‘Play ball’: Bob Nightengale explains how new CBA will change MLB forever
USA TODAY’s MLB insider Bob Nightengale explains how the lockout came to an end and how a new CBA will change the way we watch MLB forever.
SportsPulse, USA TODAY
In a stunning move that came two days after his old team cut him loose, Freddie Freeman agreed to a six-year, $162 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, a lucrative landing for the five-time All-Star who had spent his entire 12-year career with the Atlanta Braves.
Freeman and the Dodgers came to terms late Wednesday, according to a person with direct knowledge of the agreement. The person spoke to USA TODAY Sports on condition of anonymity because the deal was not yet finalized.
Freeman debuted for the Braves as a 20-year-old in 2010 and has been one of baseball’s most consistent sluggers over the past decade. In 2021, Freeman led the Braves to their first World Series title since 1995, hitting .304 with five homers and 11 RBI in 16 postseason games. That came in the final season of an eight-year, $135 million contract Freeman signed two seasons into his career.
The addition of Freeman creates an abundance of dominant bats that will shuffle among multiple positions with the addition of the designated hitter in the National League. Incumbent first baseman Max Muncy will now get most of his at-bats at DH or, perhaps, second base. Muncy has finished in the top 15 in MVP voting three times in four years and also has experience at second base.
A Southern California native, Freeman finished in the top 10 of NL MVP voting six times in the past 11 seasons – winning the award in the shortened 2020 season with a .341 overage, 1.102 OPS, 53 RBI and a big-league best 51 runs in 60 games.
Now, he joins a lineup that already included Mookie Betts (2018 AL MVP), Cody Bellinger (2019 NL MVP), Trea Turner (fifth in 2021) and Muncy (10th).
Freeman’s defection from Atlanta came despite multiple teammates grabbing a microphone at the team’s World Series celebration and imploring management to re-sign Freeman. But the sides did not significantly engage before the 99-day lockout began Dec. 2. Monday, the end came suddenly for Freeman and Atlanta when the Braves acquired All-Star first baseman Matt Olson from the Oakland A’s, and a day later signed him to an eight-year, $168 million contract.
So Freeman pivoted to a landing spot where he will continue contending for the World Series on an annual basis.
Freeman and his wife, Chelsea, have three sons and welcomed two babies born six weeks apart during the 2020-21 offseason, with Chelsea finding out she was pregnant after the couple had arranged for a surrogate.
“It’s going to be different to tell the story when they’re a little bit older – ‘Yeah, I’m only six weeks younger than my other brother,’” Freeman said in February 2021. “It’s a story to tell, but it’s our story and it’s a beautiful story and it couldn’t be any better for us.”
Freeman was a second-round pick in the 2007 draft out of El Modena High School in Orange, Calif.