There’s never a dull moment around here. Not even 24 hours after the Braves became the last team in baseball to pick up a win thanks to the blessings of a legendary golfer who likes to wear red on Sundays, even better news came raining down from the baseball heavens. Yes, even off-days have become days for big news and the news today was huge as reports surfaced that the Braves had become the latest team to jump on the contract extension bandwagon as they locked down their most prized young player for the foreseeable future.
The Atlanta #Braves today agreed to terms with OF Ronald Acuña Jr. on an eight-year contract extension through 2026 worth $100 million, with club options for the 2027 and 2028 seasons. pic.twitter.com/Rm18jswH5r— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) April 2, 2019
The most basic takeaway possible is that if all goes well, the Braves are very likely going to have Ronald Acuña Jr. through his age-30 season. Again, if Acuña develops into what we all figure he’s going to be, that means that the Braves are going to have a superstar in the outfield for the prime of his career. There’s really no understating how massive this is for the Braves and no matter what they paid, this is a fantastic day for the Braves and it’s also a good day for a 21-year-old to know that he’s going to get $124 million dollars in his pocket over the next decade.
With that being said, you can’t talk about this deal without discussing just how enormous of a bargain this is for the Braves. To put this in perspective, Josh Donaldson will be making $23 million in 2019 and he is coming off of an injury-plagued year where he only played 52 games and only had 219 at-bats. If this contract goes the full ten seasons, then Ronald Acuña will be making $6 million less in 2028 than Donaldson will be getting for 2019. We’re over here hoping and wishing that Donaldson could give the Braves anything close to a ~5 fWAR season this year. By 2028, Acuña could be flying at or even past that mark by the All-Star break on a regular basis. Before you continue reading, I just want you to sit there and absorb that for a moment.
Now that you’ve finished letting reality sink in, it is absolutely flabbergasting that the Braves were able to pull this off for the numbers that are being reported. There are probably multiple reasons as to how this extension was actually able to happen and the biggest reason is that this contract is a reflection of the current market. I’m sure that a lot of young players across baseball saw what was going on during the past couple of offseasons and they figured that with the way things are going, unless you are a superstar then it’s going to be extremely difficult to get paid via the free agent market. Even still, we didn’t see Manny Machado and Bryce Harper get their massive paydays until spring training was underway.
Simply put, free agency is currently a minefield for the players right now and that’s not going to change until/unless the MLBPA can tip the scales back in their favor once the next round of collective bargaining comes around. Until then, we’re going to keep on seeing extensions like the one that Ronald Acuña just signed. Maybe some players will do better for themselves, but it’s really hard to tell a 21-year-old to say no to $124 million at any point. It’s really hard to tell anyone to say no to $124 million. Even if you’re a professional athlete, that’s still a huge chunk of change and Acuña is probably going to sleep very well tonight knowing that he signed that extension today.
With that being said, this still doesn’t really excuse the Braves for their lack of activity over this past offseason. If anything, this should probably put even more pressure on them to spend money. In the long run, this contract extension for Ronald Acuña will turn out to be an absolutely insane bargain, so this should mean that the Braves can now feel free to invest even more money in the team since they won’t have to worry about an overly significant financial investment in the guy who will likely be their franchise cornerstone going into the next decade. The Braves didn’t break the bank by any means in order to make this contract extension happen, so logically this shouldn’t prohibit them from exhibiting their “financial flexibility” in the near-or-long-term future.
If the Braves want to continue to stay relevant as a baseball franchise while Acuña is around, it would be great to see them actually invest in the squad. The team might end up being totally fine in 2019, but they really can’t afford to have any more offseasons like the one they just had. They could have a special baseball player on an extremely team-friendly contract for a long time. They have to make the most of this and that doesn’t include spending an entire winter sitting on their hands.
This is a fantastic contract extension for the Braves and the franchise should use this as a stepping stone to actually keeping some of the promises that they made over the years in regards to increasing the team’s payroll. They have the cornerstone of the franchise under control for what figures to be the prime of his career. It’s time for the Braves to make sure that the team surrounding him will be good for that duration, as well.