Freddie Freeman and Dansby Swanson were planning to have dinner together with their wives after Wednesday’s exhibition game at Sloan Park. Freeman played for Team Canada in a warm-up for the World Baseball Classic, honoring the memory of his mother, Rosemary, who grew up in Ontario and died of melanoma in 2000. Freeman always wears a long-sleeve shirt underneath his jersey, a tribute to the way his mom dressed while she battled skin cancer.
There are so many good restaurants within a short driving distance of the Chicago Cubs’ facility in Mesa, where the Loop 101 and 202 freeways converge and where Swanson will be spending spring training through 2029. There is so much history between Freeman and Swanson, longtime teammates who helped the Atlanta Braves restore their winning tradition and capture the 2021 World Series trophy. Swanson became “The Sheriff” in Atlanta’s clubhouse once Freeman signed his six-year, $162 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers after Major League Baseball’s lockout. Then Swanson — who has even deeper roots in Georgia than Freeman — left the thriving organization that set a new industry standard by locking up so many other core players with contract extensions.
The free-agent market for shortstops escalated to a point that did not make sense for the Braves, and the Cubs made Swanson a seven-year, $177 million offer that he couldn’t refuse. Swanson watched enough Cubs games on WGN as a kid to know that Wrigley Field is a huge draw. The idea of being the leader of an ascending team and establishing a clubhouse culture appealed to Swanson, who put his stamp on Vanderbilt University’s baseball program as he developed into the No. 1 pick in the 2015 draft. Swanson’s wife, Mallory, is a professional soccer player with the Chicago Red Stars. Even taking all those factors into account, that doesn’t mean there won’t be a transition.
“Oh, it’s not easy,” Freeman said, acknowledging the emotions he experienced during the roller coaster year in which he moved out of Atlanta, joined a Dodgers superteam and split with Excel Sports Management, the same agency that represents Swanson. “But he’s got a really good head on his shoulders. He’s got a good team around him, people who have been through it. He’s going to be just fine. He’ll take to Chicago very nicely. Mal’s already been there for a few years playing, so they’re going to be feet on the ground, settled already. Everything’s going to be just fine.”
It worked out fine for Freeman, who cried during the news conference when he returned to Truist Park last summer. The Braves selected Freeman out of El Modena High School in Southern California in the second round of the 2007 draft — Jason Heyward was their first pick that year — and found Freeman’s replacement by trading for Matt Olson last March. The next day, the Braves announced Olson’s eight-year, $168 million contract extension.