Close, one of the biggest agents in the game and part of Freeman’s team at Excel Sports Management, reportedly engaged in a long negotiation with the Braves that ended with Atlanta going in a different direction. On March 14, with Freeman still on the market, Atlanta traded for Oakland Athletics first baseman Matt Olson and quickly signed him to an eight-year, $168 million contract extension. Three days later, Freeman joined the Dodgers.
Both players settled into their new roles as the season began, and both the Dodgers and Braves started strong. It wasn’t until late June, when the teams met for a three-game series in Atlanta, that issues arose.
Freeman, making his first appearance in Atlanta as a visiting player, was visibly emotional throughout the opening game of the series. Four days later, ESPN’s Buster Olney reported Freeman had parted ways with Close and Excel. Olney also stated that those close to Freeman believed “his weekend-long emotion was tied, to some degree, to lingering anger and sadness that his negotiations concluded with him playing with a team other than the club that initially drafted him.”
In the aftermath of Olney’s reporting, Gottlieb — a Fox Sports Radio host and former college basketball star — sent a tweet that tied everything together, claiming Close never told Freeman about the Braves’ final offer and Freeman was unaware until visiting Atlanta. When he was told, Gottlieb said, Freeman fired Close.
Casey Close never told Freddie Freeman about the Braves final offer, that is why Freeman fired him. He found out in Atlanta this weekend. It isn’t that rare to have happen in MLB, but it happened – Close knew Freddie would have taken the ATL deal
— Doug Gottlieb (@GottliebShow) June 29, 2022
The next day, Close issued a statement through Excel stating that the Braves were responsible for creating a “false narrative” around Freeman’s departure.
“I will not stand by as the circumstances surrounding Freddie Freeman’s departure are mischaracterized,” Close said.
The agent also spoke to Sports Illustrated about Gottlieb’s tweet.
“There is no truth whatsoever to what Doug Gottlieb recklessly tweeted, and I would testify to that under oath,” Close said. “We are currently evaluating all legal options in this matter.”
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Now, a legal option has been chosen: Close and Excel are suing Gottlieb for libel. The complaint filed Thursday claims Gottlieb’s tweet damaged the plaintiffs’ names, businesses and reputations and that “Close has received death threats from people believed to be Atlanta Braves fans.”
“Plaintiffs have been damaged in an amount to be determined at trial but estimated to be tens of millions of dollars,” the document reads.
Freeman has not commented publicly on the matter. In a statement to ESPN, Close claimed the lawsuit was an attempt to correct any misconceptions.
“The Complaint sets the record straight as to what occurred during the negotiations with the Atlanta Braves,” he said.