Adam Duvall displeased with free-agency process but thrilled with return to Braves (2024)

NORTH PORT, Fla. — Adam Duvall is not happy with the state of baseball free agency. Specifically, he thinks MLB teams no longer value experience and past performance as much as analytical projections that are heavily influenced by a player’s age with no regard for his character.

But despite the process and a stressful offseason, Duvall is pleased with the ultimate outcome. He’s glad to be back with the Atlanta Braves, who signed the 35-year-old outfielder to a relatively modest one-year, $3 million deal Thursday, exactly two weeks before their March 28 season opener at Philadelphia.

The Atlanta #Braves today signed OF Adam Duvall to a one-year major league contract worth $3 million for the 2024 season.

— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) March 14, 2024

“We’re happy being a Brave, so we’re excited to be back,” Duvall said Saturday, when he worked out at the team’s North Port camp and saw a lot of his friends and former teammates for the first time since signing. “I mean, walking in there, it was very nostalgic. It was a lot of memories that came back, and that’s good. That’s fun to experience.


“It’s fun to have those feelings come rushing back, when you’re seeing all the guys again. And hopefully that’s a sign of things to come.”

Duvall was part of the Braves’ 2021 World Series championship team, highly respected and universally popular in the clubhouse and among fans in two stints with Atlanta.

“That’s a steal,” said Braves reliever A.J. Minter, another member of the 2021 team. “Just to be able to pick him up and have him on the roster, with what he’s meant (to the Braves), being on the World Series team, and just having a huge impact to this organization. And him being comfortable here, I think, helps a lot. He’s gonna help us out moving forward. I’m sure he’s going to get to play a lot.”

The Braves plan to use Duvall in a left-field platoon with left-handed hitting newcomer Jared Kelenic, 24, who has struggled at the plate in spring training, though the team has seen improvement in recent at-bats and praised Kelenic’s attitude and strong defense.

Duvall has 54 home runs in 272 games (927 plate appearances) with the Braves over parts of five seasons from 2018 through 2022.

“The free-agency process — this offseason, it was stressful,” said Duvall, who signed a deal for less than half of the $7 million he made in 2023 with the Boston Red Sox, when he had 21 homers, an .834 OPS and a 119 OPS+ in 92 games, overcoming an early wrist injury that halted his fast start and put him on the injured list for two months before the All-Star break.

“The ebbs and flow of that process can be daunting at times,” he said of free agency. “Especially in kind of the landscape where we’re at now. It’s not necessarily in a great place, as far as free agency. And that’s something that we had to deal with. Like I said, it was a lot on my family, a lot on me. But we’re happy now.”

A right-handed hitter, Duvall actually hit better against right-handed pitchers than against lefties a year ago. Over his 10-year career, he has identical .232 averages against lefties and righties, with a negligible difference in OPS (.760 vs. righties, .770 vs. lefties).


But this move by the Braves had less to do with getting an ideal platoon partner for Kelenic than taking advantage of what they saw as a bargain price for a quality player they know and like a lot.

Duvall can play all three outfield positions, and the Braves would be comfortable with him taking over for an extended stretch if any of their outfielders gets hurt, something they couldn’t say with as much confidence about others who had been competing for the fourth-outfielder job.

“I remember texting him when he got hurt” last season, Braves manager Brian Snitker said, referring to the April wrist injury that landed Duvall on the IL after he’d hit .455 with 10 extra-base hits (four homers) and 14 RBIs in his first eight games for Boston. “I was like, ‘I feel so bad for you because you were doing so well.’ He’s just one of those guys that’s so easy to pull for. One of my favorite all-time guys to manage.”

After the Braves traded with Miami for Duvall at the 2021 deadline, he totaled 16 homers and 45 RBIs in 55 games for Atlanta to finish the season with a career-high 38 homers and a National League-leading 113 RBIs. Then he had three home runs and 10 RBIs in 16 postseason games. Two of those homers came in the World Series against Houston, including a Game 5 grand slam.

TBT to Adam Duvall in the 2021 World Series with the Braves 💪

— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) March 14, 2024

“I mean, the front office here — Alex (Anthopoulos) — they know what they’re doing,” said Braves reliever Tyler Matzek, another member of the 2021 team who remembers what Duvall provided late that year.

