The New York Yankees have been connected to the Oakland Athletics on multiple occasions this off-season, despite the lockout raging on. However, other teams have also been linked to Oakland in prospective deals. The latest connection is between the Atlanta Braves and Athletics, which is a curious scenario, especially since Matt Olson, star first baseman, was the centerpiece.
According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the Atlanta Braves were in talks with the Oakland Athletics to trade for Matt Olson:
For the Braves, the pre-emptive strike would be a trade for Athletics first baseman Matt Olson, a move that, according to sources, they discussed with the A’s before the start of the lockout. The conversations cannot be dismissed as mere due diligence. Once the free-agent market opened, the Braves faced the possible loss of Freeman, 32, at any moment.
With Olson the primary target for Atlanta, it suggests they’re preparing to let Freddie Freeman walk in free agency as he projects to land a deal worth six years, $187 million. If that’s truly the case, the Yankees have their work cut out for them.
Replacing Freeman with Olson undoubtedly comes with a drop-off in production, but the Oakland star was incredibly efficient last season at the plate, enjoying a .271 batting average with a career-low 16.8% strikeout rate. Lowering his strikeout rate from 31.4% was a significant deal, paired with 39 homers and 111 RBIs, the lefty batter would be a perfect fit in Yankee stadium.
Realistically, Olson could hit 40+ homers with the Yankees, but Freeman also offers that same potential. General manager Brian Cashman hasn’t been aggressive with spending at first base, trying to supplement the position in the past with a Luke Voit, a cheaper solution.
Nonetheless, it is not every day you have players like Olson and Freeman available on the market. Freeman is coming off a season where he hit .300 with 31 homers and 83 RBIs with a 15.4% strikeout rate. At 32 years old, though, Freeman’s deal may be a bit overzealous.
Considering Olson is set to earn just $12 million next season with an additional year of arbitration in 2023. Based on his upward trajectory and minimal cost compared to Freeman, he’s likely the more efficient target. On the flip side, the Yankee may be unwilling to part ways with minor league talent when they can just as easily spend money to decrypt an unsolved first base spot.