Oakland A’s: Dear Matt Olson, stay in the Bay and please don’t leave

Aug 8, 2021; Oakland, California, USA; Oakland Athletics first baseman Matt Olson (28) during the eighth inning against the Texas Rangers at RingCentral Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 8, 2021; Oakland, California, USA; Oakland Athletics first baseman Matt Olson (28) during the eighth inning against the Texas Rangers at RingCentral Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports /

Matt Olson is living his best life. He had the best season of his career in 2021, at times single-handedly carrying an Oakland A’s offense to 86 wins.

Yes, I know, Matt Olson has no control over where he ends up in 2022. It just had a better ring to it than “Dear Billy Beane and Dave Kaval.” On top of already having the best hair in Major League Baseball (don’t take my word for it, the reporters on the ground can attest), Olson also had career highs in average (.271), OBP (.371), OPS (.911), and had his best years in terms of strikeout and walk rate (16.8 and 13.1% respectively). On top of all of that, he got married in the offseason … but that’s beside the point.

The Matt Olson rumor mill starts churning

About halfway through the offseason, the good ol’ rumor mill started churning that the Oakland A’s were ready to begin a new round of the franchise’s patented cycle. It goes something like this: Get prospects, develop them, compete for a few years, then, when it comes time for the player to reap the rewards of his development, punt them as far away from the Bay Area as you can for prospects to repeat.

All five of Oakland’s core pieces (Olson, Matt Chapman, Chris Bassitt, Sean Manaea, and Frankie Montas) were said to all be available in some capacity. While it certainly makes no sense to keep all of them, if Oakland were to keep any player or, for that matter, any combination of the five, the A’s should keep Olson.

I understand the A’s shouldn’t run out the same team (minus Starling Marte) that missed the second AL Wild Card by six games even with Marte being a key contributor down the stretch. I’m also well aware of the fact that, regardless of what the new CBA looks like, the A’s will likely be one of the lighter payrolls in the league (by a lot).

Why Matt Olson?

Well let’s start with the obvious reason: He’s the best player of the five. Being in a smaller market like Oakland has significantly hampered the national audience’s ability to appreciate just how good Matt Olson is. I don’t think Matt Olson minds that, by the way, as he is about as cool as they come when dealing with the media (which, if he does go to a place like New York, is sure to be watched up at least a hundred times what is in Oakland). Other than the stats mentioned above, he’s also a perennial Gold Glove candidate at first base and probably would have been my personal choice for the 2021 season.

What’s probably most encouraging though is that Olson had always been seen as a true “three outcome” guy (plate appearance ending in either a walk, home run, or strikeout). Olson still falls in that category but, in 2021, the walks and home runs went up and the strikeout numbers went down. Who needs singles and doubles when you can do that?

Next, he’s also the youngest of the quintet rumored to be on the trading block (he has Montas and Chapman beat by about a year). Olson will be two days removed from his 28th birthday come what is scheduled to be Opening Day. After all, 27 or 28 is probably the number that you think of when asked to describe someone’s prime baseball age. Given Oakland’s track record over the past decade of how quickly they can complete a rebuild, Olson will only be about 31 when the “rebuild” is complete. Olson also has the type of game that will mature well with age, and A’s fans don’t worry about Olson having an Albert Pujols-esque fall from grace in his mid 30s. The worst-case scenario is that he slides into first base/designated hitter role in the twilight years of his career and keeps mashing. His game has always been based on technique and instinct. He has such a simple swing that it’s hard to imagine much going wrong.

There is also no first baseman in sight, at least internally, that would take over for Olson. Presumably if Olson gets traded, you would like to get a first baseman prospect back in return either in this trade or some other trade involving someone else. That seems like creating a problem, then fixing the problem you created and patting yourself on the back for your accomplishments.

With prospects like AJ Puk, newly acquired Brent Honeywell, and Daulton Jeffries already ready for MLB action, it makes starters somewhat expendable. Plus, with Zack Gelof, a third baseman who Oakland took in the second round of the 2021 draft, tearing it up in the minor leagues last year and expected to be ready right around the time a two- to three-year rebuild is finished, Chapman isn’t necessarily a keystone piece either.

Finally, do you really want to ship him to a team like the Yankees? Unlike Oakland, the Yankees, with their unlimited resources, will definitely be perennial contenders.

Next. Potential destinations for every Oakland trade asset. dark

For Billy Beane and Dave Kaval, if Matt Olson is going to hit a home run at Yankee Stadium in the 2024 ALCS over the short right porch, he better be wearing green and not pinstripes.