GLENDALE, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 27: Shohei Ohtani #17 celebrates with Freddie Freeman #5 of the Los Angeles Dodgers after hitting a two-run home run in the fifth inning inning during a game against the Chicago White Sox at Camelback Ranch on February 27, 2024 in Glendale, Arizona.
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Freddie Freeman Issues Shohei Ohtani a Challenge for 2024

The Los Angeles Dodgers made the biggest splash of MLB's offseason by signing two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani to a 10-year, $700 million contract. He won't pitch until 2025 as he rehabs from Tommy John surgery, so he'll just focus on hitting for the upcoming season. First baseman Freddie Freeman is hoping the slugger adds another dynamic to his game: more stolen bases.

USA Today's Bob Nightengale noted that Freeman is imploring his new teammate to steal as many bases as possible. The 34-year-old also said he won't swing whenever he sees Ohtani take off.

"I'll take every time,'' he said. "Every time he goes, I'll take the pitch. He asked me if there were any counts or anything (when he wouldn't want Ohtani running), I said, 'No, go for it.' I want him in scoring position.

"I hope he steals 100."

While many focus on what Ohtani does on the mound and in the batter's box, he's also pretty good at swiping bags. He's finished a season with 10-plus steals five times since debuting in 2018 with the Los Angeles Angels. This includes two years of at least 40 homers and 20 steals. It happened during both of his MVP performances. Ohtani slugged 46 homers with 26 steals in 2021 and followed that up with 44 dingers and 20 steals in 2023.

Ohtani is joining an already stacked top of the order for the Dodgers. FanGraphs' Roster Resource has Mookie Betts leading off, followed by Ohtani and Freeman hitting second and third, respectively. It's not surprising that Freeman is thinking about all of the RBI opportunities he'll likely have in 2024. He's reached the century mark in both of his seasons with the Dodgers. It just barely happened, though — Freeman drove in 100 in 2022 and 102 in 2023.

With Betts and Ohtani hitting in front of him, he could challenge his single-season career-high mark, which is 121. He set that in 2019 with the Atlanta Braves.

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