NORTH PORT, Florida — The first call from a general manager to a newly acquired player is usually perfunctory, a simple welcome. But when Atlanta Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos phoned Matt Olson on Monday after acquiring the All-Star first baseman in a trade for the Oakland Athletics’ slugger, he had more news.
Anthopoulos told Olson that his next call would go to Olson’s agent to open conversations about a long-term deal.
About 24 hours later, Olson signed an eight-year, $168 million contract with the Braves to culminate a series of events that he repeatedly referred to as “whirlwind.”
The deal, announced Tuesday, runs through the 2029 season. It also includes a $20 million club option for 2030 with no buyout.
Said Olson, who rooted for the Braves while growing up in the Atlanta area: “The stars kind of aligned perfectly.”
Maybe for the Braves’ leadership, as well, because this move could help to deflect criticism over the handling of their negotiations with longtime first baseman Freddie Freeman. When Anthopoulos completed the deal for Olson, he effectively closed the door on a return to Atlanta for Freeman, who had been with the organization for 15 years and was a fan favorite. The Braves’ ownership had not finished a deal with Freeman last spring, or last season, angering a lot of loyal fans who believed the team was being cheap.
But the Olson contract is the largest in the organization’s history — besting that of Freeman’s $135 million deal before the 2014 season — and the 27-year-old slugger is immediately installed as a centerpiece for the Braves for years to come, alongside Ronald Acuna Jr., Max Fried and Ozzie Albies.
“He is now part of this core,” Anthopoulos said Tuesday. “He wanted to be here.”
Olson bought a home in Atlanta last August, and he had joked with his fiancée that they would have to arrange for somebody to pick up the mail. With the Athletics fielding offers for Olson at the outset of the offseason, he mentioned to her, joking again, that the November wedding might be interrupted by Olson’s agent, BB Abbott.
On Monday, Oakland general manager David Forst met with Olson before the first full-squad workout and told him they couldn’t let Olson go on the field because he might be at risk for an injury at a time when a deal seemed close. After the Braves gave up a package of prospects for Olson, Anthopoulos made the phone call …….