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Monday, January 24, 2022

Braves, A’s Discussed Matt Olson Prior To Lockout

When — or whether — the Braves will re-sign Freddie Freeman has been one of the most pressing issues on the minds of the Atlanta fan base for the better part of a year, but the 2020 NL MVP entered the current MLB lockout as a free agent with no real indication of progress toward a return to Truist Park on the horizon. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal writes this morning that there’s obvious incentive for either Freeman or the Braves to act quickly, one way or another, once the lockout finally ends. Most notably, Rosenthal reports that the Braves indeed spoke to the A’s about a potential Matt Olson deal prior to the lockout (as had been previously suggested), adding that the talks should not be written off as simple due diligence.

An early strike by the Braves to acquire Olson would register as nothing short of a stunner. The longstanding belief has been that despite the ostensible lack of traction in talks, Freeman will eventually reach a deal to return to the same team for which he’s played the first dozen seasons of a potential Hall-of-Fame career. It’s been even more widely expected that the A’s will trade Olson, particularly in the wake of comments from GM David Forst that the team will listen to offers on all of its top players (in preparation for a payroll reduction). However, Freeman’s legacy in Atlanta has made the Braves feel like a long shot, at best.

The 27-year-old Olson (28 in March) has been most prominently linked to the Yankees thus far in the offseason, though a good portion of the ink dedicated to that fit has been speculative in nature. The Rangers are among the other clubs to have been tied to Olson on the heels of a career year in Oakland.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: January 24, 2022 at 02:12 PM | 9 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: braves, matt olson

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   1. Walt Davis Posted: January 24, 2022 at 05:54 PM (#6062303)
So ... Freeman's future ... (I gave up my stathead sub so this will be cherry-picking):

Amazingly, at b-r, his #1 comp for every single year of his career is Eddie Murray. I don't think I've ever seen a longer run. Not as entertaining as the Alex Gonzalezes but still good stuff. (Freeman is Murray's #1 from 22-27.) The "problem" with that comp is that Murray wasn't particularly good after 31. He wasn't bad, especially for 32-36 at 13 WAR, 3 WAA and one 5-WAR season, but you don't knowingly hand out a big contract for 13 WAR over 5 years.

b-r comps are flawed in general but that doesn't mean they're always off-base. Freeman's list seems pretty good, at least on the surface: Murray, Palmeiro, Prince, Yaz, Shawn Green, Cepeda, Bagwell, Luzinski, Olerud, Tex. Those all seem reasonable and the comp scores themselves range from 885 to 926 so a quite similar bunch. For some reason, b-r has gotten rid of its handy comparison link for sims but Palmeiro, Yaz and Bagwell remained 4-WAR players through 36 or later; Murray and Olerud remained average to good; the other 5 pretty much weren't, some due to injury more than decline probably. I think it's fair to say that Freeman has always kept himself in better shape than Prince and the Bull but the rest of that list seems pretty Freeman-like in terms of body type.

Still having 4 HoFers (and a 5th by the numbers) in your comp list entering age 32 can't be a bad thing. Freeman sits roughly halfway between Palmeiro and Murray in H and HR through 31 so we can't even rule out 3,000/500 for his career. Still, to be worth big money, he needs to get there producing like Palmeiro, Yaz, Bagwell so I can't recommend anything like 5/$150 -- 5/$125 or 6/$140 might be a reasonable risk and get it done.

And I suppose if all of that is true for Freeman then it must be at least as true for Rizzo whose "through 31" b-r comps are susbstantially worse than Freeman's (only Luzinski in common). Rizzo's comps almost all fall into the Murray-Olerud level and I'm not sure I'd go over 3 years (depending on total $ of course).

I'd say Matt Olson is a guy where b-r comps don't seem useful -- not sure why that would be but at least he'd better hope they aren't. Chris Davis as #1 comp? On the surface at least, Olson seems a Rizzo/Freeman type or, given the given the glove, a low-BA, high-ISO version of Olerud. I assume over the next two pre-FA years, he projects quite well and he'd be entering FA at 30 so would do better than those guys entering at 32. If there's a longer-term extension, I'd try to get him out the door after 33.
   2. GregD Posted: January 25, 2022 at 12:15 PM (#6062412)
I love Olson. He’s truly a beautiful fielder and a shockingly fast base runner for a first baseman. Joyful player

It’s interesting to contemplate the costs for a team of

Keeping excellent player on what could turn into an unpleasant contract but at cost of no players

Vs

Add very good player under control for two years but give up significant prospects.

I like prospects and it isn’t my money so I’d choose door number one. But I can certainly picture outcomes where door two was the right choice
   3. Walt Davis Posted: January 25, 2022 at 04:46 PM (#6062463)
But would they have to give up "significant" prospects for Olson? Yelich was a solid 3.5-4 WAR player in Miami and they essentially got nothing for him. The Pirates traded Starling Marte for a very young guy who has popped up onto the early pre-2022 top 100 but is probably still 2-3 years away (if he ever makes it). Marte has been traded twice more since, not for a lot but that's partly due to fewer years of control. MLB.com gives the Braves 4 in the top 100 -- I doubt they'd have to give up more than one of those guys and probably wouldn't have to give up the top guy. If they do, then they probably like Olson enough to extend him.

