Now Freeman has fired the agency that represented him in his offseason negotiations, Excel Sports Management, according to multiple sources. Casey Close, who was the lead agent in Freeman’s talks with the Braves and Dodgers, did not immediately respond for comment.
The MLB Players Association sent an email to agents on Freeman’s behalf Monday, ordering agents to not contact the player. This is common practice when players do not want to be besieged by agents. Freeman is listed within baseball’s central system as currently being self-represented.
Freeman, 32, returned to Atlanta for the first time since signing with the Dodgers last weekend and was outwardly emotional, intermittently weeping from the time he first met with reporters before the three-game series began to when he was given a standing ovation by Braves fans near the end of Sunday Night Baseball.
Sources say Freeman indicated to some of his former teammates over the weekend that he was going to change agents, given his frustration with how his free agency concluded in March.
The Braves made a $135 million, five-year offer that was still on the table in the first days after the owners’ lockout ended. As reported in March, Close — the lead negotiator for Excel — contacted Alex Anthopoulos, the head of baseball operations for the Braves, and presented two proposals on behalf of Freeman significantly higher than that $135 million offer, giving the team an hour to respond.
When that deadline passed, sources say, Close and Anthopoulos agreed that there were no offers on the table. The Braves — believing that Close’s deadline meant that Freeman was about to conclude a deal with another team, likely the Dodgers, quickly pivoted to make a blockbuster deal for Oakland Athletics All-Star Matt Olson and signed 27-year-old Olson to an eight-year, $168 million contract. That effectively ended any chance Freeman would return.
Freeman reached out to some of his former Braves teammates and expressed shock that his negotiations had played out as they had. Within a week, Freeman had signed with the Dodgers for six years and $162 million, although the deal contains $57 million in deferred salary. That deal, in the end, could be worth less than the total value of the Braves’ offer, given the heavy deferrals and California state taxes.
Freeman was initially critical of the Braves’ handling of negotiations. Subsequently, Freeman spoke with Anthopoulos about what occurred during the talks and apparently made his peace with the organization. He wholly embraced the ceremonies last weekend, which included a ring presentation from his friend and former manager, Brian Snitker; Snitker, seeing Freeman’s emotion, encouraged him to relax.
Friends of Freeman in the Braves organization believe that his weekend-long emotion was tied, to some degree, to lingering anger and sadness that his negotiations concluded with him playing with a team other than the club that initially drafted him. Freeman was long considered the face of the Braves’ franchise, won an MVP Award in 2020 and shared in the World Series championship last fall.