Max Fried loses arbitration battle to Braves, but may win the free agency war

Atlanta Braves ace Max Fried may have lost in arbitration, but should win the free agency war.

Although Max Fried did get a nice pay raise from the Atlanta Braves, he did not come out on top in his arbitration hearing.

The southpaw from Southern California went to arbitration for the final time before he can hit unrestricted free agency. While he was not drafted out of high school by the Braves, he has only played for Atlanta at the big-league level. An All-Star, a World Series champion, a three-time Gold Glover and the NL’s last Silver Slugger pitcher, Fried could be making a fortune on the open market.

The panel of arbitrators ruled in favor of the Braves, as he will make $13.5 million in 2023 instead of the $15 million he had filed for.

Given how free agency went the last two offseasons for Freddie Freeman and Dansby Swanson, you could say there is a really strong possibility that the Braves’ brass lets Fried walk in 2024.

Atlanta Braves win arbitration case over Max Fried, but may lose in free agency

Losing Freddie Freeman to the Los Angeles Dodgers was brutal. Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos was able to trade for former Oakland Athletics star Matt Olson to lessen the blow a bit, so that helped. Seeing Marietta native Dansby Swanson rock a Chicago Cubs cap is gross, but Anthopoulos has once again convinced us that Vaughn Grissom will be the real deal at shortstop.

Though Braves Country has gotten over losing Freeman and Swanson in consecutive free agency periods, it will be significantly harder for Anthopoulos to justify letting Fried walk if he balls out in 2023. Just imagine telling a potential Cy Young winner he is not welcome in the Braves’ clubhouse in 2024. Of course, Fried is not represented by Excel Sports like Freeman and Swanson both were.

Overall, you can respect Anthopoulos for being consistent in his team-building approach. He will pay his top players, but he would prefer to hand out those contract extensions well before they hit free agency. Fried has made it a point to hit the open market. While Atlanta has seen an influx in payroll since the end of the pandemic, the Braves are still reluctant to spend top dollar for anyone.

Ultimately, we are facing the harsh reality of Fried pricing himself out of Atlanta. He may want to go back to the West Coast and pitch for his hometown team. However, the Braves’ arch rival has a newish owner in Steve Cohen who will outspend the New York Yankees. If Max Fried were to play for the New York Mets while in his prime, this would be far worse than Tom Glavine going there.

Let’s enjoy Fried’s 2023 campaign in Atlanta because it could very well be his last with the Braves.

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