One of the core pillars of journalism is to be neutral and write without bias towards any outside party. One of the core pillars of blogging is to often times be the biggest fanboy you can be. I will try to play both sides of this fence when I say the following statement;
Frederick Freeman signing with the Toronto Blue Jays makes a lot of sense and should absolutely terrify everyone in the AL East.
Now, Freeman is up there with the legendary Hank Aaron and Chipper Jones when it comes to true “face of the franchise” type players. He’s been in the organization since the 2007 Draft, ranks near the top of several franchise all-time lists, and has played the most games at 1B in Braves history. From the 2011 disaster to middling years of the mid-2010s, to the blown 3-1 NLCS lead, and ultimately, the 2021 World Series victory, Freddie’s been there.
However, despite all his hard-earned accolades, awards, and fandom, Freeman remains a free agent. Not only was there no deal completed before the lockout, rumors are swirling that the chances of a reunion are becoming less likely. Freddie has been straight-forward with his ideal contract; a six-year deal that would pay him somewhere in the range of $30M AAV until his age-38 season. The Braves balked, fearing that an older Freeman might create an albatross contract to an aging first baseman that we have seen time and time again.
Enter the Toronto Blue Jays
The Jays missed out on the playoffs by a single game in 2021 and compete in a legitimate four-horse division. Last year they had a +183 run differential, two AL MVP finalists, the AL Cy Young Winner, traded for a frontline starter at the deadline, and led the league in *checking notes* home runs, wOBA, SLG, and total barrels. AND STILL. MISSED. THE. PLAYOFFS.
Enter Freddie Freeman to the already entered Toronto Blue Jays.
We can talk about how Freddie just makes an already potent lineup even scarier, but I want to hone in on two specific things in this hypothetical situation. Let’s look at needs and culture.
The Blue Jays lineup in 2022 will look something like this;
Sometimes pictures speak louder than words. Here is a comparison of 2021 Freddie Freeman vs. the 2021 Toronto LHH.
Think back to the lineup photo I showed you. What would the offensive production of that lineup look like with Vladdy Jr. at 3B and Freddie “>130 OPS+ each year since 2013” Freeman playing first?
Secondly, I want to talk about culture. The Blue Jays have developed a team of a bunch of young dudes who hit bombs with electric celebrations from Florida to Canada. Not only are they young, but the established vet they signed in the 2020 offseason George Springer plays like a young kid too. What I mean by this is that Blue Jays swing the bat. A lot. In 2021, Semien, Springer, and Corey Dickerson were three new-to-town vets that all saw their Zone Swing % increase from the year prior. As a team, Toronto was near the top of the MLB in measures like Swing %, Zone Contact %, Pull %, and Barrel %. Again, these are statistics proving what we already know about this team. They attack pitches in the zone and nearly everyone in the order can hit the ball hard. The Jays were also 2nd in 1st-Pitch Swing %. You want to know what team was #1? The Atlanta Braves.
Can someone remind me who their first baseman was???
Freddie Freeman fills the only missing piece in the Blue Jays lineup. He also will fit right into their aggressive swing approach, and he might even become the J.D. Martinez of this group and just become a hitting coach to his younger teammates. Freeman will also provide a security blanket at first base and change the dynamic of that Blue Jays lineup. Imagine being a pitcher and seeing a lineup that goes Springer, Bichette, Vladdy Jr., Freddie Freeman, Teoscar Hernandez, Lourdes Gurriel Jr? That is the kind of firepower that can put you at the top of a division like the AL East for the next half-decade.
I’ll leave you with this. Assuming all goes well, the Toronto Blue Jays will actually be the Toronto Blue Jays in 2022. Here are Freddie Freeman’s 1st-pitch swings from 2021, overlayed with Rogers Centre;