Oh this is ugly. So ugly. I thought the stuff in the Bullets was bad enough and that was going to be the end of discussing Freddie Freeman’s departure from the Atlanta Braves, but today’s report took things to another level. I have to provide some background info up front, and note that Freeman’s former agent has since disputed the accuracy of the report. (SEE UPDATE BELOW.)
As background: Freeman, a superstar, had only known the Braves organization, and very obviously wanted to stay for the rest of his career. A deal did not come together with the Braves, who then moved to trade for Matt Olson and immediately extended him. Eventually, Freeman signed with the Dodgers on a deal that, when accounting for deferments and California taxes, is probably no better than the last reported offer he got from the Braves.
Fast-forward to this past weekend, when Freeman returned to Atlanta, showing the emotion of a guy who wished he never left. His Dodgers teammates noticed:
In tandem with that, we learned that Freeman had recently fired his agent, presumably over what happened in the offseason. Buster Olney reported that Freeman’s agent countered the Braves’ proposal (five years and $135 million) with significantly higher asks, and told the Braves they had one hour to respond. The Braves modestly raised their offer ($140 million), but didn’t come close to the request, so purportedly the sides agreed that there was no longer an offer on the table, and the Braves moved on to Olson.
But now we learn that may not be the entire story. Because holy smokes on this report from Doug Gottlieb:
Yikes. Yikes yikes yikes. If that’s true – that Close didn’t even tell Freeman about the $140 million offer because he knew Freeman would take it(!) – it is just shocking. Maybe Close thought he had authority to push back really hard, and maybe he thought the Braves wouldn’t call his bluff … but, again, *IF* he kept the improved offer from Freddie Freeman because he was afraid Freeman would take that deal (instead of a better one later on), that’s a problem.
Of note, Freeman reportedly talked recently to Alex Anthopoulos, the head of baseball operations for the Braves, so it’s plausible that he only just found out certain things about the negotiation while he was in Atlanta. We don’t know for sure, beyond what Gottlieb is reporting, but you could imagine the game of telephone playing out that way.
I expect there will be more coming on this. Important to say these are just reports/allegations, and Close has not yet had a chance to respond. There could be more context, or maybe it’s not as bad as it initially sounds.
UPDATE: Sure enough, Close has responded and he says Gottlieb’s report is completely false:
We may find out more in time, especially if Close and his agency actually do take legal steps.
UPDATE 2: Here come the legal steps: