PHOENIX — Freddie Freeman was working out in a gym with his father Monday morning time when the news bankrupt beyond his phone. He stared in utter disbelief, speechless. He didn’t know whether to cry or scream or both.
“He was in shock,” begetter Fred Freeman said. “He said, ‘I tin can’t believe it. Why didn’t they tell me? How did this happen? Out of nowhere, they didn’t tell me they were moving on. How does that happen?’ “
The Atlanta Braves had just traded for Oakland A’s All-Star commencement baseman Matt Olson, abruptly ending Freeman’s 11-year tenure in Atlanta.
Freeman was then stunned that his father accompanied him home, and the unabridged family sat together for the next ii hours, with Freeman’southward wife, Chelsea, the kids and everyone in tears.
“He kept saying over and over, ‘I tin can’t believe it,’ ” Freeman’s father said. ” ‘They traded for Matt Olson. It’s over.’ “
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It was the first time Freeman, the 5-fourth dimension All-Star first baseman and former MVP who led Atlanta to last yr’due south World Serial title, truly believed he wasn’t going to be spending the remainder of his career with the only franchise he has known.
“I didn’t recollect I was always going to be a free agent to be honest with yous,” Freeman said.
Information technology was likewise the first fourth dimension the Los Angeles Dodgers believed they had a legitimate gamble of signing him.
There he was Friday, strolling into the Los Angeles bound-grooming complex at vii:45 in the morning time wearing a black conform, tie and suede boots, and proceeded the rest of the 24-hour interval turning heads, meeting new teammates, waving to fans, signing autographs and charming the media.
Information technology was his first day equally a Dodger, officially signing his half-dozen-year, $162 contract, and already the face up of the franchise with fans screaming his name throughout his conditioning, so the press conference.
“This has turned from shock to this is really a good deal,” the elder Freeman said. “I told him, ‘I think yous made the right move, Freddie.’
“He said, ‘I know I did.’ “
Freeman valued his father’s communication throughout the harrowing gratis-amanuensis procedure. The negotiations and uncertainty were and then stressful that Freeman actually lost weight and had difficulty sleeping, said the elder Freeman’s wife, Alma. Free agency is supposed to be an enjoyable fourth dimension, with teams wining and dining you, but for Freeman, it was miserable.
There were two late entrants in the sweepstakes for Freeman, the San Diego Padres and some other Due east Declension team, but Freeman had enough. He declined their meetings and informed his agency to get the best deal they could from the Dodgers.
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“He said, ‘Dad, I’m tired of this,’ ” Freeman Sr. said. ” ‘I want to play baseball. The season starts in iii weeks. I want to be with the Dodgers.’ So he told the teams, ‘Don’t carp.’
“No ane was actually serious until the merchandise happened, considering nobody believed Freddie would get out the Braves. Then, teams started calling over the identify.”
The Dodgers became relentless in their pursuit, and on Wednesday morning, president Andrew Friedman provided 4 different proposals for Freeman ranging in years and coin. Freeman agreed that evening, accepting the half-dozen-twelvemonth bargain that includes $57 million in deferred payments from 2028 to 2040. Information technology lowers the value to about $140 meg, co-ordinate to the union’s valuation, but it makes no difference.
Freeman got the vi-yr contract he e’er wanted. He believed he’d go it from the Braves, but they never budged. Their final offer was 5 years and $140 million, just they refused to entertain a sixth twelvemonth.
“Freddie wanted years,” his dad said. “He’s fabricated a lot of money. Information technology’s not like he had to interruption the bank. Simply he wanted that extra year because he wanted to play.”
Freeman, 32, didn’t blink. He waited. And waited. Several deadlines came and went. Withal, nothing but silence.
“I only heard from them twice all winter,” Freeman said.
Until the Olson trade.
And still no call from the front office.
“I had no thought that was going to happen, annihilation like that,” Freeman said. “When I got told, emotions were all over the place. I couldn’t actually speak for a couple of hours, trying to figure out what was going on.”
Freeman leaned on his dad for advice, request what he should do. At that place was strong interest from the Tampa Bay Rays. The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox had called. But no one showed more passion than the Dodgers.
Friedman and manager Dave Roberts spoke to Freeman on a 90-minute Zoom call around Thanksgiving, and six days later, they made ane more phone call.
