The Los Angeles Dodgers officially signed Freddie Freeman to put an end to nearly five months of speculation that it could happen.
The Southern California native entered free agency for the first time in his career after spending 15 years in the Atlanta Braves organization. It was expected he would re-sign with the Braves, but that didn’t stop the Dodgers’ recruiting efforts.
Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and manager Dave Roberts led the push for Freeman, but Justin Turner was also quite involved in the process.
“We’ve got to give an assist to Justin Turner,” Freeman said during his introductory press conference. “His name popped up on my phone quite a bit throughout this whole process.”
Turner began informally recruiting Freeman five years ago, when of course the Dodgers front office and coaches were not allowed to as that would’ve constituted tampering with a player still under contract.
Every time Turner would reach first base against the Braves, he would chat with Freeman and always told him how great Freeman would look in Dodger Blue.
“There’s definitely tampering charges that can be filed against Justin Turner,” Friedman joked.
Friedman first approached Freeman about a potential contract despite their “pretty slim” chances right around Thanksgiving and they talked for an hour, which Freeman described as “such an easy conversation.”
However, as MLB and the Players Associated failed to reach a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) by 9 p.m. PT on Dec. 1, owners unanimously voted to impose a lockout, cutting off all team communication from players and putting the Dodgers’ efforts on hold.
Just minutes before the lockout began, Friedman, Roberts and Turner walked outside of Mookie Betts’ wedding to give Freeman one more call before they wouldn’t be able to again.
“And then just before the lockout, at Mookie’s wedding, Doc, J.T. and I walked outside 10 minutes before everything went dark, and just said, ‘Hey, don’t forget about us. During this period just don’t forget about us,’ Friedman recalled.
“We actually left a live music performance of Nelly to walk out and make that call. It would’ve taken a lot to get us to do that, but Freddie was definitely worth it.”
After the lockout ended on March 10, Friedman made a call to Clayton Kershaw, the team’s top priority in free agency, and then to agent Casey Close, who represents both the three-time Cy Young Award winner and Freeman.
The Braves decided to move on four days later by acquiring Matt Olson from the Oakland Athletics for a package that included their two top prospects. By that night, Friedman believed the Dodgers had a real shot at getting a deal done with Freeman.
Multiple clubs made a push to sign the 2020 National League MVP, but on March 16, Freeman agreed to a deal that would pay him $162 million over six years to join the Dodgers.
Freeman surprised by limited contact with Braves
The notion that Freeman would no longer be part of the Braves franchise was difficult to envision ever becoming a reality. However, that perception began to change — particularly for Freeman — over the past year and especially during free agency.
“The communication wasn’t all there in the offseason. I got two phone calls all offseason; I got more from Andrew to my agents in a matter of a couple hours. I didn’t know what was going on,” Freeman said.
“I got one call the day before the lockout, of checking in. And I got one call when the lockout was lifted, just checking in. So I don’t know how to interpret that, but that’s just the reality of what was going on.
“So when the Dodgers and other teams expressed interest and wanted to communicate and wanted to get me, that was huge for me. Once the lockout lifted and my agents and Andrew connected, things just started moving quicker.”
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