Well. After an exciting end to Sunday, when the Yankees made their first big move since the owner-imposed lockout ended, Monday brought forth another blockbuster deal ... albeit one that does not affect the Yankees in a way that most fans probably wanted.
Early this afternoon, ESPN’s Jeff Passan broke the news that the Oakland A’s had sent star first baseman Matt Olson off to the reigning, defending, undisputed World Series champion Atlanta Braves. What does this all mean for both the sport, and the Yankees?
Atlanta gets: Matt Olson, a 27-year old, lefty-hitting first baseman. In six seasons, Olson has put up a potent 132 wRC+ and 15.2 fWAR, with all but 0.7 of that latter number coming over four years, as Olson only played 11 games his rookie season, and then 60 in the truncated 2020 campaign.
Oakland gets: Quite a haul of prospects.
Oakland will receive OF Cristian Pache, C Shea Langeliers, SP Ryan Cusick and SP Joey Estes, sources tell ESPN. Massive haul for Matt Olson, the Braves’ new first baseman.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) March 14, 2022
Digging into the particulars, it quickly becomes apparent that the Athletics obtained quite the return for their young star. According to Baseball America, Pache ranks second in the Braves organization, with Langeliers third, Cusick ninth, and Estes at No. 14. Both BA and Keith Law at The Athletic have Pache and Langeliers in their overall Top 100. To sum up, Oakland received two top-100 pieces and another pair of top-15 prospects from the Braves’ farm system stockpile.
What might a commensurate deal have looked like for the Yankees? This is obviously not an exact comparison because all teams have their own, unique methods of valuing and scouting prospects, but it would have been pricey. Assuming that New York took top talent Anthony Volpe off the table, it almost certainly would have meant Oswald Peraza getting shipped to Oakland. Add the acclaimed Jasson Dominguez — or possibly Luis Medina — to that as the second top-100 piece. From there, perhaps catcher Antonio Gomez and pitcher Ken Waldichuk? As I said, purely hypothetical, but the prospect cost would have been (justifiably) high for the Yankees to bring Olson to the Bronx.
So what does this mean moving forward? Starting with the Braves, it almost certainly closes the door on a reunion between the franchise and its veteran icon first baseman Freddie Freeman, who as a free agent has been heavily linked to the Los Angeles Dodgers in recent days.
For Oakland? It looks — much like 7/11 — that they may not always be doing business, but they are always open. The Olson trade was not even their first of the offseason, as the Athletics sent pitcher Chris Bassitt to the New York Mets on the weekend. Furthermore, it is highly likely that the Olson move will not be the Athletics’ last, as attractive players remain on their roster.
For the Yankees? Well, first and foremost it removes Matt Olson from the club’s list of first base targets. That one’s obvious. Theoretically, Freeman remains on the market, and as recently as last night, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal tweeted that the Yankees remained interested in the former Brave. Jon Heyman confirmed that New York made him an offer, too.
Consider me a skeptic though. I am unconvinced that Freeman will appear in pinstripes, and even Heyman’s report noted that the Yankees didn’t seem optimistic. Assuming that Freeman goes elsewhere, and with Olson off the board, that leaves former Yankee Anthony Rizzo as a possibility (one who Rosenthal mentioned last night as well). Failing that, the status quo appears to be some kind of Luke Voit/DJ LeMahieu platoon situation.
Of course, considering basically no one saw last night’s deal with the Twins coming, it is entirely possible that GM Brian Cashman has something else in the works. Maybe the Reds want to continue their fire sale and Joey Votto agrees to a change of scenery! The organization’s prospect capital remains intact, and could theoretically be used to bring another player to the Bronx.
Offseason 2.0 is still early in its accelerated cycle, so it is entirely possible the Yankees make more moves. No matter what, Olson has been claimed. The lefty slugger heads to Atlanta, and pinstriped faithful are left to wonder what its Opening Day first base situation will look like.