After months of being locked out, MLB is back. And baseball is coming back with quite the bang, kicking off free agency with some big-money deals and even bigger trades. Once the lockout was lifted over the weekend, the flood gates opened, and news of transactions began pouring in. The rumors fans had been speculating upon all offseason were finally beginning to come to fruition, and there was one major scenario that just about everyone was monitoring.
In a surprise move, the Atlanta Braves opted against bringing back Freddie Freeman in free agency. Instead of keeping the beloved first baseman in town and matching his contract demands, the Braves pulled the trigger on a blockbuster trade with the Oakland Athletics. The deal will make Matt Olson the Braves' first baseman of the future, as the All-Star was acquired in exchange for some talented prospects, highlighted by Christian Pache and Shea Langeliers. The Braves won the World Series in 2022 and are looking to repeat as champions, but will now be doing so without a franchise legend in the mix, preferring to sacrifice some of their farm in order to bring Olson to town.
In exchange for Olson, the Braves will be sending top outfield prospect Christian Pache, catcher Shea Langeliers, and pitching prospects Ryan Cusick and Joey Estes to Oakland, supplying the Athletics with some valuable prospects in order to land their target.
With the details of the trade now clear, let's dive into grading the Braves' trade for Matt Olson.
Grading the Braves-Athletics Matt Olson Trade
Atlanta Braves: C-
The Atlanta Braves clearly got the best player in this deal, and someone who can contribute immediately towards the team repeating as World Series champions. However, they already had a top-tier first baseman on the roster, who was beloved by the franchise, in Freddie Freeman. Their decision to trade for Olson signals the team will be moving on from Freeman, unwilling to match his contract demands in free agency.
Well, they better buckle down for when Olson becomes a free agent in just a couple of seasons, as he'll be looking for more money and more years than Freeman was. Rather than meeting Freeman's demands, the Braves elected to overpay to land Olson, parting ways with Pache who was once considered to be the future at center field in Atlanta. Langeliers also projected as a solid catcher at the big-league level, but Atlanta chose to put all of that to the wayside in order to “upgrade” over Freeman.
Was it really worth it for Atlanta to blow up its farm system in order to land Olson, when they could have simply re-signed Freeman instead? Olson is coming off a sensational season, during which he clubbed 39 home runs and drove in 111 RBI. His counting stats were superior to that of Freeman's, and he's younger, too, so there's no denying he's the more valuable asset. But when it comes to extending his contract and keeping him out of free agency, the Braves will have to back up the Brink's truck to get it done.
Olson absolutely helps them win now, but does he help them significantly more than Freeman, who won an MVP in 2020? It's hard to argue the marginal upgrade — if it was even an upgrade at all — was worth offloading Pache, Langeliers, and a couple of young pitchers.
Oakland Athletics: A
It's in the name, folks. The Oakland A's got an A for our grade on this trade, absolutely crushing it their return for the start first baseman. Look, the chances of the Athletics competing to keep Olson when he hits free agency were slim-to-none. The organization was well aware of that, and so were fans. To get the type of haul they did in exchange for a player that was always destined to leave in free agency is simply phenomenal for the A's.
Christian Pache has long been touted as one of the best defensive prospects in baseball. He is a speedy center fielder with remarkable range, and could man the position in Oakland the foreseeable future. This was a no-brainer for the Athletics, who will add some talented young prospects who better fit their timeline for success, while sending their beloved first baseman to his hometown team, a move which will leave neither side with hard feelings. The Athletics aren't likely to contend any time soon, so with the Braves eager to improve at first base, the A's managed to make out like bandits in terms of value.