A's 'excited' to land Braves' top prospects Pache, Langeliers, more for Olson

Forst: 'It would be hard to overstate' slugger's impact on organization

March 14th, 2022

MESA, Ariz. -- Less than 48 hours after pulling off one high-profile trade, the A’s were at the center of yet another blockbuster deal on Monday, this time sending All-Star first baseman Matt Olson to the Braves in exchange for a package of players that included Atlanta’s top two prospects.

Headlining the return for the A’s is outfielder Cristian Pache, No. 69 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects list, and catcher Shea Langeliers (No. 68 on the Top 100 and previously poised to be ranked Atlanta's No. 1 prospect in the soon-to-be updated rankings for 2022). Oakland also received right-handers Ryan Cusick (Atlanta’s No. 6 prospect) and Joey Estes (Atlanta’s No. 14 prospect) in the move.

A's get: C Shea Langeliers, OF Cristian Pache, RHP Ryan Cusick,RHP Joey Estes
Braves get: 1B Matt Olson

Pache is considered one of the most exciting young prospects in baseball, and it's easy to see why with his tremendous speed and elite Gold Glove-caliber defense in center field. Though questions have been raised about his offense, he showed improvement at Triple-A Gwinnett last season, batting .265 with 11 home runs, 44 RBIs and nine stolen bases in 89 games. He also got some Major League time with the Braves in 2021, appearing in 22 games.

The 23-year-old outfielder will join the A’s in Major League camp. With Ramón Laureano still going through a suspension that will require him to miss the first 27 games of the regular season, Pache could certainly be in the mix for the center field job. A’s general manager David Forst said it’s too early to determine that, though expectations will certainly be high.

“What we know is that he’s probably one of the best defensive outfielders anyone has seen in the Minor Leagues in a long time,” Forst said of Pache. “Guys who get to the big leagues at 21 years old, it’s a really good sign for what’s ahead of them. We’re excited about his future.”

Langeliers raised his profile even higher in 2021 with a breakout year on offense, slashing .256/.339/.494 over a combined 97 games at Double-A and Triple-A. His work behind the plate is what truly stands out, with excellent pitch-framing skills and what scouts believe to be arguably the best throwing arm of any catcher in the Minor Leagues.

Cusick is a power arm selected 24th overall by the Braves in the 2021 Draft, and features a fastball that has been clocked as high as 102 mph. He debuted at Low-A last season and posted a 2.76 ERA with a superb 34 strikeouts across 16 1/3 innings in six starts. Estes, a teammate of Cusick's in Augusta, made 20 starts and racked up 127 strikeouts to go with a 2.91 ERA over 99 innings pitched.

“We’re really pleased with the players coming back,” said Forst. “That has to be our focus right now. Between the pro scouts and our front office, we put a lot of work into analyzing players and trying to get the right combination. I can say all four of these guys are players we’ve talked about in the past and all four are guys we’re excited about.”

Absent from the postseason last year for the first time since 2017 with a record of 86-76, the A’s went into the offseason facing uncertainty over the future of their many core players set to earn high salary raises through arbitration. During an end-of-year conference back in October, executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane said the ability to retain these players would hinge on the level of payroll flexibility for 2022. With the A’s having also dealt last year’s ace pitcher, Chris Bassitt, to the Mets on Saturday, it appears a bit more clear that the club might be entering a rebuild phase, seeking to replenish a low-ranked farm system.

The moves might not stop here. Other A’s such as Matt Chapman, Sean Manaea and Frankie Montas have increasingly had their names floated around in trade rumors over the past few days. Asked if he expects to any further transactions to take place, Forst said, “Everything is fluid,” regarding ongoing conversations with other clubs.

“This is the reality of our situation,” Forst said, in reference to the payroll crunch, adding that it is “imperative” for the franchise to finalize a deal for a new ballpark in order to keep stars like Olson around longer in the future.

Parting ways with Olson hit a little more closely for Forst than other moves he’s made in the past. The first baseman was a homegrown talent, drafted by Oakland in the first round of the 2012 MLB Draft and developed through the organization.

Reaching the big leagues in 2017, Olson soon emerged as a cornerstone of the franchise, capturing two Gold Glove Awards over the following five seasons and becoming a first-time All-Star – which also included an appearance in the Home Run Derby -- in a 2021 campaign that saw him hit .271 with 39 homers and a .911 OPS.

“It would be hard to overstate his impact on the organization,” Forst said of Olson. “He’s an All-Star player and an All-Star person. He will be missed by our fans, by everyone in that clubhouse and by those of us that had to deliver the news today.”

Relieved to finally have a resolution to the trade speculation he’d watched unfold through social media in recent days, Olson is plenty excited to return to Atlanta. It’s where he grew up in a nearby suburb idolizing Braves legend Chipper Jones and attended Parkview High School.

At the same time, the feeling is bittersweet. Over the past decade, Olson has developed friendships with many in the A’s organization. Just this past November, several of Olson’s former teammates were groomsmen at his wedding. Safe to say, those relationships will carry on.

“I’m excited to go onto that next chapter and go to Atlanta, a team that’s so dedicated to winning and won it all last year,” Olson said. “I appreciate everything David, Billy and all the coaching staff has done for me along the way. It hurts that a lot of guys wanted to end up staying here and it just couldn’t end up happening. It’s the business of it.”