The Dodgers have signed long-time Braves first baseman, former MVP, and five-time All-Star Freddie Freeman to a 6-year, $162 million deal.
This saga has been a long one. It dates back to November when there were initial rumblings that the Dodgers had been poking around his market. Initially, I thought it was just a barely-concealed ploy from his side to get more out of the Braves, but after a source checked me on that assumption and clarified that the interest was legit, I found some optimism for once.
Well after a bunch of back-and-forth mess, now we definitely know the interest was indeed valid and that the Dodgers were the only team willing to meet his demands, which is bizarre considering the Braves just won the World Series and their open books means we know they made a ton of money.
But whatever, their ownership group’s cheapness is the Dodgers’ gain, as they get a bonafide star that has put up a .305/.399/.547/.946 line for a 145 wRC+ over the last six seasons, including .300/.393/.503/.896 last year for a 135 wRC+. It’s elite production with the bat, putting him in the top 25 in the majors last year and top 10 since 2019. Defensively, he’s second in the majors in Outs Above Average since 2016 at first base, and grades out above average in the same time span on DRS (+4) and UZR (+12). Freeman is also neutral to above-average on the bases (+1 Rbaser/+6 BsR), so basically they’re getting a complete and remarkably consistent 4-5 WAR player that has MVP upside.
Of course, it’s necessary to qualify all that by mentioning that’s all in the past now and the risk is he’s entering his age-32 season, which generally is associated with decline. But there hasn’t been any evidence of this yet, and like with other long-term contracts like Mookie Betts, the Dodgers have the financial might to pay for elite performance now and basically eat any potential downside at the backend of the contracts.
These charts are a gross oversimplification of things, but it basically highlights all of his strengths.
While his raw numbers were in line with his past full seasons, his batted ball data gave him a higher expected wOBA (.416) than any other since 2015, so he was quite unlucky. Essentially, Freeman makes a lot of contact, makes a lot of hard contact, controls the zone well, punishes balls in the zone, and in my opinion has a great swing that is conducive to aging well (standard injury-risk aside) even if the power numbers decline.
While there’s always potential for long-term deals to go wrong, there’s no way to avoid that risk unless one just doesn’t want to pay to acquire/retain elite players. Thus, I find it hard to nitpick this signing, as it makes a lot of sense barring knowledge that the Dodger ownership are planning to significantly slash payroll in the near future or something.
With Corey Seager now in Texas, Max Muncy‘s versatility (as well as his elbow health being in question), and with the addition of the DH to the National League in the new CBA, Freeman is a surprisingly great fit for the Dodgers, who have added another elite bat to an already impressive lineup for another run at the World Series.