Atlanta Braves Give Newcomer Matt Olson $168M, Eight-Year Contract

Less than 24 hours after acquiring Matt Olson from Oakland to replace departing free agent Freddie Freeman, the Atlanta Braves lavished the newcomer with the second longest contract in team history.

Olson, an Atlanta native, agreed to an eight-year, $168 million deal with a one-year club option worth $20 million. If exercised, it would carry him through the 2030 campaign.

The 6’5″ left-handed slugger will make $15 million this year and $21 million next year before receiving a steady stipend of $22 million over the next six seasons. That’s a deal considerably less than Freeman was seeking, according to multiple sources.

Freeman, 32, remains a free agent, reportedly considering offers from the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, and Toronto Blue Jays – three American League East rivals – and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Freeman, who is from Southern California, had spent his entire 12-year career in Atlanta, winning a Most Valuable Player award in 2020 and World Series ring a year later.

Although Olson was arbitration-eligible after earning $5 million in 2021, his contract was replaced rather than extended. Its potential nine-year length would be the second-longest in team history.

Ronald Acuña, Jr. was 21 in April 2019 when he signed his contract in April 2019 when he inked a 10-year, $124 million deal if two club options at the back end are activated.

Olson, represented by Jet Sports, turns 28 later this month but has never won a World Series ring. Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY has already predicted that the Braves will become the first National League team to win consecutive world championships since Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine of 1975-76.

Moving from the caverous Oakland Coliseum to hitter-friendly Truist Park should benefit Olson, who figures to bat between Ozzie Albies, a switch-hitter, and Austin Riley, who hits right-handed, in the power-packed Atlanta lineup. The lineup contained three players with more than 100 runs batted in last year, with Olson likely to be the fourth.

Last year, Olson hit 22 of his 39 homers against left-handed pitching, tying a major-league record set by Hall of Famer Stan Musial in 1949.

In 2021, his best year, the first-time All-Star reached career peaks in walks, on-base percentage, home runs, and contact rates. He has earned two Gold Gloves for defensive excellence at first base.

According to Keith Law in The Athletic, “The team is probably a little better in 2022-23 having Olson rather than Freeman, and very unlikely to be any worse off for it, especially if they take the $10 to $15 million a year they’re saving here and put it toward starting pitcher and/or a corner outfield spot.”

Obtaining Olson cost the Braves a haul of blue-chip prospects, including Shea Langeliers, a slugging catcher whose throwing arm is also powerful, and gifted center-fielder Cristian Pache, who had been slated to start for Atlanta for the second straight season. Injuries, coupled with an inability to hit, forced his exile to the minors a year ago.

The Braves also gave up hard-throwing right-handed starting pitchers Ryan Cusick, their No. 1 amateur draft pick, and Joey Estes. The former was plucked off the Wake Forest campus.

Barring a trade or free-agent signing, the Braves figure to fill their center-field vacancy with Adam Duvall, who played well there during the World Series, while bidding time in right field for the return of Acuña, recuperating from a torn ACL.

General manager Alex Anthopoulos, who engineered the Olson trade by overwhelming Oakland with almost-ready-for-prime-time prospects, could bring back any of three outfielders, now free agents, who helped the Braves win their first World Series in 26 years: Jorge Soler, Eddie Rosario, or Joc Pederson.

Ozuna, who is defensively deficient, could wind up as the club’s designated hitter – especially if Duvall, a Gold Glove winner last year, winds up in one of the corners. Acuña is not due to return until May, though his early spring camp performance suggests otherwise.

Olson may need some time to win the affection of Atlanta fans who considered Freeman the Face of the Franchise since the 2012 retirement of Chipper Jones. One of the rare players to spend his whole career with one club, Jones played 19 seasons in a Braves uniform and is still a special hitting instructor for the team.

Olson is donating $1.68MM to the Atlanta Braves Foundation as part of his new deal.