max Fried has been incredible. Among qualified starters, the lefty has been the 12th-best pitcher in baseball, accumulating 13.2 fWAR. He’s finished in the top-five in Cy Young voting twice, received MVP votes in 2020, won three-straight Gold Gloves, and took home the last-ever Silver Slugger for a pitcher.
It’s not like 2022 was a drop in production either. If anything, it was his best season yet, accumulating a career-high 5.0 fWAR in a career-high 185.1 innings. As good as Spencer Strider was last season, Max Fried is still definitively the Braves ace. So why might the Braves trade him? Simply, price.
Atlanta currently sits right below the Competitive Balance Tax threshold. If the team adds almost anyone of note, the team is going to pay the luxury tax.
While Fried’s current contract isn’t going to break the bank, as he’s currently projected to make a little over $12 million in his second year of arbitration, next year offers a different story. In fact if he continues his level of success, his final year will likely be much higher. Aside from Ohtani, the two-way superstar who’s set to make $30 million this season, there isn’t a great comparison for what Fried will get in his final year of arbitration because no pitcher in the last few years has had his level of sustained success and reached the final year of arbitration.
But it’s not just shedding payroll to shed payroll if the braves move the Koufax-esque lefty, it’s what the Braves could add. While we’ve become acustomed to seeing stars get traded for prospects, as we saw yesterday with Sean Murphy, there are trade scenarios out there where the Braves trade Fried for major league pieces. As our Site Expert, Eric Cole tweeted, the Braves should at least gauging interest for a player who will be incredibly expensive come free agency.
Why the Braves shouldn’t trade Max Fried
This is the Braves window and Fried is their ace. Unless the team is blown away by an offer, it would be very hard to justify trading the ace of your team when you’re trying to win a World Series, especially in a division where two other teams have shown an almost unrestricted approach to spending.
Additionally, as the Callis’ rumor took off on Twitter, ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted this in response:
While the Braves were willing to trade one All-Star with years of team control yesterday, they did it in a deal that landed them a top-three catcher. In Fried’s case, this would be incredibly challenging to do.
Trading a perpetual Cy Young Candidate because of payroll also goes against the recent remarks made by Liberty Media President and CEO Greg Maffei, that the team looks to have a top-five payroll in the next few years.
Even if the Braves don’t extend Fried past the end of his team control, he is one of the best options at starting pitching in the league and a team with World Series aspirations wouldn’t just give that up to shed a few dollars.
Could the Braves trade Max Fried this offseason? Yes. Will they? Unless they are blown away by a deal, probably not.