I’m not sure shocked is the right word because I always felt there was a chance the Braves moved off Freddie Freeman, and if they did, Matt Olson made the most sense as a replacement. Still, the feeling I got when Passan dropped the bomb on us all that Olson would be joining the Braves, meaning Freeman would be heading elsewhere, is difficult to describe. Like most Braves fans, Freeman has been a staple in my living room for 162 nights a year over the last 12 years. We watched him grow from a teenager into one of baseball’s biggest stars, an MVP, and a World Series champion. Not seeing him man first base on Opening Day will be a peculiar feeling for all, but the show must go on, and few teams are in a better position to absorb this type of blow than the Braves.
There aren’t many players that can fill the shoes of Freeman, but Olson is one of them. He mashed 39 homers for the A’s last season on his way to his first All-Star game and a top-ten finish in the AL MVP race. Olson is also four years younger than Freeman and comes with a much more affordable price tag. The newest member of the Braves is projected to earn just $12 million in arbitration in 2022.
We don’t know exactly what Freeman will end up signing for, but I imagine it will be in the $30 million AAV range. That means the Braves are saving about $20 million against the 2022 payroll by choosing to trade for Olson. Since Alex Anthopoulos has made it very clear that payroll will be higher this upcoming season, the Braves have money to spend, which is necessary because they have several holes to fill.
With Cristian Pache heading to Oakland in the trade, the need for outfield help is even greater than it was. The Braves already had to add at least one outfielder before the move, but now you could argue they should sign two. Bringing back Jorge Soler seems to be a priority. The most recent rumblings have suggested that talks between him and the Braves are intensifying.
#Braves and #Marlins intensifying talks with Jorge Soler. According to @mikedeportes, both teams are preparing a very lucrative offer for him."
— Héctor Gómez (@hgomez27) March 14, 2022
Adding Soler would give the Braves one of the most powerful lineups of all time on paper. He would likely fill the role of the DH, which means Anthopoulos could look to add another piece to the group before the start of the season. Michael Conforto and Eddie Rosario are some other names to keep an eye on.
Starting pitching isn’t the most pressing need, but with the extra money, it makes sense to add to the rotation. Unfortunately, there aren’t a ton of free-agent options available, and the Braves don’t have a lot of prospects left in their farm system to trade. Because of that, I don’t see Atlanta adding another frontline arm; however, signing a proven veteran with some upside makes a lot of sense. Zack Greinke, Danny Duffy, and Michael Pineda are some names to watch out for.
You can never have too many arms, and while I like the current state of Atlanta’s bullpen, they could be in the market for some more help, especially if they don’t add to the rotation. Colin McHugh is a player I would really like the Braves to target.
Losing Freeman is a reminder that this has always been and will always be a business. It sucks, especially for fans; however, there is a bright side to this. Olson is a superstar. You could argue he’s a top-ten player in all of baseball, and he’s just entering his prime. On top of that, Olson will cost a fraction of what Freeman will over the next two years, which should allow the Braves to put together a much better all-around product on the field as they aim to repeat.
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