It seems safe to say that every Braves fan on the planet — and even the majority of MLB fans — think Freeman belongs in Atlanta.
But with the ways things have gone this offseason, it seems like it’s far from a sure thing that the 32-year-old will return to the Braves in 2022.
Before the MLB lockout went into effect, a rumor surfaced connecting the Braves to Oakland Athletics first baseman Matt Olson.
Braves have checked in on A’s star 1B Matt Olson, presumably as a contingency plan in case Freddie Freeman leaves via free agency. Most still have a hard time envisioning Freeman in any other uniform but Braves want to be prepared.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 1, 2021
Could the Braves replace Freeman (in the case that he signs elsewhere) with Olson?
It’s an interesting idea.
Let’s look at some of the pros and cons.
What To Like About The Idea
From a production standpoint, losing one elite first baseman (Freeman) and replacing him with another (Olson) would make a lot of sense.
Freeman and Olson are two of the best offensive first basemen in baseball, and Olson would be able to recreate a lot of the production that Freeman has provided for Atlanta in recent years.
For example, in the 2021 season, Olson posted an OPS of .911, OPS+ of 153, and bWAR of 5.8.
Matt Olson's 37th homer was a BOMB. pic.twitter.com/GoMSPOtwyK
— MLB (@MLB) September 22, 2021
Freeman, meanwhile, posted an OPS of .896, OPS+ of 133, and bWAR of 4.7.
In truth, Olson had a better 2021 campaign.
Obviously, that’s just a one-season sample (overall, these guys have similar career numbers), but it says a lot.
These guys are on virtually the same level.
Moreover, Olson is just 27 years old, and Freeman is 32.
Freeman is showing no signs of slowing down, but age catches up with every player eventually.
There’s no telling when that could happen.
That’s not a concern right now with Olson.
What To Dislike About The Idea
First off, let’s state the obvious: Freeman is the face of Atlanta’s organization, and Braves fans would be devastated to see him wearing another uniform.
But on top of that, the idea of replacing Freeman with Olson has one big flaw.
Oakland’s asking price for Olson is reportedly massive.
A’s said to be “shooting for the moon,” in early Matt Olson trade talks. Can’t blame em. 39 HR. .911 OPS. 5.8 WAR. 2 years ‘til free agency.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) November 20, 2021
Why give up talent and assets for Olson when you could retain Freeman simply by breaking out the checkbook?
The Braves have a window in front of them right now where they can contend for multiple World Series titles.
But if they’re forced to trade away some key big-league players to acquire a guy like Olson, then they could find themselves with a shortage of talent in other areas of their roster.
Whether Freeman ends up returning to the Braves in 2022 or not, he’ll always be a legend in the city of Atlanta.
There’s virtually no chance the club would have won the 2021 World Series without his contributions.
But the truth is that the Braves have a chance to win multiple titles with Freeman.
All they have to do is pay him what he’s worth.
Letting him walk would seem like a massive blunder.
Only time will tell what the five-time All-Star’s future holds, but it seems like most people are on the same page regarding what Atlanta needs to do here.