Freeman: $135M deal won't change him
Freddie Freeman says he won't try to do anything differently to prove he was deserving of the biggest contract in Atlanta Braves' history.
"I'm going to go out there and just keep trying to get better," he said Wednesday, a day after his eight-year, $135 million deal was finalized. "I progressively got better the last three years. Hopefully, I can stay healthy and continue to do so. I'm not going to try to put extra pressure [on himself], just go out there and keep doing what I've been doing."
Freeman already has plans on how to spend some of the money.
"The first thing I've got to do is pay for a wedding," he said, looking ahead to the Nov. 22 ceremony.
Freeman's fiancée, Chelsea Goff, sat in the front during the news conference alongside the player's father. She said she planned to shop for a wedding gown Thursday.
The agreement covers three arbitration-eligible seasons and five years in which Freeman could have become a free agent.
Freeman's deal tops the six-year, $90 million contract for Chipper Jones that covered 2001 to 2006 and comes one year after the Braves gave outfielder B.J. Upton the biggest contract for a free agent in team history -- $75.25 million for five years.
Upton struggled in his first year in Atlanta, hitting .184 and losing his starting job. After the season, general manager Frank Wren said Upton may have felt too much pressure.
Wren said Freeman can handle the long-term deal.
"One of the things we were looking at was ... the right timing," Wren said. "Has the player established himself well enough that this won't affect him one way or the other? This was the perfect timing for us."
Freeman, 24, has played only three full seasons. He was an All-Star last year, when he hit .319 with 23 homers and 109 RBIs. He matched his career high in home runs, set highs in batting average and RBIs and finished fifth in National League MVP voting. He has topped 20 home runs each season.
"He keeps getting better," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "I think before all this is said and done, it's going to be a contract that's well worth it because he's going to keep getting better. His numbers are going to keep getting better. Last year, he set out to drive in 100 runs. And he did it."
Freeman said he was humbled to receive the long extension so early in his career.
"For them to believe in me with this kind of contract is truly an honor, humbling," he said. "But to happen this young, I never thought it would be even possible."
Freeman paused before adding with a huge grin, "But I'm happy!"
Outfielder Jason Heyward and the Braves agreed Tuesday to a two-year, $13.3 million contract. Heyward and Freeman had filed for salary arbitration last month. Closer Craig Kimbrel is the Braves' only player left in arbitration.
The Braves' biggest news of the offseason was their surprising plans to open a stadium in 2017 in suburban Cobb County. Wren said expectations for increased revenue from the new stadium played a role in Freeman's deal.
"We looked to how we could strategize to make that happen," Wren said. "And I think there's also the element of the new situation in Cobb County three years from now that allows us to be more competitive. And I think that's evidenced by this signing."
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