Column: Freddie Freeman and Kenley Jansen take similar, bittersweet paths to new teams
Freddie Freeman spent his career in the Atlanta Braves organization.
He wanted to re-sign with them.
He also wanted to be paid.
Kenley Jansen spent his career in the Dodgers organization.
He wanted to re-sign with them.
He also wanted to be paid.
Freddie Freeman thought he was destined to spend his whole career with the Atlanta Braves, but doubts started to set in before they won the World Series last year.
Now, they have traded teams, Freeman the new first baseman of the Dodgers and Jansen the new closer of the World Series champion Braves.
Hours before the Braves announced their one-year, $16-million agreement with Jansen on Friday, the Dodgers introduced Freeman at their spring training complex.
Freeman smiled often.
He spoke about how delighted he was to return to his native Southern California and play in front of his 67-year-old father and 86-year-old grandfather.
He laughed about how he was teased by his new teammates for reporting to camp in a suit.
He also admitted he was disappointed the Braves didn’t want him.
Freeman said he was working out in Newport Beach on Monday when he received word the Braves traded for Matt Olson to replace him as their first baseman.
“To be honest, I was blindsided,” Freeman said. “I think every emotion came across. I was hurt.”
Go back and re-read that quote in Jansen’s voice.
Those could have been Jansen’s words about when he learned Freeman agreed to a six-year, $162-million contract with the Dodgers on Wednesday night.
Jansen probably will acknowledge feeling something similar in the next couple of days when he’s introduced by the Braves.
Freeman sounded genuinely excited about joining the Dodgers but also as if he were still working through his breakup with the only franchise he had known.
“I’ve been trying to think of how this was going to go in my head with these questions,” Freeman said. “You spend 15 years in an organization, 12 in the big leagues, a lot of memories are made.”
Jansen spent 17 years in the Dodgers organization, including the last 12 in the majors.
As Freeman reflected on the Braves’ efforts to retain him, he sounded disappointed.
Days after the Dodgers signed former Braves star Freddie Freeman, Atlanta signed former Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen to a one-year contract.
“I didn’t get any calls last offseason, didn’t really get any calls last spring training either,” he said. “So I was pretty sure I was going to be a free agent. You still think you’re going to come back at that point. But the doubts started to go when the phone didn’t ring. I can’t control someone wanting to call. I got one call before the lockout, a checking-in call. And that was it. Then after the lockout, a checking-in call again.”
He was frustrated by what he described as a lack of back and forth.
“The last offer, formal offer, I got was [at the] trade deadline,” Freeman said. “We countered and that was it.”
Freeman couldn’t conceal his anger.
I asked Freeman what he made of the tears shed by Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos when he spoke to reporters about the Olson deal.
“I saw ‘em,” Freeman said. “Yup. That’s all I’ll say.”
In other words, he agreed with what I wrote earlier in the week, that Anthopoulos’ tears were of the crocodilian variety.
Regardless of whether Freeman misread the market or overplayed his hand, his anger was understandable.
He was a model of consistency, batting .300 or higher in six of his last nine seasons with the Braves. In one of the seasons he finished short of the benchmark, he batted .295 with a career-high 38 home runs and 121 RBIs.
He played every day, missing a combined seven games over the last four years.
He was the signature player on a Braves team that won the franchise’s first World Series championship in 26 years last season.
Jansen is proud but sensitive, and the guess here is that he was also upset with how his free-agent ordeal played out.
Earlier this week, he was still looking for a three-year deal and a guarantee to close games, Times colleague Jorge Castillo reported. The Dodgers remained interested but in shorter deals.
The market proved Jansen’s former team right. That reality won’t diminish whatever dejection Jansen experienced.
Jansen departs the Dodgers with 350 career saves, the most in franchise history.
“California Love” was already a popular song before he chose it as his entrance theme, but he somehow made it his own in Los Angeles.
Jansen was one of the most identifiable players on a Dodgers team that won the franchise’s first World Series championship in 33 years.
But players like Jansen didn’t make multiple All-Star teams by curling up in a ball when their feelings were hurt.
Make no mistake: The Dodgers are loaded when it comes to power and consistency at the plate. Will they make the most of it and win the World Series?
Before last season, I wrote a couple of columns in which I asserted Jansen was finished after a couple of down years and called on the Dodgers to part ways with him. He went on to enjoy a bounce-back season.
Around the All-Star break, Jansen told me, “Your opinions, everybody’s opinions, that I fell off or I’ve got to do better — those are just motivation.”
The Dodgers’ refusal to offer him a three-year deal will serve as more fuel. Freeman should be similarly motivated by the Braves’ denial of his request for a six-year contract.
All of which makes for an especially interesting series in the second week of the regular season: three games between the Dodgers and Braves at Dodger Stadium on April 18-20.
Are you a true-blue fan?
Get our Dodgers Dugout newsletter for insights, news and much more.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.