“This is the cycle for the A’s. We have to listen and be open to whatever comes out of this.”
Those November comments from Athletics general manager David Forst remain the strongest indication that, when the lockout ends, the team will kick off another rebuild with trades of their best players. And as arguably the most coveted trade piece on the entire market this offseason, star first baseman Matt Olson could bring back to the A’s one of the strongest return packages in a while.
Teams that are going to be looking for an impact player like Olson have a few characteristics: they’re eyeing contention in 2022, they don’t already have a stud first baseman, and they have payroll space and the prospects to make a deal happen. We won’t delve into possible returns for Olson, but let’s discuss prospects in the comments below.
The ones to watch
A few teams have already been connected in real-life rumors.
In mid-November, before the lockout began, it surfaced that the Yankees had internally discussed Olson as a target.
New York would clearly love an upgrade over incumbent Luke Voit after essentially giving up on him in the middle of a division race last year. Olson has hit the ball well when in Yankee Stadium’s friendly dimensions, and would feast if he were to play there for 80+ games. Not only that, he would also help balance out the righty-heavy lineup that the Yankees currently have while giving their infield defense a massive all-around upgrade. New York has the stud prospects, payroll space, and a clear desire to upgrade the position, putting the Yankees among the most likely landing spots.
Atlanta has reportedly already reached out to Oakland to gauge the price tag for Olson.
As rumors begin to percolate that 2020 NL MVP Freddie Freeman and the Braves may actually go their separate ways this offseason, Atlanta seems more likely by the day to be one of the teams most inclined to make a strike for Olson. They would need an MVP-caliber player to replace Freeman to help stay ahead of teams like the Phillies and Mets, who are positioning themselves to make a run next year. On top of that, as an Atlanta native, a trade to the defending Champs would be a homecoming for Olson, and they’d likely have an advantage trying to secure him to a long-term deal.
Before the lockout, Padres GM A.J. Preller reportedly reached out and expressed initial interest in a dialogue about Olson.
Not the best on-paper fit, but San Diego has been trying for years to get out of the massive Eric Hosmer deal, so they’re clearly not enamored with their incumbent first baseman. With as many studs as the Padres have in their lineup, they were still only a middle-of-the-pack offense in 2021 while getting league-average production out of the first base spot. Reuniting Olson with new Friars manager Bob Melvin would certainly take the Padres’ offense to the next level, but are they willing to push past the luxury tax to bring in his projected $12MM salary next year?
In late-November, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reported that the Rangers “have already begun investigating what it would take to get Olson.”
Texas wouldn’t have made sense at the beginning of the offseason, but their major signings of star middle infielders Corey Seager and Marcus Semien, as well as other noteworthy additions, indicate that the Rangers see themselves as up-and-comers in 2022. The incumbent first baseman, Nathaniel Lowe, had a solid showing in his first full season in the big leagues in 2021, but when you have a chance to get someone like Olson then putting Lowe at the DH spot would be a no-brainer — if he’s not a part of Oakland’s return for Olson. Texas also now has multiple middle infield prospects blocked long-term by the aforementioned Seager and Semien deals, and Oakland and Texas have come together on some big trades over the past few seasons. Don’t be surprised if Texas is adamant about reuniting Semien with his longtime first baseman.
Other possible fits
There aren’t specific rumors connecting these next few teams, but perhaps they could make sense.
The Brewers have had a new starting first baseman every year since the Prince Fielder era ended a decade ago. After winning the NL Central in 2021 and finishing with the third-best record in the National League, first base has to be a top priority for a Brewers club looking for its first World Series title. Only two NL squads, the Pirates and Diamondbacks, two of the worst clubs in baseball, had worse production from their first basemen than the Brewers, and they might not be patient enough to keep trotting youngster Keston Hiura out there to develop.
Should the rumors about the universal DH come to fruition, Los Angeles is primed to be one of the NL teams most likely to make a significant move, and could decide to make a strike for Olson. Current Dodgers first baseman Max Muncy isn’t as gifted with the glove as Olson is, and after coming off a major elbow injury at the end of last year Muncy might be more suited to the DH role when he returns.
Another team with some of the worst production from their first basemen in 2021, the Guardians are somewhat of an imperfect fit because they, like the A’s, usually have one of the lower payrolls in the league (29th out of 30 in 2021). That said, the fact that Cleveland went 80-82 last summer with one of the league’s worst offenses in years is a testament to the quality of their pitching top to bottom. Adding a star hitter to their lineup could help a lot, leading MLB Trade Rumors to take a look at them as a possible mystery team, with their young first baseman Bobby Bradley a candidate to come the other way in a deal.
Which of these suitors seems most likely to you? What prospect packages would you want back in return? Let’s begin with a poll!
Which team do you predict will trade for Matt Olson?
This poll is closed
None, Olson won’t get traded