Ex-Brave Freddie Freeman lands 6-year deal with Dodgers

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First baseman Freddie Freeman will not be an Atlanta Brave this season.The Braves have acquired first baseman Matt Olson. Freeman's former teammates are still processing the news.Pitcher Tyler Matzek: “Everybody loves him. He’s a great human being, first off, and an even better baseball player.”.Catcher Travis d’Arnaud: "The city loved him. I’ve never seen a stadium chant for anybody as loud as they did for him.”.Ozzie Albies: “We’re going to miss him,” Albies said. “Business is business. I hope he keeps doing what he does best: Being Freddie.”

NORTH PORT, Fla. — Let’s just say this: Braves fans are lucky general manager Alex Anthopoulos swung a huge trade and landed Matt Olson.

If he hadn’t, Wednesday night’s news would have stung much more for those who will pack Truist Park this season.

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Freddie Freeman not only left the Braves but also joined one of their major foes. A team with which they have recent history. A perennial contender.

Freeman and the Dodgers agreed to a six-year, $162 million deal, according to a person with knowledge of the situation who confirmed multiple reports. Freeman is headed home and will make a powerhouse much more powerful.

“They just got better,” said Braves catcher Travis d’Arnaud, who on Thursday morning reached out to Freeman to congratulate him. “But we got to worry about getting to the playoffs first before we can overthink anything more than the Dodgers’ lineup.”

The Braves, according to a person with knowledge of the situation, offered Freeman a five-year, $140 million deal. Eventually, they pivoted and traded for Olson, whom they soon gave an eight-year contract worth $168 million.

Freeman is a Braves legend. His decision doesn’t change that.

He won a World Series with the club. He took home the NL MVP Award. He won the Silver Slugger Award three times and has a Gold Glove.

Over 1,565 games with the club, he hit .295 and posted an .893 on-base plus slugging percentage. He collected 1,704 hits and launched 271 home runs.

He won’t ever be forgotten.

But the Braves still should be contenders, which means life needs to go on without Freeman.

Since Braves players reported to spring training on Sunday, they’ve spoken publicly about wanting the best for Freeman. They miss him, but they know this is a business. They understood he had reached free agency and they deemed anything possible.

The Braves also entered camp with one goal: repeat as World Series champions. But to do so, they’ll likely need to go through the Dodgers again.

This time, they’ll have a new first baseman. He’ll know the Braves well. And for as talented as the Braves’ lineup is from top to bottom, the Dodgers may be better.

“They’ve always had unbelievable players,” Braves outfielder Adam Duvall said. “Obviously when you add a type of player like Freddie, you’re going to get better. But we’re just focusing on the guys we have here. Seeing him leave the team is tough because there’s something cool about playing for one team your whole career, and as a fan of baseball, it would’ve been cool to see.”

Don’t count out the Braves, who have positioned themselves to contend once again. Anthopoulos made the difficult decision to move on from Freeman – it couldn’t have been easy – but it could be beneficial for his club now and in the future.

Here’s why: The average annual value on Olson’s contract is $21 million, while Freeman’s deal has an AAV of $27 million. Olson is around 5 years younger than Freeman and his contract is lengthier.

The Braves got a younger player at a cheaper price for a longer time.

Plus, Olson, a Parkview High alum, is one of the game’s best first basemen and could offer comparable production to Freeman. (And, like Freeman, he’s a left-handed bat). The point: While losing Freeman may hurt, the Braves couldn’t have replaced him with anyone better, especially if that decision provides them with more financial flexibility in the future.

It might take a bit for the shock value to wear off for everyone, though. For the first time since he debuted in 2010, Freeman will not wear a Braves uniform. He will face Max Fried and Ian Anderson instead of being in the same clubhouse as them. He will see Ronald Acuña Jr. at first base and not in the dugout.

Truth is, the Braves began to move on mentally a couple days ago when they acquired Olson. They knew it meant Freeman would not return and that they would need to achieve their goals without his stellar bat, glove and on-field presence. For days, manager Brian Snitker has insisted that he and his guys are solely focused on who’s in camp.

The Braves play the Dodgers early in the season in Los Angeles on April 18-20. The Dodgers come to Atlanta for three games on June 24-26. The third game, fittingly, is set for Alumni Sunday.

As Freeman’s free agency situation progressed over the last few days, he received reported interest from teams including the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays. All three might’ve been better options than the Dodgers if you’re a Braves fan who still wants to root for him.

Instead, he went to another National League contender. If the Braves are to flirt with their goals this season, they will almost certainly run into Freeman and his new squad.

“They’re stacked,” said d’Arnaud, who grew up in Los Angeles. “They got good pitching, good bullpen. But it’s the Dodgers. They’ve been like that for the last six, seven years. I think that city expects excellence from all their sports teams.”

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Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman reacts after retiring Dodgers left fielder AJ Pollock for the final out in the Braves' 4-2 win in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: Hyosub Shin

Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman reacts after retiring Dodgers left fielder AJ Pollock for the final out in the Braves' 4-2 win in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: Hyosub Shin

Combined ShapeCaption
Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman reacts after retiring Dodgers left fielder AJ Pollock for the final out in the Braves' 4-2 win in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: Hyosub Shin

Credit: Hyosub Shin

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