Why Zack Wheeler extension could ensure Max Fried leaves Braves

Zack Wheeler's extension could be the latest nail in the coffin in Max Fried's Braves tenure.

September 1, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Max Fried (54)
September 1, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Max Fried (54) / Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The big news that broke on Monday was not the Blake Snell or Jordan Montgomery signing that we've been waiting months for, but it was instead an extension with Zack Wheeler signing a three-year deal to remain with the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Phillies made it abundantly clear throughout this offseason, as FanSided's Robert Murray pointed out on The Baseball Insiders podcast, that they wanted the Wheeler extension to get done, and they finally did get Wheeler to sign the dotted line. The terms of the deal were a bit pricey as Wheeler inked a three-year, $126 million deal, but the bottom line is that Philadelphia's ace will remain with the team past the 2024 season, which is what the Phillies (and Wheeler) wanted all along.

As Murray noted, the Wheeler extension is one of the biggest in MLB history with the right-hander set to earn $42 million annually for the next three seasons. While Wheeler certainly deserves to be paid like one of the best pitchers in the game, we can only wonder what this kind of contract will mean for next offseason in regards to pitchers who will enter the market, specifically Max Fried.

Zack Wheeler's extension could be latest move that drives Max Fried out of Atlanta

Much like Wheeler, Max Fried has established himself as one of the best pitchers in the National League in recent years. The southpaw has a combined 2.83 ERA over the last four seasons and has been one of the main reasons why the Atlanta Braves have been so dominant in the NL East. He's proven himself to be a legitimate ace and will be paid like that this offseason.

Because of this, there's every reason to believe that the Braves will let him go, much like they did with Freddie Freeman and Dansby Swanson, and pursue a cheaper option who they can sign to one of Alex Anthopoulos' patented team-friendly extensions. This was the expectation before the Wheeler contract, and now Fried's price has only risen since.

The 30-year-old Fried's contract will be structured differently considering the fact that he's three years younger and will be a free agent rather than an extension candidate, so he'll likely get double (or more) the years Wheeler got. While that likely means he'll have a lower AAV, the terms of the deal will almost certainly be out of Atlanta's preferred range.

Max Fried signing a mega-deal to play out the rest of his prime years in Atlanta seemed unlikely before the Wheeler extension, and now things might've gotten even tougher knowing Wheeler set the bar extremely high for star pitchers.

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