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Matts Gone, Wild. A Blogfather’s Takes

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Oakland Athletics
Sigh.
Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

Normally I write on weekends, but if I wait who knows how many more Matts we might have traded by then. I know that when you heard the news, first of the Matt Olson trade to Atlanta and then of the Matt Chapman trade to Toronto, your first thought was, “But what does some guy on the internet think?” Here are some thoughts you may have had and some you may not have had...

Olson Trade

I have to start with a story. Matt Olson will always have a special place in my heart and not just because he hit his first major league HR on my birthday. I interviewed Olson down at spring training a few years ago, approaching him as I approach every player in the clubhouse: awkwardly standing vaguely nearby, fully aware that everyone else knows everyone else and then there’s me, partly hoping he will notice me and mostly hoping I am in fact invisible.

As I stood on the periphery, Olson eventually saw that I was there. His face changed to a warm smile and he exclaimed, “Hey!” as he might when greeting an old friend. I truly wondered if maybe he thought I was someone else, someone he knew, but I came to realize this was just how he is. He made strangers feel like friends and he made introverts feel comfortable. I hope he makes the trade look bad by hitting .370 in Atlanta.

That all being said, there is much to love about the return Oakland got for Olson as it represents a solid blend of quality and quantity.

In Cristian Pache the A’s have not only an elite defender at a premium defensive position but one who is big league ready.

In Shea Langeliers, the A’s get a catcher with high pedigree who could be valuable either as a future starter (if the A’s move Sean Murphy this year or next) or as a trade chip — as a “best player available” get Langeliers fits the bill regardless of what need Oakland currently has at the position.

With Ryan Cusick the A’s get future upside in the rotation — sure that can go the way of Brett Anderson, Jesus Luzardo, or Grant Holmes, all acquired when they were 19 with differing results — while also getting higher floor/lower ceiling talent in Joey Estes.

The bottom line is that in order to get 2 years of Olson (at least at the time of the trade) the Braves were forced to part with several pieces atop their solid farm system and that’s all you can hope for.

So as much as I will miss Olson, this trade’s best comp (and yes it represents a best case scenario) is when the Braves acquired another star 1B man, Mark Teixeira, and parted with a group of highly regarded but yet unproven prospects in Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Elvis Andrus, Matt Harrison, Neftali Feliz, and Beau Jones.

Chapman trade

This one is not playing so well on AN and for good reason. Not only are we conditioned to vomit upon hearing of a star 3Bman’s trade to Toronto for 4 prospects, the Blue Jays did not part with top prospects Jordan Groshans or Orelvis Martinez, who might have been fancied as headliners in any big deal.

The headliner is a well-regarded starting pitcher, Gunnar Hoglund, whose Tommy John surgery will keep him from starting his professional career until this summer. The “sleeper” is Kevin Smith, whose excellent 2021 AAA season (.285/.370/.561) helped him climb the prospect lists this winter. Lefties Zach Logue and Kirby Sneed appear, at first blush, to have “back end SP or reliever” on their future resumes.

Listen, Hoglund could be a top of the rotation SP right when the A’s are competitive again, Smith could blossom into a solid every day infielder in the next couple seasons, and the trade could turn out just fine.

My first reaction to the trade is mostly that when trading a player of Chapman’s stature you would like to be more sure, at the time of the trade, that Oakland got enough and not to have to think, “Well, if X and Y...” Then again, prospects are inherently uncertain.

So what were the A’s thinking in pulling the trigger with this trade? Some devil’s advocate points trying to imagine the thought process of a generally shrewd front office:

  • Perhaps the A’s could have nabbed a Groshans but only by sacrificing quantity and putting all their eggs in one basket. In that scenario you had better be right because plenty of blue chip prospects fail.
  • Maybe the A’s absolutely love Smith and think his 2021 season represents where his stock should be regardless of where it stands on national lists (9th on MLB.com’s Blue Jays list, for what it’s worth).
  • One has to put a Chapman trade in proper context. This is not a player, like Josh Donaldson was, who had 4 years left on his contract. Chapman has 2. Not only is he coming off a sub-par season but his injuries raise questions about what the future holds. He would be a very risky long-term extension candidate and is a somewhat risky bet for 2022-23. Certainly there is reason to think his 2 best seasons, in his entire career, might be 2018 and 2019.
  • Adding onto the previous point, while Chapman’s value might have increased by the trading deadline his years of control can only decrease and the A’s might feel that most likely his stock will not be higher this July or off-season than it is now.

So maybe the A’s needed to get 4 players instead of 1 or 2, and maybe they identified gems in Hoglund and Smith. I still go back to how clear it is now that the A’s got a strong haul for Olson and how unclear it is with Chapman, and feel we should be more sure when the outgoing player is Chapman.

But that’s a perspective from a fan who is not privy to all the inside information that led David Forst to conclude this was the right deal to make and that he should make it today. I just hope we don’t sign Trevor Plouffe and then pick up Sean Nolin to start Opening Day.

And that’s my 2 cents, for which you grossly overpaid.