The Oakland A’s activated first baseman Matt Olson from the injured list on Tuesday, the team announced. To make room on the roster, outfielder Skye Bolt was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas.
Last year Olson was one of the stars of a team that made the postseason, blasting 29 homers and winning both a Gold Glove and a Fielding Bible award on defense. However, in just the second game of 2019 he broke the hamate bone in his right hand, and he’s been on the IL ever since. All told, Olson missed 34 games during the six weeks he was out.
Olson, 2018: .247/.335/.453, 29 HR, 117 wRC+, 10.6% BB, 24.7% Ks
This year, he went 1-for-5 with a walk before his injury. He played five rehab games in Triple-A last week, homering on Friday and notching two hits on Sunday.
The return of Olson could be a big boost to a struggling lineup. One reason the A’s are in last place with a 15-21 record is that the bats have been inconsistent, and getting back one of their best sluggers could help. Over their last 17 games, encompassing their entire last homestand and road trip, Oakland scored more than four runs just four times. Overall for the season they sit at a pedestrian 18th in MLB in runs/game and 17th in wRC+, after ranking 4th in 3rd in the majors in those categories last year.
Olson is also an upgrade on defense, as arguably the top first baseman in the sport. Fortunately the A’s have held their own without him, as shortstop Marcus Semien in particular hasn’t made a single throwing error in Olson’s absence. However, second baseman Jurickson Profar is suffering from a case of the yips that have his throws going all over the place, and adding an elite glove on the receiving end can only help.
When Olson went down, the A’s acquired veteran Kendrys Morales to fill in. The 35-year-old ended up playing 29 games, including 24 starts, but unfortunately he never really got going at the plate. The switch-hitter spent most of his tenure below the Mendoza Line, though he did pick up seven hits in the team’s three most recent games in Pittsburgh.
Morales, 2019: .209/.318/.275, 71 wRC+, 1 HR, 11.2% BB, 15.0% Ks
Although Morales’ stopgap assignment is now complete with Olson back in action, he’s sticking around for now. That might have something to do with DH Khris Davis, who banged his hip in Sunday’s game and is day-to-day with a contusion. The A’s are also missing Mark Canha, their normal backup 1B, who is on the IL with a sprained wrist.
Instead, the odd man out for now is Bolt. The 25-year-old made his MLB debut on Friday against the Pirates, and notched his first hit on Saturday. He’ll return to Triple-A, where he can get regular playing time until the next need arises in Oakland.
Bolt, MLB debut weekend: 1-for-4, double, 2 Ks
The A’s welcome the Reds to town on Tuesday, opening their homestand with a three-game interleague series.
Huge news, right when the A’s needed something to go right. Olson is a star on both sides of the ball, and Oakland got nothing from their stopgap while he was out. This is big in the sense of an on-field upgrade, and also seems like the kind of thing that could be a morale boost in the clubhouse. After all, this team just lost eight of their last nine games, and 12 of their last 17.
As for Morales staying on the roster, I get it. He’s at least been hitting the ball hard, with a .367 wxOBA that ranks second on the team behind Matt Chapman (and nearly 30 points ahead of Khrush in third place). Maybe the 7-for-13 he just posted in Pittsburgh could be a sign of some hits finally starting to fall in. With Khrush nursing his sore hip, it’s worth keeping Morales for a few more days to help out with DH duties and find out if he is indeed in the process of getting hot at the plate.
Indeed, Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle attributes Morales’ extended presence to the status of Khrush. She also mentions that Canha is expected to come off the IL soon, and that Morales will likely depart when that happens.
In other words, Bolt and Morales were probably both going to be gone soon either way. Bolt gets the first ticket out because Morales actually fits the remaining need a little bit better, and because he might possibly be heating up, and because cutting him means losing him permanently whereas Bolt stays in the organization (and gets to actually play again, back in the minors).
Welcome back, Matt! Hope to see you again soon, Skye!