Freddie Freeman, Dodgers agree on 6-year, $162 million deal – Press Enterprise

First you hit them. Then join them.

Five months after beating the Dodgers in the National League Championship Series en route to a World Series title but just days after the Atlanta Braves pulled from him, Freddie Freeman has agreed to sign with the Dodgers. The Dodgers will sign the free agent first baseman to a six-year, $162 million contract.

Freeman will return four former MVP winners to the Dodgers, joining (replacing Albert Pujols) Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger and Clayton Kershaw.

After last fall’s Braves championship, Freeman, 32, seemed like a good choice to return to Atlanta, where he was the face of the franchise for years. But the Braves were reluctant to make a contract extension and were reluctant to offer the six-year Freeman was looking for. The lockout put negotiations on hold and fueled speculation about Freeman’s disappointment with the franchise’s approach.

The potential for Freeman to leave the Braves became a certainty Monday when they acquired Matt Olson from the Oakland A’s in a deal Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos called “the toughest transaction I’ve had to make” because it is the meant the end of Freeman’s time in Atlanta. On Wednesday, Freeman posted a farewell message to “Braves Country” on Instagram.

The Braves’ trade for Olson fueled speculation about Freeman’s market with the Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays and San Diego Padres all linked to the free agent to varying degrees. However, the Dodgers always stayed at the front of the pack, capitalizing on their financial opportunities and the chance for Freeman (an Orange County native who played at El Modena High) to return to Southern California. Their willingness to add a sixth year (guide Freeman through his 37-year season) appears to have sealed the deal.

The Dodgers have now signed a $100 million contract for three straight years after striking massive deals for Betts and 2021 pitcher Trevor Bauer in 2020.

Freeman, the 2020 National League MVP, has finished in the top 10 five other times on this poll, including last season when he hit .300 with 31 home runs, 83 RBIs, 120 runs and an .896 OPS . A three-time Silver Slugger winner, five-time All-Star and Gold Glove winner in 2018, Freeman has hit at least .300 five times in the past six seasons, hit at least 30 home runs three times and hit at least 80 runs six times.

The addition of Freeman gives the Dodgers an even more impressive lineup that now includes Betts, Trea Turner, Freeman, Max Muncy, Will Smith, Justin Turner, Chris Taylor, AJ Pollock and Bellinger. The lineup was already among the best in the National League last year with 237 home runs and 5.12 carries per game with 612 walks and a .759 OPS.

Freeman also gives the Dodgers a left-handed hitter mid-order to replace shortstop Corey Seager, who signed with the Texas Rangers as a free agent.

Muncy, a left-hander who hits first baseman, can move to second base or serve as the designated batter, becoming permanent in the NL this season.

Muncy was sidelined for the entire postseason last year after initially suffering an elbow injury in a collision on the final day of the regular season. Manager Dave Roberts has said Muncy should be available for opening day on April 8, but he is unsure if Muncy will be ready for the first launch.

A 2007 Atlanta second-round draft pick, Freeman quickly worked his way through the farm system. He was called up in September 2010 and made his major league debut less than two weeks shy of his 21st birthday.

Freeman took over as a first base starter the following year and finished second in NL Rookie of the Year voting to Braves teammate Craig Kimbrel after hitting .282 with 21 homers and 76 RBIs.

Freeman has been a staple of the Braves’ lineup ever since, even as the perennial playoff contender went through a painful rebuild after winning the NL East title in 2013.

Freeman suffered four straight losses while Atlanta rebuilt their depleted farm system, but the team made it clear he was at the heart of their overhaul by signing him to an eight-year, $135 million contract, which at the time was the longest and was largest in franchise history.

Freeman won his MVP award in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, hitting .341 with 13 homers and 53 RBIs in 60 games — a remarkable feat after enduring a battle with COVID-19 that worried him about whether he would survive .

Atlanta won a postseason series that year for the first time since 2001 – even two of them – before giving away a 3-1 lead in the series and losing to the Dodgers in the NLCS in Arlington, Texas.

The Braves bounced back from that disappointment to win their fourth straight division title in 2021 and clinched their first World Series title in 26 years by defeating the Houston Astros. Fittingly, Freeman caught the series finale with a throw from shortstop Dansby Swanson.

As the Braves celebrated their championship at Minute Maid Park, Freeman made it clear he wanted to stay in Atlanta.

“This is a crazy game, a crazy business,” he said. “But everyone knows that this is where my heart beats.

“I’ve been here since I was 17, almost half my life in this organization,” he continued. “Putting on that Braves uniform every day means everything.”

After the World Series, Freeman’s contract expired and he received a qualifying offer ($18.4 million) from the Braves. As expected, Freeman turned down this offer and became a free agent.

Now the kid who grew up with the Angels and thought he could spend his entire career with the Braves will wear Dodger Blue.

Intelligence agencies contributed to this story.


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