Matt Olson trade grades: Braves get ‘A’ for Freddie Freeman replacement; A’s receive promising prospects

The Atlanta Braves, the defending World Collection champions, made a blockbuster commerce Monday, buying first baseman Matt Olson from the Oakland Athletics in trade for 4 prospects: outfielder Cristian Pache, catcher Shea Langeliers, and right-handers Ryan Cusick and Joey Estes.

By acquiring Olson, the Braves could have set off a domino impact throughout the league. Now Freddie Freeman, who appeared like a certain wager to return to Atlanta getting into the offseason, can discover a new dwelling by free company. The place he lands may very nicely dictate the fates of fellow free agent Anthony Rizzo and New York Yankees first baseman Luke Voit. Freeman’s signing can also present readability on Carlos Correa’s market.

For all the eye positioned on the Braves’ facet of issues, the Olson commerce marks the continuation of the Athletics’ teardown. Oakland despatched right-hander Chris Bassitt to the New York Mets over the weekend, and is anticipated to ship out third baseman Matt Chapman and starters Frankie Montas and Sean Manaea over the approaching days.

We’re nothing if not the judgemental kind, so we have determined to honor this commerce’s significance by handing out grades that will or might not look silly in a couple of years’ time. First, let’s rehash the specifics of the deal:

Braves obtain

Athletics obtain

  • OF Cristian Pache
  • C Shea Langeliers
  • RHP Ryan Cusick 
  • RHP Joey Estes

Now, onto the gasbaggery. 

Braves grade: A

Common managers have robust jobs. It’s important to juggle dozens of individuals, egos, and contracts, be it in your workplace, in your clubhouse, or in your farm. It’s important to cope with your proprietor and your supervisor, and you’ve got to have the ability to make it in order that each are happy regardless of their at-times clashing priorities. It’s important to make selections that pit emotion towards logic. It’s important to do all of that with the data that you’re at all times, at all times going to be scrutinized.

Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos was in an uncommon predicament getting into this offseason. His crew simply received an unlikely championship in a method — utilizing position gamers acquired from different groups on the deadline — that earned him additional heapings of credit score and the advantage of the narrative doubt. Anthopoulos gave his gamers an opportunity, folks mentioned. He believed in them. Generally that is all it takes. It wasn’t rational, what he did on the deadline; not in the best way that phrase tends for use on this league lately. The percentages have been constantly towards the Braves. Going for it on any degree was not a convincing resolution made on the grounds of pure, coldhearted probabilistic evaluation.

What was so uncommon about Anthopoulos’ place is that, by advantage of successful that title, he obtained the goodwill essential to make an unpopular resolution. Then he dared to make use of it. 

On this case, that meant using a primary baseman apart from Freddie Freeman, who had been a franchise mainstay since his 2010 debut. Freeman, a yr faraway from successful the Nationwide League Most Useful Participant Award, will undoubtedly go down in historical past as one of the best Courageous of his era. He made 5 All-Star Video games and received three Silver Sluggers. We now know that he capped his profession with Atlanta, at the very least the primary portion of it, with a championship parade.

Anthopoulos made this name after resisting the temptation to present Freeman a six-year deal. Anthopoulos (and Braves possession), seemingly, didn’t need to be on the hook for large salaries to a late-30s first baseman. It did not matter that Freeman was the face of the franchise. It did not matter that his return seemed to be a fait accompli getting into the winter. It did not matter {that a} bunch of kids acquired Freeman reproduction jerseys for Christmas to have a good time the World Collection win.

What mattered to Anthopoulos was what mattered to him final deadline: placing his membership in the absolute best place to succeed. You possibly can argue that is a mistake, or, at the very least, that the enterprise of baseball ought to go away open room for feelings. It is a cheap place; it is definitely the extra romantic possibility. However when you view it by Anthopoulos’ eyes, doing what he did, letting Freeman stroll and buying and selling for Olson, makes a sure form of sense. That Anthopoulos can now repurpose the cash earmarked for Freeman towards — nicely, somebody — means the Braves might need superior odds of repeating as champions than if they’d simply ran it again.

For any of this to be acceptable to the Braves fan base, whether it is acceptable in any respect, there needed to be two circumstances met. One, the Braves needed to win final yr’s World Collection to generate that aforementioned goodwill. And two, the primary baseman changing Freeman needed to be actually good. Olson, because it seems, is basically good. He may even outproduce Freeman heading ahead.

Final season, Olson batted .271/.371/.540 (153 OPS+) with 39 dwelling runs and 88 walks. (Freeman, for reference, hit .300/.393/.503 (133 OPS+) with 31 dwelling runs and 85 walks.) What’s extra is that Olson decreased his strikeout charge from 31.Four % to 16.Eight %, the most important season-to-season change amongst on a regular basis gamers. That alteration was accompanied by a correspondingly strong enchancment in his contact charge: as a substitute of connecting on 70 % of his in-zone swings, as he had the yr prior, he accomplished the transaction on near 82 % of them. He credited his beneficial properties partially to altering his swing, specifically his bat angle, and partially to using a “little red” pitching machine the A’s used for batting practice

Regardless of the actual rationalization is behind Olson’s enhancements, in the event that they show sustainable then he’ll stay one of many prime hitters within the sport. That is what occurs if you take somebody along with his form of elite power and eye for the zone and also you present them with the flexibility to make contact at a league-average charge. Add in how Olson is a multiple-time Gold Glove Award winner, and the Braves now have the form of high-grade two-way contributor on the chilly nook that they have not seen since … oh, proper.

