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Olson in, Freeman out in Atlanta

Matt Olson

Matt Olson

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

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For so long, it seemed inevitable that Freddie Freeman would re-sign with the Braves. Doubt has been creeping in for a while now, though, and on Monday the team announced with another move that they would be moving on from the franchise icon.

In a blockbuster trade, the Braves acquired Matt Olson from the Athletics in exchange for catching prospect Shea Langeliers, outfield prospect Cristian Pache and pitching prospects Ryan Cusick and Joey Estes.

Olson is coming off a season in which he posted a .271/.371/.540 batting line with 39 home runs, 111 RBI and 101 runs scored. He made his first All-Star team and finished eighth in the American League MVP voting.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Olson’s 2021 campaign is that he cut his strikeout rate all the way down to 16.8 percent. This is a guy who whiffed at a 31.4 percent rate in 2020 and who entered last year with a career strikeout rate of 26.1 percent. It was an astounding improvement and he was able to pull it off while still being elite in terms of quality of contact and drawing walks.

Truist Park is a good place to hit, particularly for left-handed power, ranking 11th in Statcast Park Factors in terms of homers for lefties with a mark of 109. Oakland Coliseum ranks 23rd with a mark of 83.

Olson will also now be hitting in the middle of a potent Braves lineup, escaping what’s looking to be a roster teardown in Oakland. It’s a nice uptick in fantasy value for the 27-year-old, and he’ll remain under team control for 2023.

The cost to acquire Olson wasn’t cheap, of course. Langeliers had been considered the Braves’ top prospect and now, along with Tyler Soderstrom, gives the A’s two of the best catching prospects in the game. Pache is a defensive wizard in center field who is still looking to find his groove at the plate. Cusick was the Braves’ first-round pick in last year’s Draft, and immediately became a top-15 prospect for Oakland, too.

Langeliers could have a shot to debut in 2022, particularly if the A’s wind up trading Sean Murphy. Pache could compete for the Opening Day center field job and might require Ramon Laureano – a gifted defender in his own right – to move to a corner spot when he returns from suspension. As things stand right now, Seth Brown might be the favorite to start at first base for Oakland, although Eric Thames could get a look if the A’s would rather play Brown more in the outfield. Brown has the power to be useful in deep leagues.

As for Freeman, he’s still looking for a job. The Dodgers seemed to move into the driver’s seat for Freeman’s services for most prognosticators after the Olson trade, and they might very well be the favorites. However, the Blue Jays seem to be making a push, the Yankees can’t be ruled out and even the Rays have reportedly made a play, too.

Tatis Jr. out Months after Wrist Fracture

Last week, my colleagues George Bissell and D.J. Short debated as to whether Fernando Tatis Jr. or Trea Turner was more worthy of being the No. 1 overall pick in fantasy leagues.

Unfortunately, it’s all a moot argument now.

On Monday, the first full day of Padres camp, it was revealed that Tatis Jr. is dealing with a fractured left wrist which is expected to require surgery. The operation would likely sideline him for up to three months.

“It’s terrible,” said Tatis. “I feel like everybody’s disappointed, especially me. I feel like we have a pretty good chance this year as a team, and I just want to be out there for my teammates.”

As for how Tatis Jr. was injured, well, no one is 100 percent sure. But, he was involved in a motorcycle accident in December in his native Dominican Republic. He suffered what he referred to “bumps and bruises” during the accident but thought that his wrist was okay.

However, Tatis Jr. said that he first felt his wrist flare up about a month ago while taking swings. He thought it was something he could gut through, but the pain worsened as he ramped things up. That prompted the exam, which revealed the unfortunate new.

While Tatis Jr. still needs to undergo further testing before a final decision is made, president of baseball operations A.J. Preller said that “It looks like it’s headed for a surgery.” Preller did note that Tatis Jr. has “obviously been a quick healer with some injuries in the past,” but the current projection has the star sidelined likely until at least mid-June.

Three months of Tatis Jr. is still a plenty valuable fantasy asset, one which could still go inside the top 100 picks. He does still have the lingering shoulder issues, though, so the risky is aplenty.

As for what the Padres will do at shortstop, they plan to stay in-house. Ha-Seong Kim will probably get the first shot, but Jake Cronenworth also has plenty of experience at the position. Kim had just a .622 OPS over 298 plate appearances during his first season in San Diego. He did show some tools, though, with a max exit velocity in the 85th percentile and a sprint speed in the 83rd percentile. The 26-year-old is a worthy late-round dart throw in hopes he can provide some pop and speed.

Winker, Suarez Shipped to Seattle

Fresh off the transaction freeze being lifted, Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto said last Friday that he “woke up this morning ready to transact.”

On Monday, he made a big transaction.

The Mariners acquired Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez from the Reds, sending Justin Dunn, Jake Fraley and pitching prospect Brandon Williamson to Cincinnati in exchange. The Reds will also receive a player to be named later in the deal.

Winker is considered the big get here. He’s coming off an All-Star season, having put up a .305/.394/.556 batting line with 24 home runs, 32 doubles and 71 RBI over 110 games. He boasts a .888 OPS for his career and a .945 OPS over the last two seasons.

