The reality is that Freeman will soon be playing for another team for the first time in his career. The Braves need to move on – although Olson is a great player who will help them do that. Anthopoulos said he had never felt so much emotion related to a move as this one. “Not even close,” he added.
“A tough business,” the general manager said several times while speaking to reporters outside the Braves clubhouse at CoolToday Park.
And on Monday, Olson, who was in Arizona for Oakland spring training, told reporters, “There was obviously a lot of noise about it. I knew there was potential for something to happen. I can’t say enough about the A’s organization and what they have done for me. I’ve been here since 2012, so almost 10 years, my whole baseball career. It’s a bittersweet start. Obviously, I know Atlanta is an amazing place. World Series Champions. My hometown. If there was a place to go and leave from here, this is the place to do it. I’m excited about this.
Even though this trade may have hurt Anthopoulos, he explained it with good reason – and it made sense. He couldn’t go into detail, but it seemed like a timing issue. As Freeman’s situation dragged on, it may have become clear that the Braves wouldn’t re-sign him. But they couldn’t afford not to capitalize on their window to fight, which they still clearly believe is wide open.
“First base was something we wanted to settle, and it felt like it had to be first base for our offseason because we have other things to do,” Anthopoulos said. “I know all teams go through the same thing, trying to build their team. Exchange difficult to make.
The Braves have other needs. For example, Anthopoulos said, Ronald Acuña Jr. is unlikely to play on the court until late May. Atlanta has also attempted to take steps to strengthen its rotation and bullpen. The Braves looked at some positional players. Olson’s trade, the general manager said, was the first step that made sense for the organization, as difficult as it was to make.
In 12 seasons with the Braves, Freeman, selected in the second round of the 2007 draft, totaled 1,704 hits, 271 home runs and 941 RBIs. He hit .295 with .893 on-base plus slugging percentage. He also played excellent defense and was the club leader for a young group that won the World Series last year.
To be clear: Olson, a slugger, is the best first baseman the Braves could have acquired to replace Freeman. He’s an All-Star who won two Gold Glove Awards. He posted a career .859 on base plus slugging percentage and hit 142 home runs since 2016. At 28, he is almost 5 years younger than Freeman.
But for Braves fans, he’s not Freddie Freeman — no one is.
This is the difficult part. Olson is a stallion but will face unreasonable expectations because of the shoes he fills.
“He’s obviously a very good player,” Anthopoulos said of Olson. “I think the performance speaks for itself. The defense, the attack, the makeup, the person, the character. It certainly checks all of those boxes. One of the best first basemen in the game. That’s why it was so expensive. We are delighted to have him.
Olson is under control for the team for this season and next. Anthopoulos chose not to discuss the Braves’ chances of extending him, but the price paid on Monday would be a lousy deal if the club couldn’t make Olson their long-term first baseman.
“When you talk about fair deals, I guess they’re meant to hurt,” Anthopoulos said. “It hurts. It’s the biggest talent we’ve traded since I’ve been in Atlanta, it’s the best group of players, all of the above.
Anthopoulos said his job was not done. Specifically, he said the Braves’ payroll, estimated at $145 million by RosterResource, would increase this season. Olson will be cheaper than Freeman, allowing the Braves to allocate those funds elsewhere as well.
The general manager said there was a cap on the Braves’ payroll, but he didn’t elaborate. They have holes. They need to fill their outfield and they could use another starter.
“Whatever resources we have, I will do my best to put the best club on the pitch,” he said. “But that means making tough calls.”
As Braves manager Brian Snitker spoke to the media on the CoolToday Park field after the Braves’ first official practice during spring training, a reporter broke the shocking news that had just been announced. moments before: The Braves had acquired Olson, which everyone understood even then meant that Freeman was pretty much gone.
“Well,” Snitker said, pausing for a few seconds to digest it. “Really, this is new to me. I’ve been here two and a half hours.
This scene – with the Braves manager and Freeman’s longtime friend finding out about this trade in this way – symbolized the shock value of this move. He came out of nowhere. Olson always looked like he could be the Braves’ main target if they lost Freeman. But no one expected this move to happen even before Freeman left.
Braves fans would normally celebrate a move like this, one in which their team acquired a player of Olson’s caliber. But this move will come with mixed feelings because of the other end.
That was certainly the case for the general manager, who showed the emotion that told you all you needed to know: he wanted everything but officially leave his beloved franchise player. But he eventually had to put his emotions aside.
“With where we are as a club right now, after the World Series, I think we still feel good at a very competitive and competing club,” Anthopoulos said. “You negotiate now, and you negotiate later.”