9:09am: The Yankees considered the Athletics’ asking price prior to the lockout far too high, tweet SNY’s Andy Martino, who adds that the Yanks made clear they would not include top shortstop prospect Anthony Volpe in a potential deal.
7:45am: The lockout is over, and in the coming days, the dam will break on a historic flood of transactions. Athletics first baseman Matt Olson headlines a deep class of trade targets and serves as the focal point of a prospective Athletics fire sale, which GM David Forst alluded to back in November when acknowledging that the team would have to listen to trade offers on the majority of its roster this winter. It’s already known that the Rangers and Yankees are among the teams with interest in Olson, but their efforts to acquire him can now resume in earnest.
Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports that the Rangers planned to reach out to the A’s shortly after the lockout lifted to rekindle talks. Texas, however, would need to be confident in his ability to sign Olson to a contract extension before making a deal, per Grant. That’s sensible, as even after spending a half-billion dollars to sign Corey Seager and Marcus Semien, the Rangers are still a ways from contending. Olson is only controlled another two seasons, and if a playoff run in 2022 isn’t a legitimate possibility, then the prospect of really only having Olson for one year of earnest contention would make the sky-high prospect price perhaps unpalatable.
As for the Yankees, Newsday’s Erik Boland tweet that Olson is their preferred option for an upgrade at first base. The Yanks currently have Luke Sees (a trade candidate himself) and DJ LeMahieu as in-house options, but Voit is coming off an injury-marred season and doesn’t have nearly the same defensive prowess as Olson. LeMahieu is looking for a rebound at the plate himself and is better deployed as a second baseman or third baseman, where his glove carries more value. As we explored during the lockout, there are plenty of options for the Yankees, who have also been rumored to have varying degrees of interest in free agents Freddie Freeman and Anthony Rizzo.
With regard to the Rangers, it shouldn’t be assumed that they’ll be in on Freeman or Rizzo if they miss out on Olson. Grant characterizes Olson and lefty Clayton Kershaw as something of specialty targets for the Rangers, suggesting that if they’re not successful in acquiring one or both players, there may only be an additional $10-15MM in total spending for Texas this winter. Absent a deal for Olson, the Rangers would likely turn first base back over to Nathaniel Lowewho had a solid year at the plate in 2021 (.264/.357/.415, 18 homers).
Texas and New York will be just two of a wide swath of teams interested in prying Olson away from Oakland. The Braves are known to have some interest as well but would probably only make a strike to acquire Olson if they know for certain that Freeman is headed elsewhere. Freeman, the 2020 NL MVP, has been linked to the Dodgers, Yankees, Blue Jays and even the Rays, who made him an offer before the lockout. The markets of the two star first basemen are inextricably linked, and with Freeman expected to act quickly in making a decision post-lockout, the market for Olson could soon gain some clarity.
While the A’s will be listening on more than just Olson — Matt Chapman, Frankie Montas, Sean Manaea, Chris Bassitt, Ramon Laureano and Lou Trivino could also be marketed — there’s little denying that Olson is the headliner of their options and, arguably, of the entire trade market. The 2021 All-Star and two-time Gold Glover belted a career-high 39 home runs last year while posting the best all-around production of his Major League tenure. Olson hit .271/.371/.540 and maintained a huge 13.1% walk rate while simultaneously cutting his once-problematic strikeout rate from 31.4% in 2020 all the way down to 16.8%. He’s projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $12MM this coming season.