Braves continue to build for future
One of the Phillies' top rivals is locking their future into place, one piece at a time.
Earlier this offseason, the Braves signed their 24-year-old first baseman, Freddie Freeman, to an eight-year, $135 million deal. There were positives and negatives to such an action; Freeman broke out in 2013 with a stellar .319/.396/.501 stat line, inheriting the role of the NL's top first baseman, but the length of the deal matches that of prior deals that proved troublesome for clubs.
However, Freeman was not going to be a free agent for another three years. Was there a "Ryan Howard" knee jerk reaction to signing him at an odd time? Not really; the Major League market for first baseman is abysmal, and in a few years, after he's piled up a few more .300/.400/.500 seasons, he'd be a bit more pricey.
Today, the Braves continued their work, pinning down their 23-year-old righty Julio Teheran with a six-year, $32 million deal with an option for 2020; an arguably low figure.
Long term deals make so much more sense when given to players in their early twenties. In his first full season in the Majors, Teheran made 30 starts, logged a 3.20 ERA, 1.174 WHIP, and 170 strikeouts over 188.2 innings (averaging 6.2 innings per start). Opponents hit .246 against him, good enough to make the NL's top 20 in that category, and he finished fifth in NL Rookie of the Year voting.
There's a slow sense of menace playing out as the Braves double down on their youthful core, especially from the perspective of a division rival stricken with age. But as their payroll climbs toward $100 million, the Braves will most likely not be able to hang onto all of their major players. The deal with Freeman may indicate a smaller chance of Jason Heyward (24) getting a deal when his current contract is up in 2015, and the league's best closer, Craig Kimbrel (25), is young, valuable, and on the market after 2014.
As the Braves make deals in the short term, they may also be making decisions for the long term. Disheartening as it may be for other NL East teams to see eight more years of Freddie Freeman ruining their pitching, the long game is a bit more optimistic. The fewer twentysomething studs there are on the Braves roster, the better things are for anyone trying to compete with them in the coming years.