NEW YORK (AP) — Freddie Freeman’s former agent and his company sued a radio host for libel on Thursday, alleging Doug Gottlieb falsely claimed Casey Close never informed the first baseman of the Atlanta Braves’ last contract offer.
Close and Excel Sports Management filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, alleging defamation by libel. They accused Gottlieb of “false, disparaging and derogatory” comments in a tweet they claimed was made “in a grossly irresponsible manner without due consideration for the standards of information gathering and dissemination ordinarily followed by responsible parties.”
The 58-year-old Close is a principal of Excel and one of three managing partners. He has represented several hundred baseball players, including Hall of Famer Derek Jeter.
Gottlieb, 46, is affiliated with Fox Sports, the Pac-12 Network and CBS Sports, according to the suit.
“Although we gave Mr. Gottlieb an opportunity to retract his false statement, he failed to do so,” Close said in a statement. “The complaint sets the record straight as to what occurred during the negotiations with the Atlanta Braves.”
Jason Stewart, a producer at Fox Sports Radio Network, referred a request for comment to John Tehranian, whom Stewart said was a lawyer for Gottlieb. Tehranian did not respond to a phone message and email.
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The suit alleges Close has received death threats from people he believes to be Braves fans.
Close said in the suit that the Braves on March 29, 2021, offered Freeman a $110 million, five-year deal starting in 2022, then made a $125 million, five-year proposal on Aug. 1 and a $135 million proposal on Aug. 4, all rejected by Freeman.
Close said he and the Braves had their final two conversations about a Freeman contract this March 12 and he made two proposals to the team that day that were rejected. Close said he asked the team if it had any offer he could present Freeman and was told the team did not.
Close said he immediately informed Freeman of all conversations with the Braves on March 12.
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Atlanta announced on March 14 it had acquired first baseman Matt Olson from Oakland, signaling the team no longer was attempting to retain Freeman. On March 17, Freeman signed a $162 million, six-year contract with the Dodgers.
On June 29, Gottlieb tweeted: “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.”
Freeman received his World Series ring on June 24 before his first game with the Dodgers in Atlanta, and Close said Freeman terminated him as his designated player agent several days later.
Close and Excel said Gottlieb had not complied with their demand to retract the comments in his tweet.
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