Talking of Freeman one final time, Anthopoulos’ unwillingness to present him a sixth yr raises questions on Atlanta’s long-term plans with Olson. The Braves have Olson beneath crew management by the 2023 season, however will they pay in each {dollars} and years to maintain him past then? Or will they’ve to hunt out one other stud first baseman to function a successor? 

Maybe the distinction is so simple as trying within the age column. Whereas Olson might be 30 years outdated when he qualifies totally free company; Freeman is presently 32. The distinction between 36 and 38 appears trivial, besides when there’s thousands and thousands of {dollars} driving on the road. However that is a subject for an additional offseason. For now, the Braves have a title to defend. 

Athletics grade: B

Getting truthful worth for a participant of Olson’s caliber is hard. Getting truthful worth for a participant of Olson’s caliber when your complete league is aware of you are going to commerce him is even more durable. Sadly for the A’s, they discovered themselves within the second state of affairs. In fact they did. Familiarity is a chilly consolation given the circumstances, however the A’s entrance workplace has finished this music and dance earlier than, courting again now greater than 20 years. Heck, they’re primed to do it once more later this week, once they transfer third baseman Matt Chapman to some fortunate suitor. 

The A’s method is to construct a contender for a three-to-five run, then to tear down mentioned contender due to monetary constraints. The A’s, who had beforehand been lower off from revenue-sharing {dollars}, will now obtain an growing share over the following few seasons as a part of the brand new collective bargaining settlement. It is not a assure that may stay the case past 2024, nonetheless, because the CBA dictates the A’s should have a stadium deal in place.

It is anybody’s guess as to when and the way the entire stadium mess will work out. Ultimately, the A’s will discover a decision, be it in Oakland or one other locale, on their dime or the locals’. Till then, the entrance workplace has to proceed to function on this loop. Each few years, they must commerce immediately’s good gamers for a prospect bundle they hope can turn out to be tomorrow’s good gamers. 

On paper, anyway, their return on Olson would appear to characteristic 4 potential big-league contributors. Can any of them turn into core items, the best way Olson was for Oakland? The longer term is infinite, however from this vantage level, the chances are in favor of “no.”

We’ll start with Pache, the one member of the foursome who has big-league expertise. Pache boasts an amazing defensive profile in middle discipline due to his near-elite pace, his instincts, and his well-above-average arm. It is not a stretch to put in writing that he may win a number of Gold Glove Awards throughout his profession. The snag with Pache, and keep in mind that he is 23 years outdated, is that he may by no means hit sufficient to bat increased than eighth or ninth within the order.

Pache has the instruments to be a greater offensive participant. He has the aforementioned pace to terrorize opposing defenses on the basepaths, and his uncooked energy grades as above-average. Alas, he is been caught stealing extra instances than he is efficiently swiped a bag since 2019, and his single-season career-high in dwelling runs is 12. Pache swings and misses rather a lot for somebody with modest in-game energy aspirations, and he is prone to run an unsightly strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Pache’s protection grants him a large berth and can make him a big-league participant in some capability or one other for years to return. If he can leverage his athleticism and reap the benefits of his youth, he may turn into a top quality two-way contributor. In any other case, he’ll make a variety of outs — on all sides of the ball. 

Langeliers, 24 years outdated, was the ninth decide of the 2019 draft based mostly on his excessive flooring. He is a talented defender who has an above-average arm in addition to a really feel for framing and blocking pitches within the grime. As with Pache, it is to be seen how a lot Langeliers will hit on the big-league degree. He struck out in additional than 1 / 4 of his plate appearances final season between Double- and Triple-A, and he is but to file a batting common whilst excessive as .260. 

Langeliers does have respectable energy and he walks a good quantity, which buys him some leeway on the plate. He is virtually assured to turn out to be at the very least a backup within the majors, and he has a good likelihood to turn out to be greater than that. The A’s are prone to begin him in Triple-A, however he could possibly be their catcher of the longer term, and that future might arrive alongside a Sean Murphy commerce.

Cusick, 22, is a big right-hander who the Braves chosen with the 24th decide final summer season. He made six appearances in A-ball, posting a 2.76 ERA and an 8.50 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His fastball sits within the 95-plus vary, and he has a wipeout slider that may contact 90 mph. Supplied he continues to throw strikes, and that he makes some progress along with his changeup, he may turn into at the very least a middle-of-the-rotation starter. Maybe, even, as quickly as summer season 2023.

Estes, 20, was the 487th decide within the 2019 draft. He is confirmed to be a discover by Atlanta’s scouting division. He spent final season at Low-A, accumulating a 2.91 ERA and a 4.38 strikeout-to-walk ratio throughout 99 innings. Estes has a mid-90s fastball and a pair of secondary choices that he delivers with uncommon mechanics. His arm motion is abrupt and he releases the ball from a low-three-quarters slot. Odd aesthetics apart, Estes pounded the zone as knowledgeable. That command, plus his three-pitch combine, ought to give him an opportunity to start out.


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