If Olson Gets Traded …

I’m starting (or sort-of re-starting) a regular Sunday column, if only to ensure at least one blog goes up per week during these lock-down times.

I added a countdown page onto the website earlier this week, showing some (probably mis-placed) optimism that the MLB schedule is going to proceed as intended.

It seemed appropriate to have a clock ticking down by the second. The talks between the owners and the Players Association continue to progress at a snail’s pace, although at least there has been some progress this past week with a couple of meetings between the negotiating parties.

Whether it’s enough for the A’s to open their Cactus League against the Chicago White Sox on February 26th remains to be seen, but now that we’re just under four weeks away you have to hope that the rapidly-approaching possibility of losing Spring Training games may start to focus the minds of all involved.

The lock-out continues for the time being, though, and, as there are no actual trades or free-agent signings to report on, the trade rumour mill is in full swing. Most of it doesn’t make for pleasant reading for us A’s fans, of course, but it’s something to keep us occupied.

Matt Chapman, Chris Bassitt, Sean Manaea and Frankie Montas are all being talked about, but the man at the top of the list is Matt Olson.

Oly On The Move?

The all-round, high-class first baseman had his best MLB season last year, even though he got overlooked in the Gold Glove awards. He has two more years under contract before free agency and is likely to earn a salary of approximately $12m for the 2022 season; a relative bargain compared with the value his performance brings.

To an untrained eye that would look like an asset every team would want to keep hold of. Alas, things don’t quite work that way for the John Fisher A’s.

The rumour that won’t go away is a potential home-coming for the Georgia boy. From the outside, it had felt inevitable that the Atlanta Braves and Freddie Freeman would come to an agreement on a new contract, but as time has moved on the likelihood that the two sides may part ways has increased.

I still think the most likely outcome is that Freeman and the Braves will work out a deal, but if they don’t then Oly would be a perfect replacement for Atlanta, not only with his production on the field but also in the local link helping to soften the blow of a fan favourite leaving town.

Ken Rosenthal reported on The Athletic this past week that the A’s and Braves had discussed the potential of a trade prior to the lock-out and that this was not just a speculative enquiry. If a Freeman contingency plan has to be activated, I expect it will involve Oly wearing a Braves uniform.

And that would be the most palatable outcome if MLB Trade Rumors are on-point with their other “best-fit” options:

  • Seattle Mariners
  • Texas Rangers
  • New York Yankees
  • San Francisco Giants
  • Milwaukee Brewers
  • Minnesota Twins.

I’ve nothing against the Brewers or Twins so they would be acceptable destinations (accepting that the A’s Front Office neither knows nor cares about my emotional views on the matter); however I’d currently rank them as outsiders. As MLBTR notes, Milwaukee already have a relatively high spending commitment, for them, and typically don’t push too far with their payroll. Meanwhile Minnesota are in a more difficult spot in trading for a potential two-year player after surprisingly plummeting to the foot of the AL Central division last year.

The best that can be said about the other lot is that at least the Astros aren’t among them.

Although it’s not nice seeing a former favourite playing for a division rival, emotionally I would have an easier time seeing Oly in a Rangers or Mariners uniform than a Giants or Yankees jersey.

The Rangers have already signed Marcus Semien this off-season, so another ex-A in the infield is just another handful of salt on the wound rather than a devastating blow. As for the Mariners, currently they have one of the most highly-rated farm systems so – if willing – arguably they could offer the best prospect return in a deal and that, rationally speaking, is what really matters.

The added factor is that, whatever they do, the Mariners tend to find a way to stuff things up. That reduces the potential sight of watching Oly celebrating for another team.

You could argue that Olson moving to the Giants at least takes him out of the American League, but it also means having to put up with their fans enjoying having ‘our’ Oly on their team. They’ve already stolen Susan Slusser from us; they can keep their mits off our first baseman.

Which leaves the Yankees, as it so often does.

We’ve seen it before and no doubt we will see it again: the Evil Empire has a habit of taking beloved players and transforming them into an enemy. The unique thing about someone joining the Yankees is how often there is so little schadenfreude when the move doesn’t work out for the player. Sections of their fanbase (and the Mets, it’s a New York thing) can be relentlessly poisonous if a player starts to struggle, taking some perverse pride in someone “not being able to cope with playing in the Big Apple”.

I don’t want Oly to get that sort of treatment whenever he goes through a bad patch of form. It was bad enough that they did it to Sonny Gray before he found an escape route to Cincinnati.

No, all things considered I think it’s best for all parties if Freddie Freeman gets a shedload of money from the Dodgers (or similar), Oly takes over in Atlanta and we get a nice bundle of prospects from the Braves.

It’s still not exactly a cheery situation, but in the circumstances it might be as cheery as we get all off-season.

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