The Braves have signed newly acquired first baseman Matt Olson to an eight-year, $168MM contract that runs through the 2029 season, the team announced today. Atlanta also has a $20MM club option for a ninth season. Olson is represented by Jet Sports.
Atlanta, one of the few organizations that publicly discloses contract terms, further announced that Olson will earn $15MM this coming season and $21MM in 2023 before being paid at a $22MM annual rate in the contract’s final six seasons. Olson is also donating $1.68MM to the Atlanta Braves Foundation as part of the deal. It’s the third-largest contract ever signed by a player with between four and five years of MLB service, trailing only Joey Votto and Giancarlo Stanton.
Anthopoulos and his front office wasted little time in solidifying that Olson, along with Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies, is now one of the key building blocks for a team that hopes to build on last year’s World Series run. “He’s now part of this core,” president of baseball operations told reporters, adding that he and agent B.B. Abbott “worked all day and all night” on the extension as soon as the trade to acquire Olson had been finalized (video link via Bally Sports). The guaranteed portion of Olson’s contract expands even beyond that of Acuna, though the Braves hold club options on Acuna for the 2027 and 2028 seasons. Albies’ contract runs through at least 2025 and carries club options for the 2026 and 2027 seasons.
Olson had been projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $12MM this coming season, and he was owed one final raise in arbitration in 2023 before he’d been set to hit the open market. He’ll forgo six free-agent seasons on the would-be deal, likely securing somewhere in the range of $138MM or so for those six free-agent seasons. The new contract surpasses that of Olson’s predecessor, Freddie Freeman, for the largest contract in the franchise’s history.
The $168MM guarantee to Olson surpasses the Braves’ reported $140MM offer to Freeman, though it’s surely critical to the Braves and to ownership at Liberty Media that Olson is 27 years old (28 later this month). Freeman is 32, and he’d be 38 by the time a six-year deal — his reported asking price — wrapped up. Olson, meanwhile, is now signed through his age-35 season. That age discrepancy, and the considerably lighter annual value on Olson’s deal, were surely driving factors in the Braves’ comfort level with putting forth a commitment of this magnitude to Olson but apparently not going to six years on Freeman.
While Olson and Freeman will now be inextricably linked for the foreseeable future, Olson made clear yesterday that he doesn’t intend to compare himself to Freeman, whom he called a “hell of a player” (Twitter link, with video, from the San Francisco Chronicle’s Matt Kawahara). “I’m just going to go out there and do what Matt Olson does,” he added.
That’s good news for Braves fans, as there’s quite little that Olson does not do well. The lefty-swinging slugger belted a career-high 39 home runs in 2021 and took home a second Gold Glove Award at first base that is unlikely to be his last. Olson was strikeout prone earlier in his career, but he slashed his strikeout rate by more than 10 percentage points last season, finishing the year at 16.8% — not substantially higher than his gaudy 13.1% walk rate. Since Opening Day 2019, Olson’s 89 home runs are tied with Nelson Cruz for the third-most in MLB, trailing only Pete Alonso (106) and Eugenio Suarez (95).
With Olson now signed, the Braves’ payroll jumps to a projected $156MM this coming season — the highest total in franchise history. They already have about $84MM on the books in 2023, and as far out as 2026 they’ll have at least $43MM set in stone (likely rising to $50MM, assuming Albies remains healthy and has his $7MM club option picked up that season).
A year ago, a changing of the guard at first base like this would’ve felt unthinkable to Braves fans — and for many, that may still be the case. The Olson extension adds even more finality to the end of the Freddie Freeman era in Atlanta, and as the Braves look toward starting a new chapter in franchise history, they’ll do so with the Atlanta-born Olson manning first base and anchoring the heart of the order alongside Acuna and Albies.