MLB: Atlanta Braves at Chicago Cubs

Update: Peter Gammons reports the deal is for eight years and worth $135 million.

There is one key question when trying to decide if you like the Freddie Freeman extension or if you love it: how much better do you think he gets?

There is an old axiom regarding first baseman and long term deals – you only lock up the true elite. Is Freddie Freeman an elite first baseman? 23 home runs in 2013 doesn’t exactly scream elite. Maybe Freddie Freeman grows into 30 home run power. Maybe he doesn’t. But Freddie Freeman is young and, often, power develops a little later than the other hitting skills.

A little more power would be a nice luxury because Freeman’s other hitting skills are pretty darn elite. A 150 wRC+ is very elite, “lack” of home runs be damned. Since the work stoppage of 1995, only one first baseman claims the same level of production over through his age-23 season, which Freeman just completed.

First baseman since 1995 with more than 1000 PA through their age 23 season, sorted by OPS+

Rk Player OPS+ PA Age HR RBI BB
1 Prince Fielder 132 1391 21-23 80 210 151
2 Freddie Freeman 123 1908 20-23 68 280 183
3 Billy Butler 111 1510 21-23 40 200 118
4 Eric Hosmer 106 1841 21-23 50 217 141
5 Anthony Rizzo 100 1211 21-23 39 137 124
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 2/4/2014.

Young first baseman are uncommon because first base is more of a landing spot for older players unable to man more demanding positions. To be a career first baseman, you need to produce. Freeman has done nothing but produce in his big league career, cutting down his strikeouts while showing a good approach at the plate. He hits from line to line and shows minimal platoon splits. He cut down his strikeouts in each of his three full seasons.

Courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info

Courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info

It could be an overreaction to the just finished season but Atlanta has a good position player with a proven track record of production and health. A player still yet to hit his peak years. A player yet to celebrate his 25th birthday. Given the going rate for a big leaguer with a pulse, this combination of factors suggests Freeman’s deal might look pretty good down the road.