Braves sign new pickup Olson to 8-year deal

March 15th, 2022

NORTH PORT, Fla. -- As Matt and Nicole Olson prepared for their wedding in November, there were already rumors about the possibility of him being Plan B if his hometown Braves didn’t re-sign Freddie Freeman.

Olson was intrigued by the possibility and concerned it might become reality at an inopportune time.

“My wife and I were joking for a while that it was going to happen as we were walking down the aisle,” Olson said. “[My agent] B.B. [Abbott] was going to be at the wedding and he was going to call it off and say, ‘We have some breaking news here.’”

Speaking of breaking news, as the Braves were introducing Olson during a press conference on Tuesday, they announced they had already signed him to an eight-year, $168 million contract that includes a $20 million club option for the 2030 season. Abbott and Braves president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos constructed the deal within the first 10 hours that elapsed after Atlanta acquired Olson from the A’s on Monday.

“I called B.B. Abbott and said, ‘We will come with a big offer and we will be very aggressive,’” Anthopoulos said. “I said, ‘We’d like to have something done by [1 p.m. ET], if we can.’”

Thanks to the diligence shown by Anthopoulos and Abbott, the Braves were able to proudly announce this agreement as Olson strolled into his 1 p.m. press conference. Atlanta has its first baseman for the remainder of this decade, and Olson has a chance to fill the childhood dreams he developed while growing up rooting for Chipper Jones and the Braves.

“I think it was kind of a quick decision,” Olson said. “But when you look at everything, every box is checked here. Obviously, this team just won the World Series and it’s got a good young core. It’s my hometown and my family lives in Atlanta. The list could go on and on.”

Though Olson has spent his entire career with the A’s, his connection to the Braves goes beyond his childhood fandom. He has long had a connection to both Jones and Brian McCann, who were also represented by Abbott. He went to Parkview High School, which also boasts current Braves broadcaster Jeff Francoeur as an alumnus.

And Olson grew up in the Atlanta area at the same time as Dansby Swanson. The two were planning to room together at Vanderbilt University before the A’s took Olson with the 47th overall selection in the 2012 MLB Draft.

All of these connections could help as Olson transitions to a new team and deals with the unavoidable pressure of replacing Freeman as Atlanta’s first baseman.

“Freddie’s obviously an amazing player,” Olson said. “It’s just not going to affect what I come here to do. I’m here to be Matt Olson and that’s all I can really control.”

If Olson is the same player he has been the past few years, the Braves will continue to have an MVP caliber player at first base. The 27-year-old left-handed slugger ranked first among all American League first basemen with the 13.2 fWAR he produced from 2018-21.

Freeman led MLB first basemen with a 16.9 fWAR over this span of four seasons. But he is five years older and would have been more expensive. The Braves moved toward acquiring Olson after accepting that Freeman would not accept a five-year deal worth approximately $140 million.

Olson will make $15 million during the upcoming season and $21 million in 2023. He will draw an annual salary of $22 million from 2024-29, and there is a $20 million club option (no buyout) for 2030. The veteran first baseman will be 35 years old at the end of the 2029 season.

The 32-year-old Freeman would have cost the Braves closer to $30 million per season through at least 2026, when he will be 37 years old.

What was Olson’s reaction to the numbers within this offer?

“It was one of those where I had to double take, and say, ‘Wait a minute, what did you say?’” Olson said. “It’s my hometown. I just bought a house there and I just got traded there, and you want to ink a deal and have security to be there for a while? It was just, ‘Yes,’ the whole way and something I was prepared to do.”

Olson has vivid memories of being a high school kid who celebrated Jason Heyward’s great 2010 debut and Freeman’s 2011 rookie season. A little more than a decade later, he finds himself replacing the iconic Freeman and looking forward to the comforts of home.

“We bought and closed on a house in August,” Olson said. “I was telling somebody we were going to be worried about who would get the mail and stuff [during the regular season]. We don’t have to worry about that anymore.”