Report: Freddie Freeman, Dodgers agree to 6-year, $162 million deal

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Freddie Freeman is headed home to Southern California and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The first-time free agent and the Dodgers have agreed to a six-year, $162 million contract, according to a person familiar with the deal. The person spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the move had not yet been announced by the team.

Freeman was the 2020 National League MVP. The first baseman helped the Atlanta Braves to their fourth straight NL East title last season and their first World Series championship since 1995.

It was assumed that Atlanta would try to lock up Freeman, who had never played for another club. But a deal didn’t get done before the labor lockout began in early December and then the Braves traded for All-Star first baseman Matt Olson from Oakland and signed him to a $168 million, eight-year deal this week, signaling the end of Freeman’s long tenure in Atlanta.

Now the 32-year-old five-time All-Star will be playing not far from where he grew up in Orange County. He already lives in the area in the offseason.

Freeman is from Fountain Valley, where he rooted for the Los Angeles Angels as a kid.

Adding Freeman gives the Dodgers an even more imposing lineup. He’ll join former MVPs Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger, along with Trea Turner, Max Muncy and Justin Turner. The lineup already was among the National League’s best last year with 237 home runs and 5.12 runs per game to go with 612 walks and an OPS of .759.

Freeman gives the Dodgers a left-handed bat in the middle of the order to replace Corey Seager, who signed with the Texas Rangers as a free agent.

Muncy, a left-handed-hitting first baseman, can move to second base or serve as the designated hitter, which becomes permanent in the NL this season.

Muncy was sidelined for the entire postseason last year after sustaining an elbow injury in a collision at first on the last day of the regular season. Manager Dave Roberts has said Muncy should be available for opening day on April 8, but he’s unsure whether Muncy will be ready to start at first.

A career .295 hitter, Freeman has surpassed 20 homers eight times with a career-high 38 in 2019. He has a pair of 100-RBI seasons on his resume, and three other years when he drove in more than 90 runs. He has three Silver Slugger awards and a Gold Glove for his defensive work.

Freeman was a second-round draft pick by Atlanta in 2007 and quickly worked his way through the farm system. He was a September call-up in 2010, making his big league debut less than two weeks before his 21st birthday.

Freeman took over as the starter at first base the following year, finishing second in NL Rookie of the Year balloting to Braves teammate Craig Kimbrel after hitting .282 with 21 homers and 76 RBIs.

Since then, Freeman had been a stalwart in the Braves lineup, even as the perennial playoff contender went through a painful rebuilding job after winning the NL East title in 2013.

Freeman endured four straight losing seasons while Atlanta rebuilt its depleted farm system, but the team made clear he was the centerpiece of its overhaul by signing him to a $135 million, eight-year contract that was the longest and largest in franchise history.

In 2018, with Freeman surrounded by a new group of budding young stars such as Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies, the Braves climbed back to the top of the NL East to begin a new run of divisional dominance.

Freeman won his MVP award in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, hitting .341 with 13 homers and 53 RBIs in 60 games – a remarkable performance after he endured a bout with COVID-19 that left him worrying whether he would survive.

Atlanta won a postseason series for the first time since 2001 – two of them, in fact – before squandering a 3-1 lead and losing to the Dodgers in the NL Championship Series.

Bouncing back from that disappointment, the Braves won their fourth straight division title in 2021 and went on to capture their first World Series championship in 26 years by beating the Houston Astros.

Freeman had another stellar season, leading the league in plate appearances (695) and runs (120) while batting .300 with 31 homers and 83 RBIs. Appropriately enough, he caught the final out of the World Series on a throw from shortstop Dansby Swanson.

As the Braves celebrated their championship at Minute Maid Park, Freeman made it clear he wanted to stay in Atlanta.

“This is a crazy game, a crazy business,” he said. “But everyone knows this is where my heart is.

“I’ve been here since I was 17 years old, almost half my life I’ve been in this organization,” he went on. “It means everything to put that Braves uniform on every day.”

Now, he’ll be putting on Dodger blue.

Anthony Volpe, 21, wins Yankees’ starting shortstop job

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TAMPA, Fla. — Anthony Volpe grew up watching Derek Jeter star at shortstop for the New York Yankees.

Now, the 21-year-old is getting the chance to be the Yankees’ Opening Day shortstop against the San Francisco Giants.

The team announced after a 6-2 win over Toronto in spring training that Volpe had won the spot. New York manager Aaron Boone called the kid into his office to deliver the news.

“My heart was beating pretty hard,” said Volpe, rated one of baseball’s best prospects. “Incredible. I’m just so excited. It’s hard for me to even put into words.”

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, hitting coach Dillon Lawson and bench coach Carlos Mendoza were also present.

Volpe was able to share the news with his parents and other family members near the Yankees’ dugout and said it is something he will never forget.

“It was pretty emotional,” Volpe said. “It was just an unbelievable moment to share with them.”

Volpe, who grew up a Yankees fan, lived in Manhattan as a child before moving to New Jersey. Jeter was his favorite player.

“It’s very surreal,” Volpe said. “I’ve only ever been to games at Yankee Stadium and for the most part only watched him play there.”

Volpe is hitting .314 with three homers, five RBIs and a .417 on-base percentage in 17 Grapefruit League games. He has just 22 games of experience at Triple-A.

Spring training started with Volpe, Oswald Peraza and holdover Isiah Kiner-Falefa competing for the everyday shortstop job. Kiner-Falefa was shifted into a utility role midway through camp, and Peraza was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

“While certainly the performance was there, he killed it between the lines,” Boone said of Volpe. “All the other things that we’ve been hearing about showed up. There’s an energy he plays the game with, and an instinct that he has that is evident. He really checked every box that we could have had for him. Absolutely kicked the door in and earned his opportunity.”

Volpe arrived in Florida in December to work out at the Yankees’ minor league complex.

“He’s earned the right to take that spot, and we’re excited for him and excited for us,” Cashman said. “He just dominated all sides of the ball during February and March, and that bodes well obviously for him as we move forward.”

Volpe was selected out of high school with the 30th overall pick in the 2019 draft from Delbarton School in New Jersey. He passed up a college commitment to Vanderbilt to sign with the Yankees.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get into the organization,” Volpe said. “This day, this feeling, this moment was kind of what I’ve worked my whole life for when I made that big decision.”

“Right now it’s crazy,” he added. “I don’t even know what lies ahead but Thursday I just want to go out and play, and have fun.”