The New York Yankees will need to pounce upon the signing of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) to fill several spots on the field at Yankee Stadium. General manager Brian Cashman made it clear early on that his main priority was to acquire a star-like shortstop for 2022, but that is now in question. Cashman also said the Yankees needed a number two starting pitcher and help in center field.
The other need is to decide upon a first baseman after Anthony Rizzo became a free agent at the end of the season. Several names have been mentioned, including resigning Rizzo, getting Matt Olson via trade from the Athletics, or a less attractive move by keeping challenging Luke Voit healthy. Finally, of course, the wish list would be to acquire free agent Freddie Freeman.
Freeman was the World Series-winning first baseman for the Atlanta Braves. So, it was a foregone conclusion that Freeman would remain with the Braves, where he has spent his entire career. But, a crack in that conclusion arose when he rejected a five-year $135 million contract to return to the team he had spent twelve years with. Freeman, now 32, wants an extended contract.
Make no mistake, the Braves are still the front-runner to sign Freeman, but they will have to budge from their five-year limit. Assuming they don’t, Bob Nightengale and Jon Heyman see the door opening for the Yankees, Dodgers, and even the Blue Jays. Nightengale of USA Today said:
“Free agent Freddie Freeman was on the mind of every team seeking a first baseman, with Freeman rejecting Atlanta’s five-year, $135 million offer, and seeking closer to a six-year, $200 million deal. Yet, you couldn’t find a soul who believes Freeman won’t be returning to Atlanta.”
Heyman of MLB.com generally agreed, saying, “Last heard 6th year was still at issue in Freeman/Braves talks but situation is fluid and they’ve still got to be considered the favorite.”
Heyman weeks later said that he was surprised the Freeman was still unsigned, suggesting that it put the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Toronto Blue Jays as the front runners in trying to pry Freeman away from the Braves.
This writer believes that the Yankees will not sign Freeman due to their other costly needs. I also think Voit will be discarded via the trade and that the Yankees will go with Rizzo or, less likely, Matt Olson. However, that belief could change if the Yankees go the cheap route and settle for a stopgap shortstop freeing up money for a Freeman acquisition. Even at $180 million, it would be at least $100 million cheaper than acquiring Carlos Correa as its shortstop with better production.
We are talking about this because Freeman is considered one of the most productive first basemen, if not the most offensive player in the game. In addition, his excellent defense is not in question. Last season with the Braves, Freeman hit .300 this past season, with the Braves over 159 games. He struck out only 15.4% of the time with a 12.2% walk rate, 31 long balls, and 83 runs batted in. Those stats are even more exciting for the Yankees because the lefty would likely improve his home run totals with the Yankees’ short porch.
While what Freeman will do is still unclear, one thing is sure; when that CBA is signed, it will create a flurry of action from all teams, especially the New York Yankees, who were primarily silent before the MLB imposed lockout.