Freddie Freeman didn’t confirm reports Tuesday that he filed paperwork to terminate his relationship with his longtime agents at Excel Sports Management.
But the Dodgers first baseman did say the situation remains “fluid” with the representatives who three months led free-agency negotiations that ended with Freeman signing in Los Angeles instead of back with the Atlanta Braves.
Earlier Tuesday afternoon, ESPN reported that Freeman was planning to change representation. MLB.com reported Freeman had filed paperwork to terminate Excel.
According to a person with knowledge of the situation who wasn’t authorized to speak on the record, the MLB Players Assn. sent an email to all agents asking them not to contact Freeman, a procedure that typically takes place after a player changes representation.
In his statement to MLB.com, which Freeman referred to when approached by reporters at Coors Field on Tuesday, he said he is “working through some issues with my longtime agents at Excel” and that he will “update [the situation] if needed.”
Nonetheless, the move served as the latest sign that Freeman was seemingly unhappy with the way his free agency unfolded before the season, when the longtime Braves star failed to strike a new contract with his old team despite his publicly stated desire to remain in Atlanta.
Entering the offseason, the industry expectation was that Freeman would re-sign with the Braves, where he’d spent all 15 years of his professional career after being drafted out of El Modena High in Orange.
Even the Dodgers, who quietly courted Freeman before MLB’s 99-day lockout, weren’t initially optimistic of luring away the National League’s 2020 most valuable player award winner.
But when free agency resumed following the lockout’s end in March, negotiations between the Braves and Freeman’s camp quickly fell apart.
At the crux of the fallout was a reported March 12 deadline Freeman’s agents at Excel gave to the Braves. According to an ESPN report at the time, the Braves had offered a deal of five years and $140 million, to which Freeman’s agents responded with two counterproposals, one for five years and another for six years, both for significantly more money.
The two sides failed to find middle ground. And two days later, the Braves acquired All-Star first baseman Matt Olson from the Oakland Athletics, effectively eliminating any chance of Freeman returning to the only club he had played for.
After signing with the Dodgers on March 16 — in a deal that included $57 million in deferred payments, giving it a present-day value of just over $148 million according to union calculations — Freeman voiced displeasure with the Braves during his introductory news conference with the Dodgers.
He said he had been “blindsided” by the Olson trade, maintaining that up until that point he still believed he’d return to Atlanta.
He noted that Braves brass had contacted him directly only twice during the entire process, bemoaning that “the communication wasn’t there as we went through the offseason.”
He even seemed to doubt the sincerity of Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos’ tearful reaction earlier that week over the apparent loss of the franchise first baseman.
“The last week has been a little bit of a whirlwind,” Freeman said at the time. “But I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else right now.”
In the three months since, however, Freeman’s view of his free-agency process seems to have changed.
A week after he signed in Los Angeles, he had a three-hour FaceTime call with Anthopoulos in which the Braves GM “said his side and I listened,” Freeman said. “And that was the closure I needed.”
Freeman said Tuesday he has continued “gathering information” since the spring too.
“I don’t know if anything’s changed,” Freeman said of how he feels now about his free agency. “I’ve learned a lot, because I talked to the other side.”
Freeman said his emotional reception during his first return to Atlanta this weekend didn’t factor into his decision regarding his representation.
He repeatedly emphasized he is happy with the Dodgers.
“If you were in a relationship for 15 years, and it ended, you’re going to have feelings,” Freeman said. “And I’ve had feelings. I’ve been going through this process of grieving and now I’m in the healing process and the moving-on process. … There needs to be closure. It’s time. I’m a Dodger. I’m a Dodger for the next six years and that’s where my focus lies.”
Freeman said he is hoping the discussion around his departure from the Braves will die down.
He said he and Clayton Kershaw talked after Kershaw made comments to the Atlanta Journal Constitution this weekend suggesting Freeman isn’t fully comfortable with the Dodgers yet, and that the two are all good.
And he addressed what he would tell people who interpreted his emotions in Atlanta and his apparent agency firing as a sign he wished he was still with the Braves.
“Everyone’s gonna perceive how they want to perceive it,” he said. “I spent 15 years with the Atlanta Braves. I wasn’t gonna try to be a macho man about my feelings, about how I had a great time with the Atlanta Braves.
“That time is over. I’m a Los Angeles Dodger now. If they want to perceive me, how I feel about an organization I spent half my life with, then that’s how they want to perceive me. That’s fine. I’m OK with that. But I’ve had three months. I’ve had time to grieve and do all my research and gather information. It’s time to move on and focus on the Dodgers. And that’s what I’m going to continue to do.”