This time, the Braves didn’t have to trade for Duvall as they’ve done twice before at the deadline, including in 2018 when they got him from Cincinnati. This time, the Braves signed him to a one-year deal for less than that what many teams (including the Braves) are paying some utility infielders.


“It’s weird how we got Duvall almost on, like, a discount, man,” Matzek said. “When they told me the deal, I was like, ‘Wow, that’s unbelievable.’ He’s such a good player, and to get him for what they (paid), I think it was kind of a shock. We just know he’s a very good player, and we’re excited to see him go out there and absolutely dominate.”

It would’ve been understandable for Duvall to expect offers similar to the one-year deal he got a year ago from Boston, considering how he performed despite the wrist injury. But in the evolving world of free agency, as he noted, older players and others who don’t rate as highly in certain analytics aren’t seeing the kind of offers they did in the past.

“Going through the free-agency process, it just seemed like some teams didn’t value that, didn’t value the experience from proven veteran players that had a good year,” Duvall said. “And so there’s still some (good unsigned free agents) out there, which is disappointing for the sport, too. That goes a long way, having those guys that have won before, that can bring a young guy along, that can be a presence in the locker room and maybe call something out when it needs to be called out.”

“It just didn’t seem like teams (were) really valuing that, in their models and their projections. It’s gotten very stat-heavy and prediction-heavy as far as the free-agency process. But with that being said, that’s what (the Braves) do. They do a good job of looking at the human being, looking at what moment can they create in a big game, and the postseason. That’s important, especially when you’re playing for what we’re playing for here. They do a good job of getting good-character guys — winners — here.”

Told what Duvall said about free agency and the Braves putting more importance on clubhouse rep and how a player contributes to team chemistry, Snitker agreed.

“I think it’s been a part of our success, and Adam’s been a big part of our success here the last few years,” Snitker said. “So I was ecstatic to get him back over. When Alex told me that they were talking, I got excited. And when (Anthopoulos) came in the other day, he was flying around that room and I was like, oh, something happened (Snitker laughs). So it was good. It’s great to have a guy with that character, and the person, and the player.

“I mean, this guy was really good last year. That’s the thing. I mean, he had a really good year. So I’m glad we got him back.”


Nobody who was with the Braves in 2021 has forgotten Duvall’s World Series homers. And those who were around for his first stint with the team, after being traded to Atlanta at the 2018 deadline, won’t forget how he responded to being sent to Triple A the following season.

Duvall, who had 64 homers and 202 RBIs during the 2016-2017 seasons with Cincinnati and made the All-Star team in 2016, hit just .195 with 15 homers in 2018, including .132 with no homers in 33 games for Atlanta after the trade.

The Braves sent him to Gwinnett the following spring, and he toiled there much of the season, pounding Triple-A pitching for 32 homers and a .965 OPS in 101 games, before resuscitating his MLB career with 10 homers and an .882 OPS in 41 games late with Atlanta.

“He hasn’t had an easy road,” Minter said of Duvall, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2012 and works with diabetes support groups in many major league cities — another reason teammates have long revered him, for what he has to deal with physically to handle the rigors of professional baseball, especially in the hot summer months.

“I remember having him down in Triple A with us, playing with him when he should not have been down in Triple A,” Minter said. “Just for him to have a great attitude and nothing handed to him — he’s earned everything that’s come his way.”

(Photo of Adam Duvall hitting a two-run home run against the Mets on July 12, 2022: Brett Davis / USA Today)

Adam Duvall displeased with free-agency process but thrilled with return to Braves (1)Adam Duvall displeased with free-agency process but thrilled with return to Braves (2)

David O'Brien is a senior writer covering the Atlanta Braves for The Athletic. He previously covered the Braves for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and covered the Marlins for eight seasons, including the 1997 World Series championship. He is a two-time winner of the NSMA Georgia Sportswriter of the Year award. Follow David on Twitter @DOBrienATL

Adam Duvall displeased with free-agency process but thrilled with return to Braves (2024)


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