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Braves give Freeman multi-year contract

Freddie  Freeman

Freddie Freeman

photo

Jason Heyward

The Atlanta Braves have locked up first baseman Freddie Freeman with a blockbuster long-term deal and signed outfielder Jason Heyward to a two-year contract, avoiding arbitration with both.

Freeman’s deal covers eight years and is worth $135 million, making it the richest contract in Braves history. The previous record contract given by the Braves was the six-year, $90 million extension that third baseman Chipper Jones received for the 2001 through 2006 seasons.

Freeman, who could have become a free agent after the 2016 season, was fifth in the National League MVP voting last year after hitting .319 with 23 homers and 109 RBIs.

The 24-year-old filed for $5.75 million in his first year of arbitration eligibility compared to the Braves’ $4.5 million figure.

The Braves have been one of the team’s with a “file and trial” philosophy, meaning no negotiations after arbitration figures are exchanged. But general manager Frank Wren said that didn’t include multi-year deals.

“Freddie has established himself as one of the best young talents in the game,” Wren said. “We are excited to sign one of our own homegrown players to a contract that will keep him in a Braves uniform for the next eight seasons.”

Heyward, limited to 104 games last season, agreed to a two-year deal that guarantees him $13.3 million over the 2014 and 2015 seasons. The 24-year-old had filed for $5.5 million for this season and the Braves had countered with an arbitration figure of $5.2 million.

Heyward, who will be eligible for free agency after the completion of the two-year contract, received a $1 million signing bonus, $4.5 million in salary for this season and $7.8 million next year.

The Braves remain far apart with Kimbrel, in his first year of arbitration eligibility after saving 50 games last season. The 25-year-old right-hander asked for $9 million compared to the team’s figure of $6.55 million. His arbitration hearing is set for Feb. 17 in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Braves pitchers and catchers report to camp on Feb. 12 at Lake Buena Vista, Fla., with the first workout the next day. Full camp begins on Feb. 19.

The Braves have not gone to arbitration since 2001, when they did so with reliever John Rocker.