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MLB Roundup 3/15: Braves trade for Matt Olson

And the Reds continue their firesale.

Seattle Mariners v Oakland Athletics
Matt Olson, who was traded to the Braves on Monday.
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Athletics trade Matt Olson to the Braves

We were told that the post-lockout period was going to be a frenzy of player movement as teams try to get their rosters set for a fast-approaching Opening Day, and they weren’t lying. Monday was another crazy one with a couple of big trades, the most notable of which was between the Athletics and the Braves. Oakland is well known to be selling off anyone and everyone, and they made perhaps the biggest move of their winter, dealing first baseman Matt Olson to the defending champion Braves. In return they got back a big package of outfielder Cristian Pache, catcher Shea Langeliers, and pitchers Ryan Cusik and Joey Estes.

Whew. Let’s start with the Braves part of this, where there’s plenty to unpack. The bad news for Braves fans is that this deal almost certainly signals that face of the franchise Freddie Freeman is not coming back. That’s a big loss, both on the field and just for the fans in general. He was a big piece of a team that just won a championship. That said, if you have to say good bye to Freeman you couldn’t really do better than this. Olson is a great player, coming off a year in which he put up a 146 wRC+. He has big-time power, draws walks, and last season cut his strikeout rate way down, all with two more years of control and entering his age-28 season. He can slot right into Freeman’s slot in the lineup without missing much of a beat.

On the other end of this deal, A’s fans don’t get that same kind of consolation prize to losing their own fan favorite. That’s not to say this is a bad deal, but it’s about more than just this deal. It’s what this whole fire sale represents. Specific to this return, I think it’s pretty good, but not a slam dunk. Pache and Langeliers were both top 100 prospects, but both in the back end of those lists and mostly on the backs of their defense. They play premium positions, but it’s not clear either will hit enough to play everyday. Cusik was Atlanta’s most recent first round pick and has huge stuff with some command issues, while Estes is coming off a breakout season and is a sum-of-the-parts kind of pitcher.

Why Red Sox fans should care: I mean for one thing, it’s one of the game’s best players being traded. But while the Red Sox are unlikely to be in the first base market, at least at this level, the Yankees sure may be. Olson seemed like a logical move for the Yankees to make, so we avoided that feat. They are still in on Freeman, though, and while signs are pointing towards the Dodgers, the Yankees are still a possibility, and according to some reports the Blue Jays are as well.

Atlanta Reaction

Oakland Reaction

Mariners acquire Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suárez from Reds

The Athletics aren’t the only team selling off anybody making marginally significant amounts of money. The Reds are right alongside them, and they swung a huge deal themselves with the Mariners. Seattle bolstered their lineup by acquiring Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suárez, sending back pitcher Justin Dunn, outfielder Jake Fraley, and pitcher Brandon Williamson, plus a player to be named later.

The big addition here for the up-and-coming Mariners is Winker, who adds a huge left-handed bat into that Seattle outfield. He’s been a really good hitter for his entire career, but he’s really broken out the last two seasons, finishing each with a wRC+ over 140, meaning he was more than 40 percent better than average in 2020 and 2021. Suárez, meanwhile, was a salary dump for the Reds. He’s owed $35 million over the next three seasons, and is coming off a rough year in which he finished with an 86 wRC+. That said, as recently as 2019 he was a legitimate middle-of-the-order power hitter, finishing that year with 49 homers. (Granted, it was the juiced ball year.) Seattle will likely give him a chance for a bounce-back, though with a short leash and reduced role.

On the other side, this return for Cincinnati is not a fun one for fans. They didn’t get nothing, but if you want to trade Winker adding Suárez to it as a salary dump is going to reduce your return significantly. Fraley has been in the majors for a few years and should slot in as a solid second-division starter. Dunn is a former first round pick who had some good results in 11 starts last season, but the peripherals and the scouting suggests he’s a back-end arm or in the bullpen. Williamson is the real prize in this return, a former second round pick who grades out well by pitch tracking data and is a top 100 prospect on some lists.

Why Red Sox fans should care: Well, for one thing everyone is available from the Reds. Hell, why not call about Joey Votto? Couldn’t find a better model for Triston Casas, and with his contract he might even come with a good young player. I also wonder if Seattle might move an outfielder now. Along with Winker, they have Kyle Lewis (though he’s hurt and may miss the start of the season), Mitch Haniger, Jarred Kelenic, and Taylor Trammell, to say nothing of elite prospect Julio Rodriguez, who is on the cusp of the majors. Haniger is going to be a free agent at the end of the year, and fits Boston’s need as a right-handed outfielder. I have no idea if Seattle would actually discuss that kind of deal, but it’s worth a phone call. Oh, also the Mariners are looking good and could be legitimate wild card contenders.

Seattle Reaction

Cincinnati Reaction

Philadelphia Phillies v Miami Marlins Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

Andrew McCutchen signs with the Brewers

It was a little bit of a quieter day on the free agency front, with the biggest deal coming in Milwaukee with Andrew McCutchen signing with the Brewers. The details of the deal aren’t known as of this writing, but the veteran will be joining the Milwaukee lineup. A former MVP, McCutchen is on the back nine of his career, but he’s still a slightly above-average bat who can hit the ball over the fence. He hit 27 homers last season. Maybe getting him alongside another former MVP in Christian Yelich can get them both to their former levels.

Why Red Sox fans should care: It would not have been an exciting option, but McCutchen was a right-handed free agent who could play the outfield. Granted, at his age he’s a better fit as the DH, but Boston could have done worse than sticking him in front of the Monster. That said, they can do better, too.