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The Reasons the Yankees Didn’t Trade for Olson or Sign Freeman

The Reasons the Yankees Didn’t Trade for Olson or Sign Freeman

by Cary Greene

March 16, 2022

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Editor’s Note – Cary Greene saw this coming for a long time and had this article on reserve the moment it became clear that the Yankees would not acquire either Matt Olson or Freddie Freeman. Very Impressive.

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I know a lot of Yankee fans wanted Hal Steinbrenner to instruct Brian Cashman to make a trade for Matt Olson. As a lifelong Yankees fan, who’s also a fan of the A’s and the Pirates, I’ve been very tuned into the A’s posture on accomplishing their goal of shedding $30+ million in payroll this offseason.

Billy Beane is as shrewd a GM as there is in the game. He wasn’t going to let his best player go for a bargain package of prospects. Many intelligent bloggers had been hypothesizing that the Yankees could steal Olson away because Beane might be forced to accept a lesser package, given that Olson only had two years of team control left before he becomes a free-agent.

All along I’ve said the price would be steep and we found out Monday that indeed it did wind up being very steep. I created two trade packages back in November to illustrate what it would cost the Yankees, in terms of prospects, to pry Olson from the A’s. Olson had $45.3 million in Trade Value (per mlbtradevalues.com) which means if Billy Beane wanted only prospects in return for All-Star first baseman, that the trade partner would need to pony up prospects that could equal this value.

Atlanta did precisely that. Billy Beane settled on $43.3 million in trade value, essentially giving a bit of a discount to the Braves. Personally, I don’t like the deal at all and I think the Yankees could have easily done a successful trade with the A’s, one that Beane would have liked more. Here’s what Beane extracted in the trade:

OF Christian Pache, Triple-A ($7.5 mtv),

C Shea Langeliers, Triple-A ($27.8 mtv),

RHSP Ryan Cusick, Low-A ($5.4 mtv)

RHSP Joey Estes, Low-A ($2.6 mtv)

In order to land Olson, the Yankees would have needed to beat the Braves package. Beane was on record for wanting a nearly ready “centerpiece prospect” if he was going to relinquish Olson. The prospect most certainly would need to have already been successful at Triple-A and would have to be as close to a can’t-miss prospect as a prospect can be. The problem is, the Yankees don’t have a top-tier prospect in their system who is both nearly ready and more valuable than the Braves elite catching prospect Shea Langeliers.

Beane also wanted a group of lesser prospects who the A’s could develop, in addition to the centerpiece of the deal. The Yankees have plenty of those types of far-off, but pretty intriguing prospects. Therefore, Beane gazed into the Yankees system and here is what he found:

SS Anthony Volpe, Double-A ($59.8 mtv) >> Yet to conquer Double-A or Triple-A (may or may not accomplish that)

SS Oswald Peraza, Triple-A ($25.5 mtv) >> Yet to conquer Triple-A and therefore not as attractive as Langeleirs, plus less valuable anyways

OF Jasson Dominguez – Low-A ($22.9 mtv) >> Value declined massively last year plus not what Beane wanted, way too far away from being ready and in fact, could possibly never make it if he can’t start making more contact

The media reported that Brian Cashman was unwilling to “include” Volpe. Those reports didn’t tell the whole story. Volpe was, by himself, more valuable than the entire package of prospects that the A’s received. But Beane wanted what Beane wanted – a centerpiece prospect and a few lesser prospects that he would no doubt prefer to single out and insist upon.

From the Yankees perspective, there just wasn’t a deal there to be made. Volpe is worth more than Matt Olson. Including him and a group of other prospects would have been a ridiculous overpay. No doubt, Beane and Cashman had conversations about a larger deal, perhaps Sean Manea’s name came up or possibly, other players like Matt Chapman were mentioned, but the cost at that point would have been Volpe and Peraza..etc. It just wasn’t something Cashman would or even could entertain doing.

Many thought the Yankees matched up with the A’s on a deal for Chapman but the reality is, they didn’t. Prior to the Braves emerging (kind of out of nowhere), a deal centered around Peraza seemed to Yankee fans like one that Beane might pull the trigger on, but clearly a deal like that wouldn’t have met Beane’s criteria. He wanted a nearly ready centerpiece. Peraza isn’t all that quiet yet. He could become that, but he needs to earn his stripes at Triple-A before he’s truly anointed or seen as a viable, everyday major leaguer.

Yankee fans also wanted Hal Steinbrenner to go for it and pull out all the stops to sign Freddie Freeman and while that idea sure sounds terrific, a notion like this isn’t really grounded in baseball reality and here’s why: Just this past Sunday, Brian Cashman added $15m to $20 million for Isiah Kiner-Falefa and $42m to $50 million for Josh Donaldson. In 2022 AAV, that’s $27 million-ish (including Rortvedt) added to an already sandbagged payroll that was quite close to the new $230 million threshold.

The Yankees were already at $225.2 million. Adding Freeman for $30 plus million would have put the Yankees not only over the threshold, but would land them into the second tier, which begins at $250 million.

If the Yankees did that, there would be no resources left available for deadline acquisitions and other signings throughout the year and even if Steinbrenner said, “To heck with it, let’s win, I’ll spend whatever it takes!” then the Yankees would most likely end into the third tier.

That’s not the way to position a roster in the very first year of a newly ratified CBA. Signing Freeman was nothing more than a pipe dream, which was completely outside the reality of the Yankees budget.

Honestly, if Yankees fans truly wanted the team to hurtle into the third tier of the Luxury Tax in the very first year that the new CBA takes root, then isn’t that thinking a bit irresponsible?

I mean, I get it, Yankee fans wanted a big free agent the moment Kyle Schwarber and the Red Sox pounded the Yankees out of the playoffs last season. But when Cashman acquired Donaldson in addition to Kiner-Falefa, that was it. That was the one big move. Anything Cashman does from here on out would really have to start with subtracting before adding. THis is why the Rizzo deal from last night is still not the Yankees’ stopping point.

More moves are coming…

#AnthonyRizzo #FreddieFreeman #MattOlson

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