Trade candidate: Matt Olson

The departure of longtime manager Bob Melvin sent a clear and obvious signal to fans of the Oakland Athletics: unless baseball implements a salary floor, prepare yourselves for yet another sell-off of the team’s best players. With recent reports indicating that payroll might be as low as $50MM for the coming 2022 season, it’s clear the team will be looking at trading most, if not all, of the most expensive players on the roster: first baseman Matt Olson ($12MM)*, third baseman Matt Chapman($9.5MM)*, and starting pitchers Chris Bassitt($8.8MM)*, Frankie Montas($5.2MM)*, and Sean Manaea($10.2MM)*.

In this series I will be examining the players, their contract situations, and teams that might make a play for them this offseason should the A’s make them available. First up….

Matt Olson

One of the biggest power threats in the game, the first baseman showed in 2021 that he is much closer to the player who dominated in 2019 than the one-dimensional batter that he was in 2020 when he hit a paltry .195. Cementing himself as a bona fide cleanup hitter, Olson dominated this past season while swatting 39 home runs, playing his typical Gold Glove defense and improving his control of the strike zone on his way to his best full season in the big leagues. Simply put, Olson has turned into one of the top first basemen in the sport...

...Which ultimately means Olson has priced himself out of Oakland. With only two more increasingly-expensive years of team control left, an ownership group planning on drastically cutting payroll and signaling a rebuild, and coming off of a career year, there is a high chance A’s fans have seen the last of Olson in Green & Gold and will see the team’s best trade chip on the move.

At 28 years old and at peak value, the former 1st-round pick is in his physical prime and would help any team in the league, yet there are surprisingly few contending teams without a clear answer at first base.

Yankees: Could you imagine what a left-handed power bat like Olson would do to that condensed right field? Not only would Olson pepper the short porch in right, he’d provide much-needed lineup balance for a heavily right-handed team. The team already indicated it doesn’t see the oft-injured Luke Voit as the answer when it acquired Anthony Rizzo to replace him at the trade deadline. With expectations sky-high after losing to the rival Red Sox in the Wild Card game and a World Series drought now stretching 12 years, General Manager Brian Cashman might be feeling the need for a bold offseason move or two to save his job and advance in the playoffs.

Brewers: A first-round exit when expectations were so high is gut-wrenching, but acquiring a player like Olson would definitely fix any lingering bad vibes heading into Spring Training. He would definitively fix the revolving door that has been first base since Prince Fielder left, and with a top of the rotation that matches up against the best in the league, the Brewers are in win-now mode and need a first base upgrade. There’s a fit, but do the Brewers have the necessary prospect capital to make this work?

Mariners: Oakland leadership has demonstrated they’re not ideologically opposed to trading within the division, which is good news for the Mariners. While the Evan White experiment has been a complete waste of money for Seattle, Ty France has become a legit MLB hitter, taking over at first base most days in 2021. France has experience at multiple positions, however, and could slide in at second base to replace a below-average Dylan Moore. And after just missing out on the playoffs by just two games and trying to end their 20-year playoff-less streak ASAP, a trade for Olson might be the move that can just start them and help Seattle end that infamous streak.

Padres: Could Bob Melvin have familiar company down in San Diego? It’s not out of the question, as the current Padres ownership has made it crystal clear that now is the time for contention. As talented as the offense seems on paper, that’s not how things worked out in 2021, with the Padres ranking just 14th in runs scored in baseball. Putting a player like Olson between Tatis Jr. and Machado would terrify opponents, and Olson would fix one of the weakest parts of the Padres offense.

There is a small roadblock, however: 32-year-old Eric Hosmer and the $60MM still owed to him over the next four years. This could be a moot point should the National League adopt the DH in 2022, but at the moment the fit isn’t perfect. The Padres did just recently give solid contracts to both Jurickson Profar (3 years/ $21MM) and Ha-Seong Kim (4 years/$25MM) to fill the same super-utility roll as each other, so it doesn’t seem completely out of the realm of possibility that the Padres, who were reportedly shopping Hosmer at the deadline, wouldn’t consider putting Hosmer on the bench to accommodate Olson if a trade of bad contracts doesn’t come to fruition for them.

Darkhorse - Marlins: Having made the playoffs in the abbreviated 2020 campaign, Miami looked like a young and upcoming squad featuring plenty of young talent. 2021 didn’t go as planned for the organization, though, as the offense completely bottomed out, ending up at 29th in the league in total runs scored. While the Marlins probably need more than one bat, Olson is a relatively-cheap (huge for Miami) borderline MVP candidate that would instantly improve their offense with just his presence alone. Add in the fact that Miami has a lot of young starting pitching, something the A’s would need should they follow through and trade Bassit/Montas/Manaea, and the teams line up decently well on a trade.

Next up: Sean Manaea

*Arbitration projections courtesy of MLB Trade Rumors