As the Athletics prepare to reduce their payroll, first baseman Matt Olson stands out as an obvious and popular trade chip, even if Oakland naturally is asking for quite a bit in return for the All-Star. The Braves are among the teams who have “checked in” with the A’s about Olson, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports, while Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News writes that the Rangers “have already begun investigating what it would take to get Olson.”
Atlanta’s interest in Olson is obviously viewed through the lens of the Freddie Freeman market, as there seems to be some level of increased chatter that Freeman might depart the Braves after 12 seasons, as the two sides have yet to agree on the length and dollar value of a new contract. As Heyman notes, there is a general feeling that Freeman will ultimately wind up re-signing, but if not, Olson could be the Braves’ “contingency plan” if they have a sudden vacancy to fill at first base.
For the Rangers, adding Olson would be only the latest move for a club that has been one of the biggest stories of the free agent season. Marcus Semien, Corey Seager, Jon Gray, and Kole Calhoun have already been signed on the open market, though prying Olson away from the A’s would now carry a different cost for Texas in terms of younger talent. While the A’s and Rangers have lined up on some very notable trades in recent years, it is possible Oakland might command a particular premium from Texas (or any other AL West suitor) to move Olson within the division.
One of baseball’s top all-around first basemen, Olson has won two Gold Gloves to go along with his big power numbers, and he is only entering his age-28 season. Olson is also controlled via arbitration over the next two seasons, and while his $12MM projection for 2022 isn’t exactly light, it is still more than reasonable for a player of his caliber.
For the Braves, this salary would surely be a smoother fit in the long-term payroll plans than giving Freeman something in the realm of $160MM+ throughout his 30’s. President of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos has said that the club’s payroll will rise in the wake of their World Series triumph, though a mega-deal for Freeman could itself take up all of that increase. Anthopoulos has scored big on the free agent market during his time in Atlanta, though mostly on short-term contracts — if Freeman leaves and the asking price for Olson isn’t palatable, it is easy to see the Braves pivoting to a shorter-term first base option that wouldn’t cost a ton in either free agent dollars or prospect capital.
It’s safe to say that payroll isn’t quite as big a concern with the Rangers, given what they’re already invested in roster upgrades. By that token, the Rangers might prefer to continue spending to address any needs rather than deal from their prospect base, though Grant observes that such middle-infield prospects as Justin Foscue, Davis Wendzel, Ezequiel Duran and Josh Smith could now be trade candidates in the wake of the Seager/Semien additions. Texas also has a good first base option already on hand in Nathaniel Lowe, yet Lowe (who is controlled through 2026) would also seem like the kind of trade chip that the Athletics would seek out as an Olson replacement at first base.