Comparing Braves Trade For Matt Olson With Mark Teixeira Haul
It will take a while for many Braves fans to recover from the dawning reality that Freddie Freeman, one of the team’s best players of all time, will almost assuredly not be back after Atlanta traded for Matt Olson on Monday.
But there’s another interesting aspect of the Olson trade as well—it raises questions of how many similarities there are between the Olson deal and the Mark Teixeira trade that took place in 2007.
At the time, Teixeira was a 27-year-old who was viewed as one of the best first basemen in baseball. He was being brought back to Atlanta in the trade. The former Georgia Tech star had won two Gold Gloves at the time of the deal. He had a year and a half before he would reach free agency. To acquire him and lefthanded reliever Ron Mahay, the Braves sent shortstop Elvis Andrus, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, lefthander Matt Harrison, righthander Neftali Feliz and lefthander Beau Jones to the Rangers.
That was five prospects, including the Braves top three prospects in the 2007 preseason (Saltalamacchia, Andrus and Harrison) and two others who had ranked among the Braves top 15 prospects.
The Athletics return for Olson may fall a little short of what the Braves sent to Texas for Teixeira, but if you apply what was known at the time of the Teixeira trade, there are plenty of similarities. Like Teixeira, Olson is returning to Atlanta in the trade—Olson was a star at Parkview High in Lilburn. Like Teixeira, Olson was 27 at the time of the trade. And like Teixeira, Olson has won two Gold Gloves and is considered one of the best first basemen in the game.
Oakland received four prospects in return—catcher Shea Langeliers, outfielder Cristian Pache, righthander Ryan Cusick and righthander Joey Estes. Langeliers (No. 54 on the BA Top 100 Prospects list) and Pache (No. 84) ranked on the Top 100. Cusick was the Braves No. 9 prospect while Estes ranked 14th.
In 2007, Baseball America did not do updated midseason Top 100 Prospect rankings, so there isn’t an easy way to make a perfect comparison between when Teixeira was traded and when Olson was dealt.
Andrus, who ranked 65th coming into 2007, ranked as the 18th prospect in baseball in 2008. He raised his stock while playing in the High-A Carolina League that year. As such, he was a better prospect than anyone the A’s received in the Olson deal. Saltalamacchia ranked 36th in the 2007 Top 100 and graduated that year. He was seen as somewhat blocked in Atlanta by Brian McCann, but he had played well in limited action in Atlanta that season, and his prospect status had not yet begun to significantly dim.
Harrison ranked 90th on the 2007 Top 100. His velocity had dipped some that year, raising some concerns, and he did not rank in the Top 100 in 2008 before graduating to the big leagues. By midseason, he was best viewed as someone not in the Top 100, but not far off of it.
Feliz had yet to pitch in full-season ball when he was traded, but thanks to a powerful right arm, he was a prospect on the ascent. He ranked 93rd on the 2008 Top 100. Trying to put ourselves back to the midseason in 2007, it’s reasonable to say he wasn’t a Top 100 Prospect at the time of the trade, but much like Harrison, he wasn’t too far away from the Top 100, either. Jones’ prospect status had begun to decline by the time of the trade. He did not make the Rangers Top 30 in 2008 and he proved to be the only prospect the Rangers received to not make the majors.
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Comparing the two deals it’s reasonable to say that the Braves gave up a bigger trade package to acquire Teixeira than they did to land Olson, although the addition of Mahay alleviates some of that difference (Mahay pitched effectively in Atlanta’s bullpen before leaving as a free agent at the end of the season).
It’s reasonable to view Saltalamacchia and Langeliers as very similar prospects (judged at the time of the trades) although Saltalamacchia probably could be viewed as a slightly better prospect at the time. Andrus was a better prospect when traded than Pache is now, but he also was further from the big leagues. It’s reasonable to compare Cusick and Feliz—both were flamethrowers with reasonable risks of ending up in the bullpen, although the edge in talent goes to Feliz by a hair. Estes and Jones are comparable as well. The difference between Andrus and Pache and the addition of Harrison in the Teixeira trade tilts the scales in the 2007 trade’s favor.
So these two deals aren’t all that different even if Atlanta gave up a little more in 2007.
The Braves ended up regretting the Teixeira trade, but not because he failed to produce—they simply weren’t as good as they had hoped. He was supposed to be the difference-maker that drove Atlanta to the playoffs. The Braves were 55-51 when they acquired Teixeira. They went 29-27 the rest of the way, finishing out of the playoffs at 84-78. The next year, Atlanta was much worse. The Braves ended up dealing Teixeira to the Angels at the trade deadline for a very modest return (Casey Kotchman and Steven Marek) on their way to a 72-90 season. Teixeira did help the Angels make the playoffs—he hit .358/.449/.632 in 54 games with the Angels as Los Angeles went 36-22 after the trade to win 100 games that season.
The prospects the Braves gave up proved to be an excellent return for Texas and played a key role in the team’s back-to-back World Series appearances in 2010 and 2011. Andrus became the team’s everyday shortstop for 12 years and he made two all-star teams. Harrison’s peak was relatively brief, as injuries ended his career by the time he turned 29. But before that, he was one of Texas’ best starters in 2011 and 2012. Feliz was the Rookie of the Year in 2010 and the team’s closer for both the World Series teams. Saltalamacchia never won the Rangers catching job outright, but he did have a 12-year MLB career.
We don’t know yet what the A's will get out of the prospects they acquired for Olson, but if it turns out to be anything close to what the Rangers got for Teixeira, they will be able to come away reasonably satisfied with their return.
As for Atlanta, the defending World Series champs are a much better team than the one that acquired Teixeira. If Olson can come close to matching what Teixeira did in 2007 and 2008 (.306/.406/.557 with 63 home runs in 239 games), the Braves will be quite happy as well.