Freddie Freeman comes home, makes Dodgers better

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John Bazemore / Associated Press

Say hello to Freddie Freeman.

He’s going to be a Dodger. This is his home now, and he’s ready to wear a blue jersey, and a blue cap with the L.A. logo on it. It’s a fresh start, a new opportunity with a new team. This is a welcome home party for the California native and for the Dodgers.

When he hit the market, the Dodgers began an extensive deep dive. When he became available, they moved in silence and made quite a post-lockout splash by adding him. Fresh off his first World Series victory, Freeman feels thrilled and good after deciding he would come home and join the club that he and his ex-team defeated last fall in the NLCS. He’s entering his 13th season as a major leaguer, but he’s still only 32. He had a .295 batting average, 1704 hits, 271 home runs, 941 RBIs and 969 runs scored. That is an impressive stat sheet he filled out during his time spent in Atlanta.

The massive six-year, $162 million deal on Wednesday brings Freeman back home to Southern California. Originally from Orange Country, Freeman was hailed as the hero who in all his years with the Braves, all in one city, was emboldened by his achievements that were never thought possible. For all his otherworldly talent, his outstanding tools to go with his down-to-earth personality, Freeman is, after all, a good fit for the Dodgers.

He’s been with the Braves organization and team so long, that we all thought he would be a lifer. Especially because he loved the city so much and the great fans in the state of Georgia, where he once felt at home. The city grew on him, he became the face of the Braves and was well received by staff and fans alike in Atlanta. Saying goodbye to the team that raised him was hard, and it already feels strange to see him put on Dodger blue.

The Dodgers took a strong approach to this year’s marketplace, in part because they can use more power in their already potent lineup. They showed interest in acquiring Freeman. They reached out to him. They wanted him. Any Dodgers fan who pays attention to how this organization works knows that these are the things they’re willing to do in the winter.

And, as expected, since he had been connected to Los Angeles in recent rumors, Freeman, the highly prized free agent, landed with the Dodgers. This is no shock to anyone around the league. As weeks progressed, such was clear the next time he stepped into a clubhouse it would be somewhere other than Atlanta. And, sure enough, it was the Dodgers. He just fits what the Dodgers want to do.

This should be the year. The talent is there. The power is there. The lineup is extremely deep. This is a team that looks like an early-season favorite to win the World Series, projected to win 98 games with Freeman on board, according to FanGraphs. The pitching, especially in the bullpen, comes with legitimate concerns. And while the Freeman signing does not address the glaring need to overhaul the club’s pitching staff, it made a lot of sense on a lot of levels.

Before the lockout began, remember, the Dodgers lost shortstop Corey Seager, who agreed to a 10-year, $325 million contract with the Texas Rangers. The most gaping hole created by Seager needed to be filled, which, as of this March, the Dodgers obtained a slugger in Freeman, who is a tide-changer always waiting for a big moment. Los Angeles should expect to get Freeman’s best for as long as he’s here.

The new guy — that’s Freeman — gets to potentially face the Braves, his former team in a rematch of last October’s NLCS. That could actually happen. Putting his signature on a new contract is a plus, and once again the Dodgers pulled the trigger. The star first baseman, who not only sells tickets but also boosts chances of winning the World Series, probably is the perfect position player for the Dodgers, no doubt about it. Good things are happening for them again.

The Dodgers, with Freeman, would be better equipped to run away with the NL West. It means that Dave Roberts can get more creative in juggling his roster to maximize everyone’s talents when they have so much depth and flexibility. All it takes is a little creativity and experimenting on the part of Roberts and the analytical nerds within the Dodgers organization.

And with the universal designated hitter rule in place for the upcoming season, Freeman could see some time at DH. Some days, though, he can play at first. The way Roberts likes to expand his roster and move his players around, he can give Max Muncy some days off at first and have Freeman play at first. And there’s a chance Muncy could play at third. He’s played 104 games at third.

It’s been our sense for some time that the Dodgers would make Freeman theirs based on the fact that there’s never a moment they don’t enter the sweepstakes for a coveted free agent like Freeman. It became clear to us over time that the Dodgers would swing aggressively and not miss on the ex-Brave.

Coming off a 106-win season, the Dodgers were undoubtedly the clear-cut favorites in the NL, and the addition of Freeman increases their chances of winning the World Series for the second time in three years.

As the whole world knows, he helped the Braves beat Los Angeles last October. Now, four months later, he’s joining the Dodgers to hopefully get back to the World Series and try for a second championship ring.

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