Winker is not without his drawbacks. His 485 plate appearances in 2021 exceeded his previous career high by more than 100, due mostly to a multitude of injuries. He missed virtually all of the final six weeks of last season with an intercostal strain.

The left-handed hitter also can’t hit left-handed pitching. Like, at all. Winker has a .600 OPS in his career versus southpaws and had a .572 OPS against them last season. He’s a defensive liability in the outfield and isn’t a good baserunner, either.

However, what Winker can do is absolutely obliterate right-handed pitching. In his career, he’s hit .313/.405/.556 against righties. Last year, he batted .346/.428/.642 with 21 of his 24 homers against them.

A move from Great American Ball Park – where Winker has produced a .937 OPS – to T-Mobile Park isn’t ideal. GABP ranks No. 3 in Statcast Park Factors for left-handed batters, while T-Mobile is dead last. Downgrading Winker a bit in fantasy in sensible, although we’d still expect him to hit anywhere. It’s mostly about staying healthy for the 28-year-old.

Many are referring to Suarez as a salary dump. That’s probably not totally fair, even though the Reds are no doubt happy to be rid of the $35 million he’s still owed as they begin what looks to be a rebuild.

Suarez has seen his strikeouts go up and batting averages go down in recent years, with him bottoming out at .198 in 2021. He was positively dreadful with a .169/.255/.363 batting line through the first five months of last season. A massive September (1.268 OPS, eight home runs) allowed him to raise his OPS nearly 100 points.

Since 2018, no one in baseball has hit more home runs than Suarez’s 129. His hard-hit rates have been more good than great even at his peak, but Suarez has posted elite barrel rates each of the last three seasons and hits a ton of flyballs. He’s going to have his fair share of weak contact, but the home runs should be there even with a ballpark downgrade.

As for the Reds’ return, Dunn and Fraley should immediately have roles with the big club. Dunn had shoulder problems last year and has had real issues throwing strikes at the big league level. He’s still just 26 and is a former top-100 prospect, so there’s plenty of time to figure things out. We wouldn’t expect much in 2022, though.

Fraley had a stretch in the middle of last season when he was a useful fantasy piece, particularly in June when he clubbed five homers and stole four bases. He ultimately fizzled out down the stretch and, like Winker, had also had numerous health issues. Fraley should slide into the left field role against righties in Cincy.

Mike Moustakas had seemed pegged for DH duties but now figures to handle third base with Suarez out of town. The path to playing time also now gets easier for Jose Barrero, who has struggled in his brief time in the majors but is coming off a big season in the minors.

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American League Quick Hits: Jayson Stark and Matt Gelb of The Athletic have reported that MLB and the MLBPA are discussing the possibility of restoring the rule which places a runner on second base to begin extra innings. … Jon Heyman of MLB Network has reported that the Blue Jays are making a “big push” to sign Kyle Schwarber. … Ken Rosenthal and Nick Groke of The Athletic have reported that the Rockies are going after Kris Bryant, with Heyman adding that they’re “aggressively pursuing” the third baseman/outfielder. … Kyle Lewis (knee) is considered healthy but is not expected to be on the Mariners’ Opening Day roster as they proceed cautiously with him. … Michael Kopech is behind schedule in camp because of an offseason illness. … Joe Kelly (biceps) is not expected to be ready for the start of the season. … Jon Morosi of MLB Network has reported that the Twins have discussed Frankie Montas and Sean Manaea in trade scenarios with the A’s. … Lance McCullers (forearm) will begin the year on the injured list after having a “setback or two” this winter, Astros manager Dusty Baker said Monday.

National League Quick Hits: According to Daniel Álvarez-Montes of El Extrabase, Andrew McCutchen has agreed to a contract with the Brewers. … Starling Marte was held out of workouts Monday with a sore oblique. … Zac Gallen has dealt with a case of shoulder bursitis this offseason. He’s slated to throw off a mound on Tuesday. … Zack Wheeler (shoulder) threw off a mound Monday with no issues. He will throw another bullpen session Thursday. … Jacob deGrom said Monday that he will exercise the opt-out clause in his contract after the season but hopes to remain with the Mets. … Alex Reyes has not thrown off a mound yet this offseason because of a sore shoulder. … Taijuan Walker is recovering from knee surgery but hasn’t been ruled out for Opening Day. … Aaron Ashby will be stretched out as a starter this spring. … The Rockies inked Chad Kuhl to a one-year, $3 million deal. … The Phillies gave Brad Hand a one-year, $6 million contract. … Ian Happ had a cleanup surgery on his right elbow in February, but the hope is that he can be ready for Opening Day. … Adbert Alzolay is expected to open the season on the IL with shoulder tightness. … The Giants designated Hunter Harvey for assignment Monday. … Jakob Junis has inked a one-year, $1.75 million deal with the Giants. … Sixto Sanchez (shoulder) remains shut down due to renewed discomfort. … Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post has reported that the Nationals are signing Sean Doolittle to a major league contract. … The Phillies are expected to re-sign Odubel Herrera. … Ian Kennedy signed a one-year, $4.75 million deal with the D-backs.