Is the free agency system fair?

Just one day after being traded from the Oakland Athletics to the Atlanta Braves, Matt Olson agreed to an eight-year, multi-year deal with the reigning Major League champions.

With the weight of what was his best campaign in MLB during 2021, Olson was a highly sought-after piece in the league’s transfer market, requests that were finally accepted by the Athletics, sending his top figure to other waters.

The first baseman came to the Braves as an idea to fill Freddie Freeman’s shoes in the short, medium and long term for the franchise, a transaction that meant sending five prospects to Oakland for Atlanta, the sacrificed being Cristian Pache, Shea Langeliers, Joey Estes, and Ryan Cusick.

After making a multiple-chip trade for Olson’s services, the Braves’ management’s next step seemed written, intending to execute an offer to keep said long-term investment within the franchise, a player who by 2022 and 2023 would still maintain salary arbitration payments.

Avoiding all the martyrdom of what the arbitration hearings refer to, the player and the Braves closed an agreement on Tuesday for the player’s next 8 seasons from 2022, as well as the remuneration of what would be the contract for the amount of US $168 million.

Olson comes to the Braves leaving the record of 5.0 Wins Above Replacement Level (fWAR) in the aforementioned campaign, a mark that was ranked second among all Major League starters.

Fangraphs, a site specializing in tracking new-gen records, under the Value/WAR statistic that projects the value of the player by his mark of Wins Above Replacement Level contributed, assumed that Olson was worth $40.3 million for his season of 2021.

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Far from being compared to what his average annual salary will be in his agreement with the Braves of US$21 million, well below the value of the first baseman today, according to his production.

High value projections for his fWAR records have not been a unique case of 2021 for Olson who, shortened 2020 season aside, posted 3.9 fWAR in 2019, receiving a projected $31 million for his performance, while for its 3.5 fWAR in 2018, was valued at $28.1 million.

The level of play will not always be what dictates the value of a player at the time of his contract, issues such as age take a heavy toll on these deals, with the aforementioned being without a doubt the biggest factor against Olson.

The player will start said contract in what will be his 28-year-old season in the MLB. Had he not exercised the deal, the Braves would still have both the 2022 and 2023 seasons to retain his services, before naturally becoming a free agent at 30, a factor of little convenience to him.

With age against him, refusing a proposal of this type is clearly not a recommendable position regardless of the fact that the player could aspire to higher bonuses for his value, when in his career he will possibly only have a single long-term contract option .

This was caused by MLB’s free agency system, in which a player must earn six years of service time before free agency (three years on minimum salary and three on salary arbitration), a less-than-ideal situation for players like Olson, who spent six seasons in the minor leagues before consolidating into the major leagues.

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