How Freddie Freeman and Kenley Jansen changed teams

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

The closest to the All Star, who desperately wanted to stay in Los Angeles, is in Atlanta.

The other All Star player, whose trade from Auckland to Atlanta began this chain reaction, is delighted that he and his wife have been given the chance to return to their hometown in a long-term deal.

The baseball business can be extremely unpredictable, dispassionate, and soulless, but it rarely turns into a three-way, direct hit in five days, as it was for Freddie Freeman, Kenly Jansen, and Matt Olson in mid-March. The aftershocks will be shown in full on Monday night at Dodger Stadium with a rematch at the start of last season’s season of the National League Championship series between Los Angeles and Atlanta.

“I can’t believe he’s Dodger, not Brave,” Los Angeles Manager Dave Roberts told Freeman one afternoon at the end of spring training, still plentiful less than two weeks after the veteran first put on his new one. your uniform.

“We just naively expected him to return to Atlanta,” said Andrew Friedman, president of the Dodgers baseball. “Obviously our interest was real. But the probability of this happening in our minds was very small. “

The 32-year-old Freeman is a five-time All-Star, winner of the NL’s Most Valuable Player Award for 2020 and a 13-year veteran. He broke with Atlanta in 2010, became the face of the franchise over the next decade and was loved by fans of the team. He decided he would be Brave for life. One of his older brothers, Andrew, had even moved to the Atlanta region of Mexico to work with Honeywell to be close with Freddie. His half-sister Diana moved there for the same reason.

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

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

When business resumed and the lights came on again, Atlanta stunned Freeman and the rest of baseball, immediately acquiring Olson, who played the same position, from Auckland on the first Monday of spring practice. 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 would make it happen,” Friedman said of his team’s pursuit of Freeman.

Two days later, the Dodgers did sign Freeman, who grew up with several pop flies from Dodger Stadium in Orange County, California, giving him the six-year, $ 162 million deal Atlanta was reluctant to offer.

Two days later, the Braves signed Jansen, 34, whose 350 saves of the season ranked 13th of all time, with a one-year deal of $ 16 million.

“I will never say I wanted to go back to LA; I will go where I feel wanted, “Jansen said during a weekend interview in San Diego, before adding:” This blue will be in my blood for the rest of my life. Wherever I go, people tell me I’m Dodger. This is just a business country. It didn’t work out for either of us for obvious reasons. We both tried hard, but it didn’t work out. “

If Jansen waits a few more days to settle things in Los Angeles, he may remain the only organization he knows about baseball. But after he signed, the Dodgers went on to replace Craig Kimbrell with a new one.

“I’ve been waiting,” Jansen said. “I can’t wait for a while. Will the other teams take you seriously at some point 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? “

Freeman, meanwhile, may have been willing to sign with Atlanta for less than he took from the Dodgers. But when that door closed, it closed forever. In his introductory press conference with the Dodgers this week, Freeman flatly hinted that the tears shed by Alex Antopoulos, president of baseball operations in Atlanta, in the discussion of his release were fake.

“Everything is comfortable now,” the normally friendly Freeman said during a sometimes brief, late spring interview. “Now I’m looking forward to it.”

The Dodgers understand his emotional wounds and the team is doing everything possible to make him feel at home beyond what this $ 162 million deal alone is doing.

“Every day it becomes a little easier for him to realize that he is no longer with Braves,” said Roberts, adding: “There is a business side to things and some things are beyond the player’s control. Freddie took the main road. “

His attitude in Atlanta may have changed forever – in a tense series of recent interviews, Ronald Akunya Jr. of Atlanta said he was happy that Freeman had disappeared before saying his words had been misinterpreted – but Freeman was looking forward to visiting the elderly. his teammates this week at Dodger Stadium.

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

Now, however, he is tasked with taking away their NL title. In Los Angeles, Freeman is part of an enviable list that includes four MVP winners: Freeman, Clayton Kershaw, Muki Bates and Cody Bellinger. Roberts said he would “help us win the championship” and at least the rival players will need nerves of steel.

As for their unexpected connection through a series of spring transactions, Freeman said he did not know Olson “at all” and did not really know Jansen. Jansen said he knew Freeman well enough to say hello and “this is it.”

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

“It’s as if the stars are lined up,” Olson said. “It was the perfect storm. To be able 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 after returning to Atlanta for a home game at the start of the season, he said he did not feel cool shoulders from fans upset by Freeman’s departure.

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

It was also a kind of return home for Jansen. Growing up in Curacao, the Braves were Jansen’s team because of Atlanta’s Curacao central player Andrew Jones. Jansen said he was happy to play with another compatriot, Ozzy Albis, 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,” said manager Brian Snitker. “You won’t know he hasn’t been here in five or six years when you see him at the club.”

Jansen, his wife Gianni and their three children will continue to make the Los Angeles area their permanent home, relatives said. So far, he has been trying not to think much about returning early this season. But he is happy to get him out of the way sooner or later.

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

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

When old roads end and new ones begin, some souvenirs can be nice.

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