And there is potentially door #3 in signing Rizzo.
   4. Smitty* Posted: January 25, 2022 at 05:38 PM (#6062468)
Walt,

While the Marlins return on Yelich didn’t turn out much, it’s not like they knowingly traded him for nothing. MLB had Brinson as the #27 prospect and Harrison as the #71 prospect. Diaz and Yamamoto looked like decent prospects too, at least for 3rd and 4th pieces of a trade. All 4 just busted.
   5. Walt Davis Posted: January 25, 2022 at 07:59 PM (#6062493)
#4 is a fair point but that's what #27 and #71 prospects generally do -- little to nothing.

I suspect there are more recent and probably better studies than this one but while there are a fair number of WAR by draft position studies, not a lot on WAR by prospect rank studies. I'm not sure this methodology is great but the results seem robust enough.

So a #21-30 prospect (or #21-40 for that matter) will usually "bust" (average less than 0.5 WAR per season of control played) about 70% of the time; anyone from about #51-100 will bust about 80% of the time. So we're starting from a 56% probability that both prospects will flop. There's then about a 20% chance that one will flop and the other will be average -- if you've traded away more than a year of an above-average player, you've pretty much lost this trade. There's then about a 21-22% chance that either one will flop and the other will be above-average or they will both be averate -- this is about break-even to a small win depending on how many full seasons are involved on both sides. There's then about a 2-3% chance of a clear win.

These trades aren't generally about baseball value, they are about money. When they are about baseball value, they are about present, short-term value vs future value ... and clearly the Braves are in a spot where present value is important. To be fair, the Braves are young enough and have Acuna, Albies and others under control for several more years so the long-term is pretty valuable to them too.

Landing a top 10 prospect is a big deal. Landing a top 100 prospect in the trade of a reliever or a guy you only have control of for 2-6 months or arguably anybody over the age of 32 is a good thing. Trading a very good player in his prime with a few years left on a reasonable buyout contract -- if you're not getting back a top 10 prospect, you have made a bad trade; probably even if you are getting a top 10 prospect. (Obviously 5-10% of bad trades turn out good; probably a higher percentage of good trades turn out bad; and most trades of either type probably end up mattering little or not at all.)

But sure, the Marlins didn't trade Yelich for "nothing", they made a bad trade.

Uncle Walt's golden rule: don't trade legit prospects for guys with no control (with the possible exception of Mookie Betts or guys you think will get you to the WS**); always trade prospects for good players in their prime with years of control left. Add the corrollaries (a) always use your cash advantage to rip off the Marlins, A's, etc as much as possible; (b) never trade with the Rays.

And a free, tangential maxim: Team top 10/20/30 prospect lists are the worst thing to happen to prospect nerds since Mom started making them pay for their internet.

** See Uncle Walt's silver rule: if you are silly enough to think that one guy will get you to the WS, you damn well better be right.
   6. A triple short of the cycle Posted: January 26, 2022 at 05:34 PM (#6062665)
It would be great if the A's owner gave a sh!t. Sell the team to a local buyer already.
   7. Darren Posted: January 27, 2022 at 02:31 PM (#6062756)
The Eddie Murray comp is fascinating in its consistency. But I wouldn't put any stock in it, or other B-R comps as predictive. ZiPS, on the other hand, has comps and projected WAR:

Freeman, 4.8 WAR, Will Clark
Olson, 5.0 WAR, Kent Hrbek
Rizzo, 2.7 WAR, Lee Thomas

Those WAR numbers all look about right to me, but the comps all look a bit weak. A great comp for Freeman is Goldschmidt. Similar career path and shape through age 31. Goldy signed for 5/$125 mil a year removed from free agency, and that seems like a fair starting place for Freeman.
   8. Jose is Absurdly Correct but not Helpful Posted: January 27, 2022 at 03:21 PM (#6062768)
A few years ago I looked at some of the star players being dealt (guys like Cabrera, Teixeira, Gonzalez) and it seemed that generally you were talking something on the order of two top 50 guys and a couple of lottery ticket types. The top 50 guys were generally a guy who seemed to slot in around 20 (give or take) and another guy at the back end of the top 50. Just by way of example;

Adrian Gonzalez pre-2011: #31, #75, 2009 1st rounder, scrub MLB (Eric Patterson)
Miguel Cabrera pre-2008: #6, #10 (2007, that year), two MLB ready pitching prospects and a young MLB catcher (they included D-Train in the deal)

I remember looking at about 6 or 7 guys and all of them were roughly this. Not a huge sample but consistent enough. The Braves have three guys in the top 100; 46 (OF - Michael Harris), 54 (C - Shea Langeliers), 84 (OF - Christian Pache). The position players at the MLB level are either established stars (Acuna, Albies, Duvall) or old enough that they wouldn't be of interest to Oakland. I kind of wonder if someone like Ynoa or Toussaint might be part of such a deal to make it work for Oakland.
   9. DCA Posted: January 27, 2022 at 10:17 PM (#6062816)
I was thinking a typical return for the A's would be a young MLB-ready SP, one of the OF prospects (Harris/Pache/Waters), and a low minors kicker.

Davidson, Pache, and Vaughn Grissom probably gets it done. Might need to add a cheap bullpen guy like Jacob Webb or Dylan Lee. Davidson and Pache would make Oakland's opening-day roster (Pache would get a one-month trial while Laureano finishes his suspension; if he sticks, Laureano and his cannon would move to RF).

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