Dodgers, with Freeman, go for the title

LOS ANGELES — After posting their second 106-win season in three years, the Dodgers fell short in defending their World Series title. They reloaded with the signing of Freddie Freeman from the champion Atlanta Braves, giving Los Angeles a fourth MVP.

Freeman joins fellow MVP Cody Bellinger, Mookie Betts and pitcher Clayton Kershaw as part of an extraordinary offense, making the Dodgers the fifth team in major league history to field that much talent at the same time.

Betts is looking to post better numbers after being plagued by a hip injury last season, despite posting an .854 OPS. Shortstop Trea Turner is coming off the best season of his career in which he led the NL in batting average, hits and stolen bases while hitting a career-high 28 homers.

Manager Dave Roberts recently signed a contract extension that will keep him on the team through 2025. His numbers rival some of his players. The Dodgers have made the playoffs in his six seasons in charge, including three World Series and one title, to go along with three 100-plus-win seasons. Roberts was bold enough to predict that the franchise will win the World Series this year.

Freeman returned home to Southern California on a six-year, $162 million contract. The five-time All-Star selected him batting .300 with 31 home runs and 83 RBIs during the regular season last year. In the postseason he left with a .304 batting average, five homers and 11 RBIs, guiding the Braves past the Dodgers in the NL Championship Series en route to Atlanta’s first championship since 1995. Freeman grew up watching the neighboring rival Angels play in Orange County.

Walker Buehler, Kershaw and Julio Urías head up the Dodgers’ rotation with Tony Gonsolin and the addition of Andrew Heaney to round it out. Heaney is considered to return from a 5.83 ERA in 30 appearances with the Angels and New York Yankees last season.

Newcomer Tyler Anderson will have work sessions in the bullpen. Veteran David Price’s role is uncertain since he didn’t pitch in spring training. The rotation could look different later in the season. That’s when the team hopes to get Dustin May back, after he had Tommy John surgery last year.

Bobby Miller could have an impact on the rotation late in the season. His fastball hits 90 mph and he has a slider in the mid-80 mph range. Catcher Diego Cartaya has recovered from hamstring and back injuries that bothered him much of last season. In 2021 he hit .298 with 10 home runs and a 1,023 OPS in 31 games with the Rancho Cucamonga branch.

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Dodgers, with Freeman, go for the title