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Braves sign Freddie Freeman for 8 years, Jason Heyward for 2
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The person confirmed the agreement on condition of anonymity because the Braves haven’t announced the deal, which is subject to a successful physical.
Freeman, 24, was an All-Star last year, when he hit .319 with 23 homers and 109 RBI. He matched his career high in home runs and set highs in batting average and RBI. He has topped 20 home runs in three straight seasons.
Closer Craig Kimbrel would be the Braves‘ only player left in arbitration.
Heyward, also 24, and Freeman are key members of the Braves‘ core of young stars. Kimbrel, shortstop Andrelton Simmons, outfielder Justin Upton and starting pitchers Julio Teheran and Mike Minor are 26 or younger. Evan Gattis, 27, is replacing Brian McCann as the starting catcher.
Heyward was happy to avoid arbitration.
“In my head it basically says to me, let’s go play some baseball,” he said.
Heyward is coming off an injury-filled season, and general manager Frank Wren said the relative lack of playing time complicated the arbitration process and helped make the two-year contract possible.
Heyward hit .254 with 14 homers and 38 RBI in a career-low 104 games during his fourth season with the Braves. He had an appendectomy on April 22 and broke his jaw on Aug. 21 when he was hit by a pitch from New York Mets left-hander Jon Niese.
“Last year was such a tough year physically, through no fault of his own, with the appendectomy and getting hit in the face,” Wren said. “So it also made it tough for both sides in an arbitration situation because it’s hard to pin a number when you’re comparing to players who played a lot more.”
Heyward said he has moved past his injuries.
“Physically, I feel great, being 24 years old and being blessed with some genetics to go along with that,” he said. “I’m growing up still in this game and I’m looking forward to what my body is going to allow me to do going forward.”
Heyward’s deal calls for a $1 million signing bonus, payable in equal installments on May 1 and July 1, and salaries of $4.5 million this year and $7.8 million in 2015.
The 2015 salary would escalate based on a points system for 2014 accomplishments, going up $500,000 for 20 points and then by $25,000 for each additional point. Heyward would earn 10 points each for 502 plate appearances, All-Star game selection, a Gold Glove award, a Silver Slugger award and finishing 11th-to-20th in MVP voting. He would receive 15 points for 6th-to-10th in MVP, 25 points for third-to-fifth and 35 points for first or second.
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