How Freddie Freeman and Kenley Jansen switched teams

SAN DIEGO – The first all-star player who desperately wanted to stay in Atlanta is in Los Angeles.

The all-Star closer who desperately wanted to stay in Los Angeles is in Atlanta.

The second All-Star player of the first base, whose transfer from Oakland to Atlanta triggered this chain reaction, is delighted that he and his wife were given the opportunity to return to their hometown on the basis of a long-term contract.

The job of baseball can be extremely unpredictable, impartial and heartless, but it rarely distills into a three-way collision with a direct hit over a five-day period as it was for Freddie Freeman, Kenley Jansen and Matt Olson in mid-March. The quakes will be fully shown starting Monday night at Dodger Stadium with a rematch in the early season of last fall’s National League Championship Series between Los Angeles and Atlanta.

“I can’t believe he’s Dodger, not Brave,” Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts said of Freeman one afternoon near the end of spring training, still lush less than two weeks after the veteran gossip first pulled on his new uniform.

“We just naively expected him to return to Atlanta,” said Andrew Friedman, president of Dodgers baseball operations. “Obviously, our interest was genuine. But the probability that it would happen, in our minds, was very small. “

Freeman, 32, is a five-time All-Star, winner of the NL Most Valuable Player Award for 2020 and a 13-year veteran. He broke through Atlanta in 2010, became the face of the franchise in the next decade and was a favorite among the team’s fans. He thought he would be Brave for life. One of his older brothers, Andrew, even moved to the Atlanta area of ​​Mexico on his business with Honeywell to be close to Freddie. His half-sister Diana moved there for the same reason.

“It was one of the places she could go, and she thought it was going to be fun,” said Fred Sr., Freddie’s father. “Now he’s going to dinner with my eldest son instead of Freddie.”

The roots were deep. But Freeman’s free agency after the Atlanta World Cup brought uncertainty, and the 99-day MLB lockout that lasted from December to March brought darkness.

When work resumed and the lights came on again, Atlanta stunned Freeman and the rest of the baseball by immediately taking Olson, who played the same position, from Oakland on the first Monday of spring training. It was a flashing neon sign that the Braves had unexpectedly severed ties with Freeman.

“It changed the landscape and we felt there was a real chance we could make it happen,” Friedman said of his team’s search for Freeman.

Two days later, indeed, the Dodgers signed with Freeman, who grew up at Dodger Stadium in Orange County, California, giving him a six-year, $ 162 million contract that Atlanta was reluctant to offer.

Two days after that, the Braves signed Jansen (34), whose 350 defenses are ranked 13th of all time in the season, on a one-year contract of 16 million dollars.

“I will never say I wanted to go back to LA; I will go wherever I feel wanted, ”Jansen said over the weekend in San Diego, before adding,“ That blue will be in my blood my whole life. Wherever I go, people tell me I’m a Dodger. It’s just the business side. Both did not succeed for obvious reasons. We both tried, but it didn’t happen. “

If Jansen had waited a few more days for things to settle down in Los Angeles, it is possible that he could have stayed in the only organization he knows in baseball. But when he signed the contract, the Dodgers continued to trade for a new closer, Craig Kimbrell.

“I’ve been waiting,” Jansen said. “I can’t wait for a while. At some point, will other teams take you seriously or not? Sometimes in life you have to see it this way: when a good opportunity arises, will you let it go? Or will you take it? ”

Meanwhile, Freeman may have been willing to sign with Atlanta for less than he took from the Dodgers. But when that door closed, it slammed shut forever. At his inaugural press conference with the Dodgers that week, Freeman strongly implied that the tears shed by Alex Anthopoulos, president of baseball operations in Atlanta, in talking about his departure were fake.

“Everything is comfortable now,” Freeman, who is otherwise kind, said during the sometimes short, late spring interview. “I’m just looking forward to it now.”

The Dodgers understand his emotional wounds, and the team is doing everything it can to feel at home outside of what the $ 162 million deal does on its own.

“It’s getting easier every day for him to realize that he’s no longer with the Braves,” Roberts said, adding, “There’s a business side to things and certain things are out of player control. Freddie took the main road. “

His relationship in Atlanta could change forever – in a tense series of recent interviews, Ronald Acuña Jr. from Atlanta expressed happiness that Freeman left before he said his words had been misinterpreted – but Freeman eagerly awaits a visit to his old teammates this week at Dodger Stadium.

“It’s going to be great,” Freeman said. “I can not wait. Oh, yes. I can see all the guys I won the championship with last year. We are connected forever. I’m looking forward to it. “

Now, however, he has the task of stealing their NL title. In Los Angeles, Freeman is part of an enviable list that includes four MVP winners: Freeman, Clayton Kershaw, Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger. Roberts said “he will help us win the championship” and, at the very least, rival pitchers will need nerves of steel.

As for their unexpected relationship through a series of spring transactions, Freeman said that he doesn’t know Olson “at all”, and he really doesn’t know Jansen either. Jansen said he knew Freeman well enough to say hello and “that’s it”.

Before Freeman or Jansen figured out where they could go, the fast Braves signed an eight-year, $ 168 million contract with Olson just 24 hours after trading for him.

“It was like the stars were aligned,” Olson said. “It was a perfect storm. Getting the opportunity to have a long-term option in the city where I grew up, joining the World Series champions, was a pretty easy choice for my wife and me. ”

His new teammates welcomed him, he said, and, upon his return to Atlanta for the season opening game, he said there were no cold shoulders from fans upset about Freeman’s departure.

“I was pleasantly surprised by how it went,” Olson said.

For Jansen, it was a kind of return home. Growing up in Curaçao, the Braves were Jansen’s team because of Atlanta’s central player, Andruwa Jones. Jansen said he is happy to be playing with another countryman, Ozzie Albies, and his warm smile is familiar, even if his new uniform isn’t, at least not yet.

“He’s a big part of this team,” manager Brian Snitker said. “You wouldn’t know he hasn’t been here for five or six years when you see him at the clubhouse.”

Jansen, his wife Gianni and their three children will continue to make the Los Angeles area their permanent home, they said closer. So far, he has tried not to think too much about returning to the early season this week. But he’s glad he got it out of the way sooner rather than later.

“When the time comes, I’ll probably be emotional,” he said. “I have to make sure I control it.”

For most of the past decade, above his locker at the Dodgers Clubhouse was the California state flag, modified into a “Kenley-Fornia”. He will now enter his home gym “as a souvenir”, he said.

When old roads come to an end and new ones begin, some souvenirs can be beautiful.

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