Going into the arbitration figure deadline today, most would have bet large sums of money that the Atlanta Braves were headed toward an arbitration hearing with Max Fried. Fried's arbitration case went to a hearing last year which he lost and with the injury concerns and the expected big pay bump in his last year of team control, another hearing seemed like a lock.
Well, that is not how things went down at all. A few minutes before the deadline to settle and avoid an arbitration hearing, it was reported that Max Fried and the Braves did indeed settle on a one-year contract for 2024 worth $15 million. AJ Minter also settled, as expected, before the deadline with a $6.22 million contract for next season.
AJ Minter joins Max Fried in settling ahead of arbitration filing deadline
There is a lot to unpack here, but overall this feels like a deal that works well for both sides. The Braves get to avoid a potentially messy arbitration hearing that would likely feature an extensive look at Fried's elbow injury from last season and potentially causing some hurt feelings with one of their staff aces. On Fried's side, he gets a nice raise from his 2023 salary and even gets a touch more than what MLB Trade Rumors was projecting him to get in arbitration.
With Fried's arbitration number set, the question becomes whether he will stay in Atlanta beyond next season or not. The current odds are still not great as the price of starting pitching has gone through the roof the last few offseasons and Max is likely to be in line for a nine-figure payday outside of the Braves' comfort zone.
However, the two sides settling ahead of the deadline does mark a change from Fried's previous arbitration years and at a very reasonable price tag at that. There could be a distinct possibility that this signals a desire on both sides to keep this relationship going in the long term. Fried certainly isn't going to sign a crazy discounted deal to stay with the Braves, but the sides may be closer than we initially thought.
As for Minter, the Braves will evaluate his future closer to the end of this coming season in all likelihood. Relievers are very volatile and as good as Minter is, Atlanta shouldn't be in a hurry to force a deal until they see how he looks during the regular season. Minter is also a free agent after the 2024 season, but most would probably agree that he is more likely to return to Atlanta than Fried is at this point.