Max Fried's latest injury adds to the reasons why the Braves won't extend him
By Chris Turner
The Atlanta Braves have made a habit over the last few years of signing young talent to lengthy extensions after they show some promise in the major leagues.
First came Ronald Acuña Jr., then Ozzie Albies, followed by Austin Riley, Michael Harris II, and Spencer Strider. Alex Anthopoulos made significant trades alongside those extensions, acquiring Matt Olson and Sean Murphy from the Oakland Athletics, and locking them both in to long-term deals. It's been a busy few years, by the front office, but one star Brave remains without an extension as he approaches the final year of his rookie deal.
Max Fried has become the ace of the Atlanta Braves rotation, sporting an ERA of 2.70 over the last three seasons, finishing second for the NL Cy Young in 2022, and, most importantly, pitching six shutout innings in Atlanta's 2021 World Series clincher against Houston. He's forever a part of Braves history.
However, Fried's latest injury is just the most recent example of why his time with the Braves could end after the 2024 season.
The 29-year old left-hander is expected to miss months with a forearm strain. This is the first time in Fried's time in the majors he'll miss a significant amount of the season. He's had his IL stints here and there, but he's not exactly injury-prone.
Fried has already had Tommy John surgery in 2014 when he was in the Padres minor league system, and is not expected to undergo a second surgery. However, this recent flare up should give the Braves some pause on committing to Fried long-term.
Another reason Atlanta might pass on giving Fried an extension: pitching depth. While a lot of it is unproven, there are several starting pitchers turning some heads throughout the Braves farm system over the past few years.
Dylan Dodd and Jared Shuster both made their MLB debuts in 2023, (with mixed results), and have shown some flashes in Triple-A Gwinnett. AJ-Smith Shawver is off to a tremondous start to the 2023 season and has made his way to Double-A Mississippi. Spencer Schwellenbach and Owen Murphy are leading the rotation in Single-A Augusta. Not to mention JR Ritchie and Darius Vines, both currently missing time with injuries.
Will all of these guys pan out? Probably not, but there are options on the farm should the Braves chose to ride out Fried's contract to the end of the 2024 season without an extension.
There are also rotation options throughout major league baseball should Alex Anthopoulos choose to make one of his patented deadline trades that nobody saw coming or reported on until it happened. We are still a few months out from the deadline to see who will really be buying or selling, but we can guess a few teams who will be trying to move some rotation arms. The right player could get locked in to a short-term deal to fill that upcoming spot in the rotation.
While not his usual M.O., Anthopoulos could shop for a starter on the free agent market. As much as we would all love it, I don't think he's going to land Shohei Ohtani. So instead, someone like a Martín Pérez, Eduardo Rodriguez, or a reunion with Alex Wood might make sense for a mutli-year deal this winter. The 2025 free agent pitching class doesn't present as many options, but definitely same names that might get kicked around.
This is not to say "good riddance" and the Braves should not make an effort to re-sign Fried, because they probably will, but much like the departures of Freddie Freeman and Dansby Swanson, the Braves will likely start planning for a future without a key piece of their 2021 title-winning team.