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Freddie Freeman and Kenley Jansen take bittersweet paths to new teams

Freddie Freeman spent his career in the Atlanta Braves organization.

He wanted to sign with them again.

He also wanted to be paid.

Kenley Jansen spent his career in the Dodgers organization.

He wanted to sign with them again.

He also wanted to be paid.

Now they’ve swapped teams, Freeman, the Dodgers’ new first baseman, and Jansen, the new closer to the World Series Champion Braves.

Hours before the Braves announced their one-year, $16 million deal with Jansen on Friday, the Dodgers introduced Freeman at their spring training complex.

Freeman smiled often.

He spoke about how excited he is to return to his native Southern California and play in front of his 67-year-old father and 86-year-old grandfather.

He laughed at being 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 training in Newport Beach Monday when he received the news the Braves were traded for Matt Olson to replace him as their first baseman.

“To be honest, I was blind,” Freeman said. “I think every emotion came across. I was injured.”

Go back and read that quote again in Jansen’s voice.

That may have been what Jansen said when he learned that Freeman had agreed a six-year, $162 million deal with the Dodgers Wednesday night.

Jansen is likely to admit he feels something similar over the next few days when he’s unveiled by the Braves.

Freeman sounded genuinely excited to be joining the Dodgers, but also like he was still working on his split from the only franchise he knew.

“I was trying to think about how that would play out with these questions in my head,” Freeman said. “You spend 15 years in an organization, 12 in the big leagues, that brings back a lot of memories.”

Jansen spent 17 years in the Dodgers organization, the last 12 of them in the majors.

Reflecting on the Braves’ efforts to keep him, Freeman sounded disappointed.

“I didn’t get any calls last off-season, I didn’t 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’ll come back at this point. But the doubts started to disappear when the phone didn’t ring. I can’t control someone who wants to call. I got a call before the lockout, a check in call. And that was it. Then after lockdown another check-in call.”

He was frustrated with what he described as a lack of back and forth.

“The last offer, a formal offer, I got was [at the] Trading Deadline,” Freeman said. “We countered and that was it.”

Freeman couldn’t hide his anger.

I asked Freeman what he thought of the tears shed by Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos while speaking to reporters about the Olson deal.

Freeman chuckled.

“I saw her,” Freeman said. “Yes. That’s all I’m going to say.”

Dodgers President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman, left, introduces star-signing Freddie Freeman.

Dodgers President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman, left, introduces star-signing Freddie Freeman at a news conference Friday at spring training.

(Charlie Riedel/Associated Press)

In other words, he agreed with what I wrote earlier in the week that Anthopoulos’ tears were the crocodile variety.

Whether Freeman misread the market or overplayed his hand, his anger was understandable.

He’s been a model of consistency, batting .300 or better in six of his last nine seasons with the Braves. In one of his off-benchmark seasons, he hit .295 with a career-high 38 home runs and 121 RBIs.

He played every day and has missed a total of seven games over the past 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 is he was also upset by how his free-agent ordeal played out.

Former Dodgers seamer Kenley Jansen signed a one-year, $16 million contract with the Atlanta Braves on Friday.

Former Dodgers seamer Kenley Jansen signed a one-year, $16 million contract with the Atlanta Braves on Friday.

(Aaron Doster/Associated Press)

Earlier this week he was still looking for a three-year contract and a guarantee to complete games, Times colleague Jorge Castillo reported. However, the Dodgers remained interested in shorter deals.

The market proved Jansen’s former team right. This reality will not lessen Jansen’s despondency.

Jansen leaves the Dodgers with 350 saves in his career, the most in franchise history.

“California Love” was already a popular song before he chose it as his opening theme, but he kind of made it his own in Los Angeles.

Jansen was one of the most famous players on a Dodgers team that won the franchise’s first World Series championship in 33 years.

But players like Jansen didn’t create multiple all-star teams by curling up in a ball when their feelings were hurt.

Before last season, I wrote a couple of columns claiming that Jansen was done for after a bad couple of years and urging the Dodgers to part ways with him. He went on to enjoy a bounce back season.

Around the All-Star break, Jansen said to me, “Your opinion, everyone’s opinion, that I fell off or need to do better — that’s just motivation.”

The Dodgers’ refusal to offer him a three-year contract will serve as further fuel. Freeman should be similarly motivated because the Braves turned down his request for a six-year contract.

All of this makes for a particularly interesting series in the second week of the regular season: three games between the Dodgers and Braves at Dodger Stadium on April 18-20.

https://www.latimes.com/sports/dodgers/story/2022-03-18/dodgers-freeman-hernandez-for-saturday-paper Freddie Freeman and Kenley Jansen take bittersweet paths to new teams

Andrew Schnitker

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