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Braves extend Heyward, nearing mega-deal with Freeman

The Atlanta Braves avoided salary arbitration with right fielder Jason Heyward on Tuesday morning and are reportedly close to reaching a very lucrative multi-year contract extension with All-Star first basemen Freddie Freeman. The pair of 24-year-old sluggers were set to go to arbitration hearings next week in regards to their salaries for 2014, but will now head into spring training with their contract issues out of the way. Heyward’s extension is a two-year deal worth a guaranteed $13.3 million, and also includes performance bonuses that could increase his salary for the second year of the deal in 2015. Freeman on the other hand, is looking at a much bigger payday, as some news outlets have reported that the deal is upwards of $100 million. The most recent report is that the deal is in the 8-year, $125 millon range. The organization has not announced a Freeman extension as of yet, however, CBS Sports reported earlier this afternoon that a deal had been reached. Known throughout the sport as a strict “file and trial” team, the Braves and general manager Frank Wren have been adamant about closing the negotiations and letting the arbitration process take its course on pending one-year cases, but did state that multi-year negotiations could still be had by players, as was the case Tuesday. “We have no exceptions unless we’re talking about a multi-year contract,” Wren told Tuesday. “That has always been our policy.” The Freeman extension, if all the rumors are true, makes sense following a breakout year in 2013, which saw the Braves’ cleanup hitter finish fifth in the NL MVP race after clubbing 23 homeruns for the second consecutive year, driving in 109, and finishing the season with a Avg/OBP/Slugging slash line of .319/.396/.501. Freeman was also deadly in the clutch for the Bravos, batting .443 with RISP, which was second in MLB, while also racking up a 1.236 OPS in such situations. Heyward on the other hand, plowed through an injury-plagued year, which saw him suffer an appendectomy and a broken jaw. Injuries aside, Heyward did provide Gold Glove defense in both center and right, while also providing a much need spark in the club’s leadoff spot. The extensions for Freeman and Heyward come at a pivotal time for the Braves organization, as it transitions to the future in the wake of Chipper Jones’ retirement, and long-time fan favorites Tim Hudson and Brian McCann leaving the club via free agency earlier this offseason. As it stands now, starting pitcher Kris Medlen is the longest tenured member of the team,  having been with the big club since 2009. Heyward and Freeman, also known as “The Twin Towers,” are considered cornerstones of the Braves’ future, which was made evident by Tuesdays transactions. Although Freeman’s deal hadn’t been made official as of 3:25 p.m. Tuesday, career Brave and future hall of famer Chipper Jones has already taken to Twitter to tease Freeman about his new found riches. “Oh My! @FreddieFreeman5 got broke off,” Jones tweeted. “Can ur new chauffeur get a lil bit? Just kidding bruh, u deserve it! Dinner tomorrow night. Ur Treat???” Prior to today’s rumors about Freeman’s deal, Chipper Jones held the record for the biggest deal in Braves’ history for his 6-year, $90 million extension he signed for the 2001-2006 seasons.