3/15/22: The Atlanta Braves, the 2021 World Series Champions, made a blockbuster trade on Monday, March 14th, to acquire first baseman Matt Olson from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for a handful of prospects. This move has led to the end of the Freddie Freeman era in Atlanta.
Following Oakland’s recent teardown of their roster, the first being starting pitcher Chris Bassitt to the New York Mets, then gold glove third baseman Matt Chapman to the Toronto Blue Jays, the defending World Series Champs have acquired first baseman Matt Olson as almost a replacement for Freddie Freeman.
All general managers in not just baseball, but all of sports, always have difficult decisions to make regarding their team and the team’s best interests. This is especially true for Braves’ GM Alex Anthopoulos, whose team became the most unlikely ones to win the World Series last year. Anthopoulos decided to make a run for it last year starting at the trade deadline to acquire a whole new outfield consisting of Joc Pederson, Adam Duvall, Eddie Rosario and Jorge Soler— who ended up becoming the World Series MVP— all after their young star Ronald Acuna Jr. had a season-ending injury.
Even with Anthopoulos’ new World Series title, he decided to make the most unpopular decision that any Braves’ fan or GM would ever make, and that was to not bring back Freddie Freeman; the Braves’ face of the franchise for over the last decade.
Freeman, who will most certainly become one of the best Braves throughout the franchise’s history, just came off his first World Series win after 12 years with the Braves, five All-Star Games, three silver slugger awards, a gold glove, an MVP award and a generation of Braves fans’ support behind him. His last moment as an Atlanta Brave was catching the final out of the World Series game and he left Atlanta with a blast.
After it became clear that Anthopoulos was hesitant to give the 32 year-old veteran a 6th year that he desired in a contract. It seemingly didn’t matter that Freeman was the face of their franchise or that he had just earned them a World Series victory. Instead, Anthopoulos repurposed the money that was intended to be for Freeman and used it on a young and upcoming first baseman in Matt Olson.
Almost a day after being acquired from Oakland, Matt Olson agreed to an 8 year extension with the Braves, valued at $168 million— a little over $10 million less than Freeman was seeking. The Braves were not only getting a replacement for Freddie Freeman, they were going to have him for a long time. For any Braves fans, it must’ve been hard to hear that the face of your franchise wasn’t returning, but acquiring Matt Olson is most certainly something to look forward to.
Not only will they be getting a left-handed first baseman bat to put back in the lineup, they’ll be getting a young and upcoming superstar first baseman. Coming off his fifth full season as a major leaguer, the 27 year old Olson came off his first all-star (and home run derby) appearance. Olson batted .271 AVG/.371 OBP/.540 SLG/.911 OPS, smashing 39 home runs and had 111 RBIs.
Although Freeman’s time in Atlanta has come to an end after over a decade, the Braves now have a very promising first baseman to look forward to in Matt Olson. From Freddie’s farewell message on Instagram, “Thank you from the bottom of my heart. It has been a blast to have you cheer for me and I hope I was able to bring smiles to a lot of your homes over the years… I love you Braves Country! Champions forever!”