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Examining the Braves prospect package that netted Matt Olson

Examining the Braves prospect package that netted Matt Olson

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

-Clint Manry

Agree or disagree with Monday’s deal between the Braves and A’s, one thing’s for sure: GM Alex Anthopoulos will not be influenced by a fan base, even just months after winning a World Series. In perhaps the biggest storyline of the offseason thus far (other than the lockout of course), Atlanta traded away an army of prospects to Oakland in exchange for first baseman Matt Olson, all but guaranteeing that Freddie Freeman will play for a different team this coming season.

The news was surprising, yet exciting at the same time. A part of me always assumed the Braves would re-sign its franchise player… but I guess that’s what happens when you assume.

Braves get – Matt Olson, 1B

A’s get – Cristian Pache, OF / Shea Langeliers, C / Joey Estes, RHP / Ryan Cusick, RHP

Did the Braves give up too much?

My first impression is… yes. Although that doesn’t necessarily make it a bad deal. I’m perhaps a bit higher on all four of the Atlanta prospects, but per my 2022 Offseason Braves Prospect List, the Braves just sent over four top 15 prospects to Oakland (three of which are in my top 10), which, I don’t care who you’re getting in return, is a lot. But, it’s obviously not that simple. A prospect’s rank doesn’t always provide enough context. It’s much better to look at each player, one at a time.

Cristian Pache, OF

#2 on my 2022 Offseason List

Seeing Pache’s name on this deal really surprised me – for a few reasons. One, the Braves have invested so much in this kid, for so long, and for several years now he’s been the organization’s annual top prospect. Plus, given the outfielder’s atrocious showing in the big leagues last season (to go with a rather middling performance even in the minors), I figured his stock would be too low at this point anyways for Atlanta to try and include him in any trade. Of course, you could also make the case that now is the perfect time to move Pache. His struggles at the plate in 2021 didn’t feature enough of a sample-size to really cause too much concern for interested teams, his famous glove and athleticism are definitely still obvious attributes, and most importantly, if Pache really is more of a Jarrod Dyson than a future Hall of Famer, the Braves are much better off cutting ties now than waiting until it’s too late, after everyone else finds out.

We aren’t robots, though, so it still hurts to see Pache gone. Many of us have been following this kid for six years now. However, if I’m being honest, I’m a lot less sad about it than I thought I would be.

Shea Langeliers, C

#3 on my 2022 Offseason List

I think it’s pretty much universal for Braves Country, but Langeliers being part of this trade is perhaps the one that hurts the most. And it makes sense: of the four prospects Atlanta sent to Oakland, it’s his stock that has risen the most since the Braves selected him first in the 2019 MLB Draft. Langeliers is on track to debut real soon, given how he crushed Double-A last season, and compared to William Contreras, I felt like it was the former that had the better shot at becoming the Braves next homegrown catcher. But like all prospects, nothing is guaranteed. And honestly, we shouldn’t forget just how talented Contreras is. While Langeliers raked with Mississippi in 2021, Contreras wound up posting damn good numbers with Triple-A Gwinnett, going on to hit .290 with nine home runs in 44 games (133 wRC+). The power was also there while he was in Atlanta (8 HR in 52 games), even if he struggled at times.

This deal essentially gives Michael Harris II the centerfielder-of-the-future title, but in terms of the biggest winners from Monday’s blockbuster trade, perhaps it’s Contreras that benefits the most. Obviously, the Braves have a ton of confidence that he can take the next step and become the long-term catcher soon, so maybe we should feel that way too.

Joey Estes, RHP

#10 on my 2022 Offseason List

Perhaps Estes flies under the radar a bit, but make no mistake, this was a potential no. 2 or 3 starter for the Braves. Still just 20-years-old, the righty is of course a few years away from realistically having a shot at the majors, but so far as a pro, the kid has certainly exceeded expectations, especially given he was a 16th-round pick. The power-pitching profile (11.5 K/9 with Single-A Augusta in 2021) and the fact that he’s blown away opposing batters thus far, has Estes looking at a High-A or Double-A assignment for 2022 (depending how aggressive you want to be with him). There’s always some reliever risk with young arms like this, but I’m afraid the Braves just traded away a bonafide starting pitcher.

Ryan Cusick, RHP

#12 on my 2022 Offseason List

For all we know, it could be Cusick that winds up being the biggest star from this deal. But given the Braves just drafted him last summer, the 22-year-old hasn’t been a pro long enough to cause us to feel too many emotions about him being gone. I’m probably higher on him than most as FanGraphs feels pretty strongly that he’s a future reliever, due to some reoccurring issues with walks. Regardless, and even though it was just in Single-A, Cusick averaged a whopping 18.7 strikeouts per nine in six starts last season, and his walk problems didn’t seem to carry over from college as he averaged just 2.2 walks per nine. Whether it’s out of the bullpen or pitching every fifth day, the 6-foot-6, 235-pound Cusick is no doubt a talented arm, and it’s easy to see why the A’s wanted him in this deal.

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