Column: Dodgers show Freddie Freeman the love that the Braves wouldn’t

Freddie Freeman celebrates his homer for the Atlanta Braves in Game 6 of the 2021 World Series against the Houston Astros.
Freddie Freeman celebrates his home run for the Atlanta Braves in Game 6 of the 2021 World Series against the Houston Astros.
(Eric Gay / Associated Press)

Imagine Clayton Kershaw making 30-plus starts in a season. Imagine him becoming a free agent. Imagine him wanting to return to the Dodgers.

Now, imagine the Dodgers’ decision makers failing to make him a competitive offer. Imagine them trading for a younger and less expensive pitcher instead.

That’s basically what Alex Anthopoulos did with Freddie Freeman.


There’s a franchise more ruthless than Andrew Friedman’s Dodgers and it’s Anthopoulos’ Atlanta Braves.

The Braves make the number crunchers in the Dodgers’ front office look like baseball romantics by comparison, industry insiders questioning the sincerity of Anthopoulos’ tears after Matt Olson was acquired to replace Freeman.

I’m really curious: What was Anthopoulos thinking about to coax out those fake tears?

The saga of Freeman’s free agency is about greed and disloyalty, but it’s also a story about opportunism.

The beneficiaries of the Braves’ cynicism are the Dodgers, who agreed to a deal with Freeman on Wednesday, according to people familiar with the situation who spoke under the condition of anonymity because the contract is pending a physical examination.

The Braves and their overlords at Liberty Media refused to divert any of their $100-million profit from last year to their longtime model employee and the Dodgers are now the favorites to win their second World Series in three seasons because of it.

Former Atlanta Braves first baseman and 2020 National League MVP Freddie Freeman has agreed to a six-year contract with the Dodgers.

March 16, 2022


Sometimes, it’s better to be lucky than good, and this is a prime example, as one of the best players in the game was served to the Dodgers on a platter at the right place at the right time.

A five-time All-Star, Freeman will step right into the gaping hole created when Corey Seager signed with the Texas Rangers, serving as a left-handed-hitting threat in the middle of the order.

The Dodgers don’t sign Freeman and they would have to rely on Max Muncy, who is recovering from an elbow injury that sidelined him in the postseason. They don’t sign Freeman and they have to count on the inconsistent Cody Bellinger to produce.

The Dodgers’ lineup might now be even more potent than it was last year, with Freeman arguably an upgrade from Seager.

Freeman batted .341 when he won the National League MVP award in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

He’s a career .295 hitter with 271 homers and 941 runs batted in to his name.

He’s hit 20 or more home runs in eight separate seasons, including a career-high 38 in 2019. He’s batted .305 over the last six seasons, a period over which he has averaged 33 home runs and 103 RBIs for 162 games.

Atlanta Braves' Freddie Freeman speaks during a World Series championship celebration.
Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman speaks during a World Series championship celebration at Truist Park on Nov. 5, 2021, in Atlanta.
(John Bazemore / Associated Press)

At the very least, Freeman is more durable than Seager was for the Dodgers, as he played in all but five of the 546 regular-season games the Braves played over the last four seasons. Seager missed 139 games over the same period.

Almost as important is what Freeman offers the Dodgers from a cultural standpoint.

The team’s personality was shaped over the last decade by Kershaw, a high-character player with unimpeachable work habits. The Dodgers doubled down on that model when they invested $365 million in outfielder Mookie Betts, another lead-by-example superstar.

This environment was endangered last year when the Dodgers signed known egomaniac Trevor Bauer.

Never mind the legal problems that sidelined Bauer last year. He was a misogynistic internet bully who once hurled a ball over an outfield wall when removed from a game.

Bauer’s willingness to accept an unorthodox contract offered the Dodgers a short-term boost without compromising their long-term flexibility.

Nothing in life is free, however, as Bauer’s recklessness threatened the organization’s carefully curated image.

Which Freeman can repair.

Dodgers left-hander David Price is preparing to be a starter in 2022 after serving as a starter and reliever last season.

March 16, 2022

Freeman is considered one of the game’s great gentlemen. He lost his mother when he was only 10 and has a dignity shared by people made stronger by their grief.

He’s also a Southern California native and El Modena High graduate.

There is, however, a downside.

Freeman is 32. His contract will likely become a financial burden on the Dodgers before it expires.

But the Dodgers can’t view the deal as a burden. They have to see it as the gift that it is, and act accordingly.

They can’t use it as an excuse to not re-sign their own homegrown stars. They have to re-sign Julio Urías when he becomes a free agent after the 2023 season and Walker Buehler after 2024.

They can’t be like the Braves.