How to spend $200M if the Atlanta Braves don't extend their ace, Max Fried

Unless the Atlanta Braves extend baseball’s best lefty starter, Max Fried, he will become a free agent after the 2024 season. If he leaves, how do the Braves fill a gaping hole in the rotation?
The Atlanta Braves have starter Max Fried under team control for one more season. If they can't extend him, how do they replace him?
The Atlanta Braves have starter Max Fried under team control for one more season. If they can't extend him, how do they replace him? / Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
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I’ve been on the Max Fried train since he became an Atlanta Brave. He reminded me of Steve Avery because he could send a fastball by a batter and then drop a hammer curve to strike him out, leaving the batter to wonder how in the world he’s supposed to get a hit.

The Cost of Keeping Max Fried

Here are the comps I’ve heard for Fried, who turns 30 in January.

  • Gerrit Cole signed for nine years and $324M ($36M AAV) back in 2020 when he was 30, 
  • oft-injured 30-year-old righty Carlos Rodon signed for $165M ($27 M for six years) last winter, and
  • The Mets signed 30-year-old Japanese import Kodai Senga for five years and $75M guaranteed 

Fried will cost more than Rodon because, despite his perennial blister issue (Cole had those as well) and a forearm strain they sent him to the IL in May, he’s posted consistently strong numbers since 2019.

However, he’s thrown fewer innings a season and has a lower K-rate and higher walk rate than Cole; even considering contract inflation, Fried won’t reach the same AAV as Cole.

I’m not suggesting he won’t get a significant contract after 2024 but that’s a year away. I expect the Braves to offer him something like six years at something around $172 to $175M or an AAV between $28.6 and $29.1M.

Many feel that Fried’s role as MLBPA rep for the Braves means he will turn any offer down and test free agency after the 2024 season. If he does, where do the Braves turn for a pitcher to back up Spencer Strider?

The Anthopoulos Method

Alex Anthopoulos
Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves / Todd Kirkland/GettyImages

It’s common knowledge that the Atlanta Braves don’t give long contracts, but like many things considered common knowledge, it’s not true. We've seen long contracts given to players who haven’t reached the won’t be on the shady side of the hill and are unable to provide value for the money spent.

Since his arrival, Alex Anthopoulos has locked up young players through their prime, providing the team with payroll certainty and the player with guaranteed money,

When the Atlanta Braves faced the possibility of life without Freddie Freeman, Anthopoulos traded for Matt Olson and immediately extended the then 28-year-old through his age 35 season with an option for an additional year. 

The Braves had a young catcher who hit well but Anthopoulos saw the opportunity to trade for a top-five catcher in baseball and extend him through his age-33 season with a team option for an additional year.

Knowing his history, if Anthopoulos could find a young, MLB-ready pitcher like that, would he sign him? Yes, he would, and that player is coming to MLB this winter...from Japan.