2022 First Base Targets? – Matt Olson
Last week I looked at potential shortstop options for the Yankees going into the 2022 season, ultimately coming to the idea that a trade for Amed Rosario is the best course of action for the Yankees.
This week, I turn my attention to the players fielding throws from Rosario and the rest of the infield: first base. I’m in the trading mood, so let’s talk about Matt Olson.
Matt Olson: A Quick Overview
Matt Olson was selected 47th overall as a supplemental 1st round pick in the 2012 MLB First-Year Player draft by the Oakland Athletics. (The pick was provided to the Athletics due to their loss of David DeJesus.) Signing on to play professional baseball after being offered a $1,079,700 bonus, and foregoing his commitment to Vanderbilt University, Olson started that same year in Rookie ball and earned a promotion to Class-A- by the end of the year. Each year for the next four years (2013-2016) Matt Olson slowly made his way up the ladder as a right fielder (Class A to A+ to AA to AAA), ultimately making his MLB debut on September 12th, 2016. He spent most of 2017 on the “Nashville Shuttle” as he transitioned into a first base role (he was recalled 6 times from Triple-A) and he finished 4th in AL ROY voting before earning a full-time position in 2018. Since then, he’s been under contract with the Oakland Athletics, and he is expected to have a salary of $12 Million for the 2022 season from his 2nd year of arbitration and is under team control through 2023.
Over his career, Matt Olson has hit to a .252/.348/.511 (.859 OPS/134 OPS+) triple-slash with 517 hits, 142 home runs, and 373 RBI’s in 575 games over parts of 6 seasons. He’s also put in 4,700 innings at first base with a +34 DRS and a +22.8 UZR along with 2 separate gold glove awards (2018 & 2019). Combined with everything, he’s accumulated +18.1 bWAR/+15.2 fWAR.
In 2021, Matt Olson had his best offensive season to date with a .271/.371/.540 (.911 OPS/153 OPS+) triple-slash with career highs in hits (153), home runs (39), and RBI’s (111). He also had a +6 DRS and a +1.4 UZR at first base while earning his first All-Star Game honors and placing Top-10 in the AL MVP for the first time. Over 156 games played, Olson put up +5.8 bWAR and +5.0 fWAR.
Matt Olson has avoided injury in his career, going on the IL just once early in 2019 to undergo surgery to remove the hamate bone in his right hand. Besides that one injury which resulted in just 127 games played in 2019, Olson had played in 95% of his teams games in 2018 and between 2020 and 2021.
The Case For Matt Olson:
I’ve long considered that the best ability for a baseball player is availability. I probably overuse that saying, but after watching the Yankees have the 5th most injured players in 2021 and accumulate the 8th most amount of time missed it is important. It’s also important when the starting first baseman, Luke Voit, missed considerable amount of time in 2019 and 2021. Matt Olson on the other hand played in 156 of 162 games in 2021, all 60 games in 2020, played in 127 games in 2019 around a hand surgery, and played all 162 in 2018. Since becoming a starting player in 2018, he’s played in 92% of his teams games. That’s very good.
Matt Olson is also coming off his career best offensive season as he put up the 3rd best OPS+ (153), 6th best OBP (.371) and SLG (.540), 5th best OPS (.911), 5th most home runs (39), 4th most walks (88), etc. in the American League. On pure offense alone, Matt Olson was a Top-10 hitter in the American League.
Matt Olson is also a standout defender, having won 2 gold gloves at first base already in his career and keeping up with consistently good defensive seasons since then. The Yankees were spoiled from 2009-2016 when they had Mark Teixeira manning first base with a fantastic glove. Since then, the Yankees have been needing another great defender. Matt Olson is the guy for that role.
On the short-hand, some other positives for Matt Olson are that he is going into his age-29 season, a left-handed hitter, he has two more years of control at a under-market value rate, and he is 100% on the trade market as the Oakland Athletics are looking to shed payroll.
The Simple Pro’s: He Plays Everyday, He’s a Top-10 Offensive Player, He’s a Top-5 First Base Defender
The Case Against Matt Olson:
There aren’t many good reasons for the New York Yankees to not seriously consider going after Matt Olson as their heir-apparent at first base. Nearly every major concern about his future is nullified because he has a short term contract. However, I can think of a few reasons to stay away.
Matt Olson will cost a lot to get. While the Oakland Athletics are always willing to deal their players that get to be expensive (see: Josh Donaldson, Sonny Gray, etc.) that does not mean that they are selling good players for nothing. Matt Olson was just a Top-10 player in the American League, that is going to fetch more than a pretty penny on the trade market. Especially because he comes with 2 years of control (though, he’ll likely be making close to $30M over those 2 years). His trade value is currently at +45.3 MTV, of which is going to cost the Yankees at least one of: Anthony Volpe, Jasson Dominguez, and/or Oswald Peraza. If the Yankees aren’t willing to meet that price, then it’s hard to see a trade for Olson to happen.
Personally, I’m more than okay with trading away prospects for proven MLB talent. The transition from the minors to the MLB constantly proves to be too much for even the most promising prospects. But, the Yankees have been very hesitant to make major moves with their prospects in recent years (the last I can think of was Michael Pineda for Jesus Montero) and I can see them unwilling to bite the bullet here as well.
And that’s the only reason that I can really think of as to why a team would not be interested in Matt Olson.
The Simple Con’s: Prospect Cost
While he’s not the perfect pick in my mind I do think Matt Olson is the “1B” option to my “1A” pick (who will be revealed on Friday). Matt Olson has all the necessary fundamental things for me to want him on the team: left-handed hitter, injury resistant, top tier defense at an important position, above-average bat.
And, I would 100% trade away Oswald Peraza in a trade for Matt Olson. Truthfully, if the Yankees are going to be talking to the Athletics I’d love to see if there is a trade out there for Olson and LHP Sean Manaea.
Thinking about it, if the Athletics added Matt Chapman to that trade, I would 100% do a combined move of: Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, and Sean Manaea for Anthony Volpe and any group of 3 prospects not named Jasson Dominguez or Oswald Peraza. Truthfully speaking, this is a fair value for both teams and would give the Yankees a huge boost to their MLB team and the Athletics their farm system immediately.
However, that’s also completely unrealistic. The Oakland Athletics are not going to trade 3 of their best trade pieces in one move. But, it is fun to think about.
Thinking back to Matt Olson this is where my brain always goes. I think the Yankees and Athletics are great potential trade partners (if you know MLB history you’d know that the Yankees at one point were said to use the Athletics as a farm team) and an absolutely massive move could greatly help each team with what they want.
Matt Olson is a perfect fit for the Yankees. I’d want a different first baseman before him, but if he comes to New York you won’t find me complaining in the slightest.