Freddie Freeman put on a Dodgers uniform for the first time at Camelback Ranch, but Friday seemed more about the chasm between the All-Star first baseman and his old team, the Braves.
Or maybe it was a clean break.
“The communication wasn’t all there. I got two phone calls [from Atlanta] all offseason,” Freeman said Friday in his introductory press conference. “I got more from Andrew [Friedman, Dodgers president of baseball operations] to my agents in a couple of hours.”
Freeman said the Braves contacted him once right before the MLB lockout, and once right after the lockout was lifted. Both were more checking in.
A report from Buster Olney at ESPN, published the morning of Freeman’s press conference with the Dodgers, suggests there was more communication than that, at least involving Freeman’s representatives at Excel, Casey Close and Vic Menocal:
On Friday, March 11, there was a report that the Dodgers were making an intense push to sign Freeman. The next day, Close and Anthopoulos spoke, and, according to four sources, Close told Anthopoulos that the Braves had an hour to accept one of two proposals — a six-year, $175 million deal, an average of a little more than $29 million a year, or a five-year, $165 million deal, an average of $33 million per season.
The Braves rejected the ultimatum Saturday and quickly moved on. By Monday they traded for Matt Olson to play first base, and one day later extended him for eight years and $168 million. Atlanta general manager Alex Anthopoulos fought back tears after the trade was announced, calling it the hardest transaction he ever had to make.
On Friday, asked (by Dylan Hernández of the Los Angeles Times) if he saw Anthopoulos’s tears, Freeman responded coldly.
“I saw them,” Freeman said. “That’s all I’ll say.”
When the rift between the Braves and Freeman happened isn’t all that important. The truth is it was surprising that Freeman even reached free agency, that Atlanta wasn’t able to sign the franchise icon well before this offseason.
What is relevant is that the Dodgers were able to pounce when an elite player surprisingly became available. Just like they did two years ago with Mookie Betts, who along with Freeman represent two of the only three Dodgers players signed past 2023.
There was more communication between the Dodgers and Freeman, including at Betts’ wedding on December 1, including Dave Roberts, Justin Turner, and Friedman.
“Doc, JT, and I walked outside 10 minutes before the deadline, before everything went dark, just saying, ‘Don’t forget about us during this period. Don’t forget about us,’” Friedman said Friday. “We actually left a live music performance of Nelly to walk out and make that call. It would take a lot to get us to do that, but it was definitely worth it.”
- Fabian Ardaya at The Athletic has more on the Dodgers’ pursuit of Freeman.
- Hernández at the LA Times says the Dodgers’ signing Freeman actually shows how much faith the team has in its minor leaguers.
- Clayton Kershaw debuted on the mound in Friday’s spring training lidlifter. Bill Plunkett at the Orange County Register has more.
- David Schoenfield at ESPN compares the 2022 Dodgers roster to their recent “superteams.”