For a second there, Atlanta Braves fans thought they were “winning” the Freddie Freeman vs Matt Olson argument, which … wasn’t even a concern for anybody except Braves fans because of the emotional damage Freeman’s return to Atlanta did to the collective fan base. They had to justify the organization’s poor decision making somehow.
Once again, though, it’s the Los Angeles Dodgers who have come out on top and have Freeman as their first baseman for the next five seasons after 2022. He signed a six-year, $162 million contract this past offseason, good for an average annual value of $27 million.
Care to know where that ranks among the rest of baseball? Freeman’s AAV is 20th. He’s behind guys like Anthony Rendon, Gerrit Cole, Carlos Correa, Stephen Strasburg, Francisco Lindor, Corey Seager, David Price, Miguel Cabrera, Chris Sale, George Springer and Giancarlo Stanton. Pretty wild.
But even those who are ahead of him and universally worthy of the dollar figure (Max Scherzer, Mike Trout, Jacob deGrom, Jose Altuve, Nolan Arenado, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado), it’s worth wondering if Freeman’s $27 million per season is the best value among the league’s highest annual marks.
Freeman’s on track to make Dodgers history and set personal marks in his age-32 season. Unreal.
Does Dodgers’ Freddie Freeman have the best value of any big contract in MLB?
Before we go any further, let’s quickly look at Freeman vs Olson side by side to understand how the Braves’ reasoning for paying a younger player was wrong (for now):
- Freeman – .328/.405/.517 with 191 hits, 46 doubles, 20 HR, 95 RBI, 75 walks, 96 Ks, 152 OPS+
- Olson – .233/.318/.450 with 136 hits, 43 doubles, 28 HR, 92 RBI, 70 walks, 161 strikeouts, 112 OPS+
Freeman is on track to win the batting title and record the most hits in all of MLB, so before Braves fans start gushing over the doubles/HR on Olson’s ledger, it’s important to know Freeman has the power numbers and overall contact/hitting numbers to boot. His strikeout percentage is also 10% lower than Olson’s.
As for other first basemen/comparable talents, there’s Paul Goldschmidt ($26 million AAV), Mookie Betts ($22.5 million, but that number will increase as the years go on), Jose Ramirez ($22 million), Kyle Schwarber ($19 million) and … that’s about it for the folks who come anywhere close to a single aspect of Freeman’s production on a daily basis.
If you want to split hairs over WAR, Arenado (7.7), Goldschmidt (7.6), Machado (6.6) and Betts (6.0) have the edge over Freeman (5.5), and that’s largely because defensive metrics aren’t kind to Freeman (a Gold Glove-caliber first baseman) for whatever reason.
But none of those guys are the best hitter on the best team in MLB. That’s Freeman, who has been a pillar of consistency from a playing and health standpoint for quite some time now. Sure, the final two years of this contract might deliver diminishing returns, but at the moment, looking at the all-around numbers and overall availability, it’s hard to beat Freeman’s price among the league’s best/highest-paid.