Atlanta Braves sign Matt Olson to 8-year, $168 million deal through 2029 season

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 -- and told Olson about his plans to make a big offer.

"I was like, 'What did you say?'" Olson recalled.

When Abbott subsequently detailed the offer, Olson hung up and said to family members: "What's there to say no to here?"

He gets to play for his hometown team. That is a championship-caliber club. For big money. Living in the Atlanta home that he and Nicole just bought.

As a first baseman, Olson gets to have conversations with other players when they reach base. Asked what he would say to Freeman when that next happens, he responded, "I don't know. ... We'll have to see what's up there."

Olson, who was not eligible for free agency until after the 2023 season, will make $15 million in 2022, $21 million in 2023 and then $22 million per season over the remainder of the deal. He also has agreed to donate $1.68 million to the Atlanta Braves Foundation.

He is a two-time Gold Glove winner with a .252 career average, 142 homers and an .859 OPS over six seasons. Olson hit 39 homers and drove in 111 runs last season, finishing eighth in AL MVP voting.

"Obviously, I know Atlanta," Olson said Monday. "It's an amazing place, World Series champs, my hometown. If there was one place to go and leave here, that's the place to do it. I'm excited about it."

It was the 10th contract of at least $100 million agreed to since the end of the World Series and the first since Major League Baseball's 99-day lockout ended last week.

Atlanta was not willing to make that sort of long-term commitment again to Freeman, who became a free agent after last season. Freeman, 32, was the 2020 NL MVP and a five-time All-Star over 12 seasons with Atlanta, including as a veteran leader on last year's championship team.

"Freddie is obviously an amazing player,'' Olson told reporters Tuesday. "It's just not going to affect what I come here and do. I'm here to be Matt Olson. That's all I can really control.''

The Associated Press contributed to this report.