Freeman is a Braves legend. His decision doesn’t change that.
He won a World Series with the club. He took home the NL MVP Award. He won the Silver Slugger Award three times and has a Gold Glove.
Over 1,565 games with the club, he hit .295 and posted an .893 on-base plus slugging percentage. He collected 1,704 hits and launched 271 home runs.
He won’t ever be forgotten.
But the Braves still should be contenders, which means life needs to go on without Freeman.
Since Braves players reported to spring training on Sunday, they’ve spoken publicly about wanting the best for Freeman. They miss him, but they know this is a business. They understood he had reached free agency and they deemed anything possible.
The Braves also entered camp with one goal: repeat as World Series champions. But to do so, they’ll likely need to go through the Dodgers again.
This time, they’ll have a new first baseman. He’ll know the Braves well. And for as talented as the Braves’ lineup is from top to bottom, the Dodgers may be better.
But don’t count out the Braves, who have positioned themselves to contend once again. Anthopoulos made the difficult decision to move on from Freeman – it couldn’t have been easy – but it could be beneficial for his club now and in the future.
Here’s why: The average annual value on Olson’s contract is $21 million, while Freeman’s deal has an AAV of $27 million. Olson is around 5 years younger than Freeman and his contract is lengthier.
The Braves got a younger player at a cheaper price for a longer time.
Plus, Olson, a Parkview High alum, is one of the game’s best first basemen and could offer comparable production to Freeman. (And, like Freeman, he’s a left-handed bat). The point: While losing Freeman may hurt, the Braves couldn’t have replaced him with anyone better, especially if that decision provides them with more financial flexibility in the future.
It might take a bit for the shock value to wear off for everyone, though. For the first time since he debuted in 2010, Freeman will not wear a Braves uniform. He will face Max Fried and Ian Anderson instead of being in the same clubhouse as them. He will see Ronald Acuña Jr. at first base and not in the dugout.
Truth is, the Braves began to move on mentally a couple days ago when they acquired Olson. They knew it meant Freeman would not return and that they would need to achieve their goals without his stellar bat, glove and on-field presence. For days, manager Brian Snitker has insisted that he and his guys are solely focused on who’s in camp.
The Braves play the Dodgers early in the season in Los Angeles on April 18-20. The Dodgers come to Atlanta for three games on June 24-26. The third game, fittingly, is set for Alumni Sunday.
As Freeman’s free agency situation progressed over the last few days, he received reported interest from teams including the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays. All three might’ve been better options than the Dodgers if you’re a Braves fan who still wants to root for him.
Instead, he went to another National League contender. If the Braves are to flirt with their goals this season, they will almost certainly run into Freeman and his new squad.
The Braves won the World Series last season after beating the Dodgers in the National League Championship Series. Freeman caught a throw at first base to end Game 6 against Los Angeles and end the Dodgers’ season. Now he’ll suit up for the Dodgers and try to beat the Braves.