GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts used to imagine what what it might be like to have Freddie Freeman on his side.
He doesn’t have to wonder anymore.
All the speculation about Freeman joining the Dodgers went from rumor to real when the five-time All-Star, former Atlanta Braves first baseman and free agent agreed to a six-year deal worth $162 million late Wednesday.
“On paper, it’s a great lineup, as good as any I’ve ever seen,’’ Roberts said Thursday.
Freeman was expected to arrive in camp Friday, a day after he underwent a physical in Los Angeles.
Roberts’ bold optimism was echoed throughout the Dodgers’ clubhouse. In Freeman, the Dodgers said they have another star, a fourth former MVP on their 2022 roster. His left-handed bat figures to fill a hole left when Corey Seager signed with the Texas Rangers in late November.
“He’s a position player in a lineup of all All-Stars,’’ said pitcher Clayton Kershaw, a former MVP along with teammates Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger. “With what Freddie brings, he’s got to be, if not the best, a top three or four hitter in the game.”
In addition to the hitting, Roberts says the 32-year-old Freeman will create more options in the field.
“I can’t exactly project what the lineup will be right now,’’ Roberts said. “But this roster was already very versatile. Now, there’s so much more we can do with somebody who is already one of the premier hitters in the game."
“Now, we should grind teams, go deep into the ‘pens. We should score runs,” e said.
Infielder Justin Turner was happy to have a player he knew from his days as a kid in Southern California. Freeman grew up in Orange County and Turner is from Long Beach.
“I’ve known Freddie for a long time,’’ Turner said. “We grew up playing together. I’ve been recruiting him to the Dodgers for the last five years."
“I’m excited, and that’s probably an understatement. Obviously, there’s been a lot of buildup and a lot of talk and a lot of anticipation as to what was going to happen. To finally see it go down and be official was –– I slept really good," he said.
Freeman hit .300 with 31 homers and 83 RBIs last season.
“I think he’s always been a great hitter. Add him to our lineup, and it could be ridiculous, to be honest. He knows how to drive in runs. That’s an art form. It’s not something you learn overnight, he said.
Freeman, an Angels fan as a kid, helped eliminate the Dodgers in last year’s NL Championship Series. The Braves went on to win the World Series, beating the Houston Astros in six games.
Roberts didn’t talk to him then.
“I was too angry,’’ he said.
Roberts waited to speak to Freeman in a call with Dodgers baseball operation president Andrew Friedman just before the lockout started on Dec. 2.
“For him to take the call from me and Andrew, pre-lockout, showed me that his interest was sincere,’’ Roberts said.
For the Dodgers to close the deal, Kershaw said, is another example of why the franchise continues to be successful.
“We’ve spent money," said Kershaw, who signed a one-year deal to stay with the Dodgers last Friday, ending speculation that he might jump to the Rangers. “We’ve gone and done it. Some years have been a little different than others."
“But I would say the majority of the time they (owners) have been pretty consistent with their actions and proving to us that they really want to do whatever it takes to win," he said. “I’m thankful for that. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to come back. You still see what’s going on with other teams right now so it’s just even more of a reason to be happy to be here.”
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports