Column: Dodgers have many moves to make. The most important? Adding Freddie Freeman

Braves first baseman celebrates his home run in Game 6 of the World Series against the Houston Astros.
Braves first baseman celebrates his home run in Game 6 of the World Series against the Astros in Houston on Nov. 2, 2021. The Braves won the game and the series.
(Eric Gay / Associated Press)

When we last left the Dodgers, they were injured, exhausted and soundly knocked off their title pedestal by the eventual champion Atlanta Braves.

Now that baseball has returned, the Dodgers’ first move should consist of payback.

Guy by the name of Freddie Freeman.


The Braves took the World Series crown from you? Now you take their best player from them.

The Dodgers need to place a priority on signing free-agent first baseman Freeman to replace Corey Seager’s lost left-handed bat while adding a new credible voice of veteran leadership.

The Major League Baseball lockout has ended, with players and team owners agreeing in principle to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement.

Freeman, 32, who grew up in Orange County, is a former National League MVP and five-time All-Star who last season hit 31 homers while leading the league with 120 runs scored.

He can still rake. He can still pick. He’s a perfect fit for a team that has an immediate need for a first baseman and a No. 2 hitter, both of which Freeman does marvelously.

Adding Freeman would allow Max Muncy, who tore a left elbow ligament at the end of the regular season, to play second base along with Chris Taylor, or play third base if Justin Turner is the designated hitter, or actually be the DH himself. Trea Turner is set as the replacement at shortstop from the Texas-bound Seager, but signing Freeman would allow the rest of the currently disjointed infield to fall into place.


It would be a smart and savvy move. But it can only be the first of many. Now that baseball is back, the Dodgers must make several important transactions to facilitate the sort of reloading that would make them favorites to return to the World Series for the fourth time in six seasons.


They must cut Trevor Bauer

Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer works against the Atlanta Braves on July 23, 2021.
Trevor Bauer pitches for the Dodgers against the Atlanta Braves on July 23, 2021.
(Brynn Anderson/Associated Press)

The minute spring training camps open, Bauer will officially be eligible to pitch for a Dodgers team that still owes him $64 million and has a glaring need for a starting pitcher.

Don’t even think about it.

Major League Baseball is expected to quickly suspend Bauer for at least 15 days, and maybe an entire season, but as it has been written in this space before, the Dodgers need to handle this one themselves.

Just cut him.


They must sign Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw sits in the Dodgers' dugout on Oct. 1, 2021.
Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw sits in the dugout after injuring his left elbow on Oct. 1, 2021.
(Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

Yes, with his elbow injury he probably won’t be ready for the start of the season. And yes, once he is activated, he will probably be no more than a fourth starter.


But c’mon people. He’s Clayton Kershaw. He’s a Dodgers lifer. He’s a future statue. The Dodgers don’t need to give him a Kobe Bryant-type retirement package, but they should give him enough to make him comfortable enough to finish his career here.

The Los Angeles franchise has had exactly two Hall of Fame pitchers spend their entire careers as Dodgers — Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale. Kershaw belongs in that group. The Dodgers can’t let him finish his career in … where is it again ... Texas? Seriously.


They must add another starter

Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler works against the Braves on Oct. 23, 2021.
Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler works against the Atlanta Braves in Game 6 of the NLCS on Oct. 23, 2021.
(Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)

While the top of the Dodgers’ rotation is potentially strong, with Kershaw’s arm uncertainty the rest of the rotation is potentially suspect.

There is complete trust in Walker Buehler and Julio Urías, both of whom could have won the Cy Young Award last season. There is not so much trust in the likes of Tony Gonsolin, Andrew Heaney and … who else exactly? Kershaw would obviously solidify the back of the rotation, but his recovery time is unknown and his greatest value will be in the postseason.

There is talk that the Oakland Athletics and Cincinnati Reds would be willing to dump a decent starting pitcher. The Dodgers can send them Gavin Lux and a prospect. If they can do that, they need to do that.


And here’s hoping that this time, if the season is on the line as in Game 6 of last year’s National League Championship Series, none of their starters shamefully taps out like Max Scherzer. He’s since gone to the New York Mets. No heartbreak here.

Major League Baseball has a new collective bargaining agreement and about 250 free agents are now ready to find new teams.


They must add a back-end bullpen piece

Kenley Jansen is surely leaving for bigger money. Joe Kelly is probably staying but, like Blake Treinen, he probably can’t consistently close.

The Dodgers have added former Washington Nationals championship hero Daniel Hudson, and former New York Yankee Tommy Kahnle should be recovered from Tommy John surgery, so they’ll have veteran arms. But they could use another dude with a closer mentality.

For all his foibles, Jansen will be missed. The Dodgers need to make sure he’s not too badly missed.



They must reconstruct their bench

One of the most important plate appearances in last fall’s fateful Game 6 in Atlanta was taken by the .152-hitting Steven Souza Jr.

In the seventh inning, he was one of three consecutive Dodgers to strike out with runners on second and third.

Fix that bench.


They must extend Dave Roberts’ contract

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts looks on from the dugout on Oct. 19, 2021.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts looks out from the dugout during Game 3 of the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves on Oct. 19, 2021.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

Everyone involved says this is a foregone conclusion, but the moment spring training camps open, the Dodgers manager is officially a lame duck.

If that doesn’t quickly change, he’ll lose clubhouse credibility and become a constant distraction and the Dodgers don’t need any of that.


One World Series championship and three World Series appearances in six seasons? You might disagree with his decisions — plenty of you do — but hasn’t he earned the right to manage with at least some semblance of job security? Of course, he has.

Baseball is back, so get it done, Dodgers.

Get all of it done.

Trevor Bauer won’t face criminal charges over sexual assault accusations. The Dodgers must leave no doubt he’s not welcome to return anyway.