They were at Dodgers All-Star outfielder Mookie Betts’ nuptials at Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. Nelly was performing at the Terranea Resort. It was 8:50 PT, just ten minutes before the MLB lockout would brainstorm.
Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner, Friedman and Roberts ducked out, made a quick FaceTime call to Freeman, and together delivered a bulletin.
“Don’t forget about united states,” Friedman said.
Freeman never did, thanks to the daily recruiting text messages from Turner, one of his closest friends.
“The concluding few years every fourth dimension he got to first base, Justin Turner would have a chat with him about how practiced he would await in Dodger blue,” Friedman said. “I think in that location could definitely exist some tampering charges confronting Justin Turner.”
Yet, Freeman kept waiting on Atlanta to call, believing in his heart there was no way they would part company. Then once again, he never imagined he wasn’t signed to a contract extension before the start of final flavor, either.
“I started having my doubts probably last spring training,” Freeman said. “I didn’t get whatsoever calls last offseason. Didn’t actually become any calls last spring training either.
“You still think yous’re going to come back at that bespeak, but the doubts started to go when the phone didn’t ring. I tin’t control someone wanting to call. I got one call before the lockout, a checking-in telephone call. And so, after the lockout, a checking-in call again.
“And that was it.”
It finally started to dawn on Freeman that perhaps he wasn’t wanted back, at to the lowest degree not for six years.
“We were talking a couple of weeks ago,” said Fred Freeman. “He said, ‘Dad, if I’m not a Brave, what do you call up?’ I said, ‘Freddie, if you lot’re not going to exist a Dauntless, I want you habitation. I don’t even intendance if you want to cease playing baseball game, I just want you home.’
“He said, ‘So exercise I.’ “
Freeman grew up in Orangish County as a diehard Angels fan, going to Angels Stadium at to the lowest degree 20 times a year. The family was in attendance at the 2002 Globe Series won by the Angels.
When he was drafted by Atlanta in 2007, living clear across the country, he bought his dad a home in Atlanta and so the family could meet him equally much as possible. His brother and pace-sister moved to Atlanta. And his folks would travel to see them every fourth dimension he played out Westward, from Colorado to Arizona to every finish in California.
Why, when they were in the NLCS final season confronting the Dodgers, they rented a 12-person suite and blimp 30 people into information technology at Dodger Stadium.
Now, family and friends tin stop in and see him whenever they want.
“I’ve got my 67-twelvemonth-former dad and my 86-year-erstwhile grandfather who’s at present going to exist able to watch me every solar day,” Freeman said. “Just like xv years ago in high school. That’s what’s special to me.”
Freeman and his family plan to detect a 2nd home closer to Dodger Stadium, instead of having a 90-minute commute each day from Corona Del Mar. Freeman may no longer play baseball in Atlanta, merely he however plans to continue his home at that place, with the entire family already arranging this year’due south Thanksgiving together in Atlanta.
The Christmas holidays will be at home in California, perhaps with Freeman having another Globe Serial ring to show off.
“It’south a loftier bar to come hither and think you’re going to touch our ballclub,” Roberts said. “Merely this guy is a dissimilar beast. … I told him how expert he looks in a Dodger compatible, and he said, ‘Well, information technology starts with my pretty face, you lot know.’ “
Information technology was payback later on Freeman was constantly teased by Roberts and his teammates, who showed up wearing shorts and jeans, while Freeman was dressed as he was at a Hollywood premier.
“Dude,” Roberts yelled, “this is L.A.”
It’s Hollywood, babe, and 22-year-old catching prospect Carson Taylor, born and raised in Atlanta, was able to introduce the newest and brightest star to his new teammates.
And yes, just like most every other kid playing baseball in Georgia, he grew upwardly idolizing Freeman.
Now, Freeman should have a new generation of kids in Southern California doing the exact same.
He is home. Perhaps, just maybe, where he was meant to be.
“They know how much I intendance about winning and family,” Freeman said. “If I was going to leave a identify I was for 15 years, coming dwelling house and existence in this system is probably the best thing that could have happened.”
Follow Bob Nightengale on Twitter @BNightengale.
Originally posted 2022-04-14 12:55:17.