A smile was planted on Freddie Freeman’s face for most of his first day as a Dodger.
Freeman, who just finished his six-year, $162 million contract, arrived at the team’s spring training complex early Friday wearing a sleek black suit and glove as he entered the facility. In the afternoon he donned Dodger Blue for the first time and took to the field to practice to the cheers of hundreds of fans.
Then, during an introductory press conference, Freeman slipped into his new uniform and showed off the number 5, freshly stitched down the back.
“I just wanted to come here and get started,” Freeman said. “Everyone just welcomed me with open arms.”
The only time Freeman’s facial expression changed was when the topic of his old Atlanta Braves team came up. The formerly National League Most Valuable Player, who was just days away from his official departure, was still struggling to make sense of the split.
“I thought I would spend my whole career there,” he said. “But ultimately, sometimes plans change.”
Freeman’s doubts about a return to the Braves have slowly surfaced over the past year. He said the Braves made a formal offer for a contract extension at the close of trade last season and then never objected to his representatives’ proposal.
He said the Dodgers had courted him heavily since the start of the offseason, but Braves officials only called him twice, once before the lockout and once after, just to check in.
And he said when the Braves traded for Oakland first baseman Matt Olson on Monday — effectively ending Freeman’s time at Atlanta — he had no idea the news was coming.
“To be honest, I was blind,” said Freeman, who up to that point still believed in a return to Atlanta. “I think every emotion came across. I was injured. It’s still hard to put into words.”
Freeman was asked if he saw Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos when he introduced Olson this week.
“I saw her,” Freeman said. “Yes. That’s all I’m going to say.”
Freeman’s deal with the Dodgers came about soon after, with Freeman agreeing to his contract – which, according to a person with knowledge of the deal who is not authorized to discuss it publicly, contained about $57 million in money to be paid between 2028 and 2040. Dollar includes Wednesday, pass a physical Thursday, then fly to Arizona to join the team Friday.
“The last week has been a bit of a whirlwind,” Freeman said. “But I don’t want to be anywhere else now.”
Freeman said the chance to return to Southern California — he’s from Orange County and his father and grandfather still live in the area — played a big factor in his decision. He was also drawn to the Dodgers’ field.
“Everyone knew the situation I was in and they were very open and caring about where I was from and how long I was there,” Freeman said. “They took care of the family. I expressed family and winnings. That’s all that matters to me, and that’s all that matters to them too.”
Third baseman Justin Turner helped with the pursuit.
“His name kept popping up on my phone quite a lot throughout this process,” Freeman said with a laugh, and Andrew Friedman, Dodgers president of baseball operations, added, “Over the years, Justin Turner has done it every time he’s on the first base had a little word with him about how good he would look in Dodger Blue.”
For Friedman, pursuing Freeman was a piece of cake. The five-time All-Star has established himself as one of baseball’s greatest players over the past decade. He filled a hole in the Dodgers’ otherwise cluttered lineup, giving them another left-hander to replace Corey Seager. The team had just seen firsthand the difficulty of playing Freeman after losing to the Braves in a six-game NL Championship series.
“What he’s doing on the field is obvious to everyone,” Friedman said. “We’ve played them in the playoffs three times in the last four years and the stress of [even in] The innings before he shows up, the lineup kind of circles around him.
Now it’s the Dodgers who will benefit, whose roster will be strengthened again by the arrival of another of baseball’s biggest stars.
“If I were to leave the place where I was for 15 years,” Freeman said, “probably for the best thing is to come home and be with this organization.”
https://www.latimes.com/sports/dodgers/story/2022-03-18/freddie-freeman-talks-about-why-he-signed-with-dodgers ‘Blindsided’ By Braves, Freddie Freeman Happy To Join Dodgers