Best Dodgers lineup ever? Five ways Freddie Freeman improves an already loaded team

First baseman Freddie Freeman squats to catch a thrown ball
First baseman Freddie Freeman brings a Gold Glove along with a potent bat to the Dodgers.
(John Bazemore / Associated Press)
Share via

Well before the signing was official, Dodgers players couldn’t help but be mesmerized by the possibility.

Asked over the past week what the signing of former most valuable player Freddie Freeman as a free agent would add to the team, they voiced almost universal excitement.

“We’d be extremely dangerous with him,” said Max Muncy.

Echoed Trea Turner: “I think he would be a huge, huge pickup for us from many, many standpoints.”


Clayton Kershaw couldn’t resist the idea either: “I feel like we have a real chance to win with the guys in this clubhouse. With that said, Freddie’s a really good baseball player.”

The Dodgers will soon discover just how good they can indeed be with Freeman at the heart of their lineup, after the team agreed to terms with the former Atlanta Braves star on a six-year, $162-million contract, according to people with knowledge of the situation.

The move comes with risks: The Dodgers’ projected luxury tax payroll is now up to almost $279.5 million, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts (that includes all of Trevor Bauer’s $34-million salary this year, which could be reduced if he is suspended), well past the third tax threshold and just $10 million shy of a fourth level that would trigger a new 80% penalty.

A team that once was wary of awarding long-term contracts now has two massive ones on the books, with Freeman locked up through his age-37 season and Mookie Betts through his age-39 campaign.

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

Still, the blockbuster addition could prove to be worthwhile. One of the few holes on the team — a left-handed slugger to replace the departed Corey Seager — has been filled. And if they weren’t already, the Dodgers’ lineup is now arguably the biggest juggernaut in the league and on paper has the chance to be one of their best ever.

That’s the kind of firepower Freeman has the potential to bring. Here are five ways he can make it happen and help improve an already stacked team:


Consistent production

Freeman hasn’t just been one of the best players in baseball over the last decade. He’s been as consistent as almost any superstar, too.

He is a lifetime .295 hitter who has been best in the second half of his career, posting a batting average of .300 or better in five of the past six seasons. His on-base-plus-slugging percentages have only dipped below .900 twice during that time, too.

He’s been durable, playing at least 117 games in every full season of his career and missing just seven over the last four campaigns combined.

His defense has also remained reliable, with Freeman recording an above-average mark in the defensive runs saved analytic in all but three seasons.

He hasn’t shown many signs of slowing down, either. Last year he hit more than 30 home runs for the third time while also posting the second-lowest strikeout percentage of his career (trailing only the pandemic-shortened 2020 season).

One more piece of evidence: OPS+, an all-encompassing advanced metric in which Freeman has been rated as at least 30% better than the league average at the plate every year since 2013.


Left-handed balance

Before acquiring Freeman, the Dodgers’ best left-handed hitters were Muncy (coming off a significant elbow injury), Cody Bellinger (coming off a career-worst year) and still unproven Gavin Lux.

It was a potential weakness, especially in a National League dominated largely by tough right-handers such as Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer and Chris Bassitt in New York, Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove in San Diego, Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff in Milwaukee, and Logan Webb in San Francisco — all of whom are potential playoff foes.

Freeman’s addition addresses that hole, effectively replacing Seager. In his career, Freeman has hit over .300 against right-handed pitchers with a .941 OPS (while still also posting decent marks of .266 and .784, respectively, against left-handers).

The Atlanta Braves disrespected Freddie Freeman, a franchise icon, and now he has a chance to lead the Dodgers back to a World Series.

March 16, 2022

Lineup flexibility

With Freeman likely locking down first base, the Dodgers now have brand new combinations for utilizing the rest of their lineup.

Muncy will be freed up to play second base or serve as the designated hitter. Chris Taylor can also continue in his effective utility role, playing almost any position in the infield or outfield. Lux can be saved for more favorable matchups, too, when the Dodgers want to field a left-handed heavy lineup.

Freeman also adds insurance against injuries, giving the team another major weapon to rely on if others go down around him.


And when they’re all healthy, a potential lineup could look like this: Betts, Freeman, Trea Turner, Muncy, Will Smith, Justin Turner, Bellinger, AJ Pollock, Taylor.

Playoff experience

In 42 career postseason games, Freeman has proved himself a clutch October performer. Overall, he has hit .290 in the playoffs with nine home runs and 20 RBIs. He is coming off one of his best single postseasons, too, when he hit .304 and slugged .625 during the Braves’ title run a year ago.

It will come as a boost for the Dodgers, whose banged-up lineup struggled with inconsistency during the 2021 postseason — hot some nights but coming up empty in the clutch on others, especially during their six-game loss to the Braves in the NL Championship Series.

Another benefit: The Dodgers no longer will have to face Freeman in the playoffs. Freeman crushed L.A. pitching over his postseason career, batting .286 with five home runs and 11 RBIs over their four playoff meetings since 2013.

Dodgers ownership again proved its willingness to win at any cost by agreeing to a six-year deal worth $162 million with Freddie Freeman.

March 17, 2022

Clubhouse presence

For all Freeman provided on the field, he left an indelible mark behind the scenes in Atlanta, too.

That much was clear following the team’s World Series title last October, when one teammate after another professed joy at seeing Freeman reach the mountaintop after so many years.


“He means everything to this team,” Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson said. “Nobody deserves it on our team more than him.”

Added Braves manager Brian Snitker: “How he comes to play every day, what he does in our community, the person he is, the emphasis he has on all of his teammates, me in particular. I don’t know what I’d do without him, quite honestly.”

Now the Dodgers will be the beneficiary, adding Freeman to a clubhouse that already includes veteran leaders such as Kershaw, Betts and Justin Turner — hoping it will become one more way the $162-million addition can further tilt the scales and solidify one of the most talented lineups in team history.