The Atlanta Braves and star outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. have agreed to an eight-year, $100 million contract extension. The deal includes two club options at $17 million each year, with a $10 million buyout. In all the deal, if both options are exercised, the Braves max payout is $124 million over ten years.
As far as structure goes, Acuña will earn $1 million in both 2019 and 2020, $5 million in 2021, $15 million in 2022 and $17 million annually from 2023-26. His average annual salary will be $12.4 million. There is no no-trade clause, as the Braves do not hand those out, ever. There is no opt-out. There are not even any incentives in the deal.
Acuña is only 21 years-old, but is already one of the top young stars in the game. Last year he hit .293/.366/.552 with 26 home runs, 64 RBI, 78 runs scored, and 16 stolen bases in 487 plate appearances en route to the 2018 N.L. Rookie of the Year Award. His counting stats might’ve been higher, but the Braves kept him down in the minors a few weeks to gain an extra year of team control. Now they have him for as much as a decade for a very, very modest outlay all things considered.
How modest? Time will tell, but if Acuña fulfills the promise he has shown in his young career the Braves are going to get a serious bargain for 8-10 years of control. This deal gives the Braves cost-controlled age 27, 28 and 29 seasons which would’ve otherwise been free agent years. Right now guys like Harper, Trout and Machado are making north of $30 million for those years. In several years, what might Acuña have made if he continues on the trajectory most think he will? It’s fair to say that those three seasons alone would run in excess of $100 million and the Braves will get that, plus five more of his prime, for that amount. Three of those years will be arbitration years that, based on the example of Mookie Betts and Nolan Arenado, could be worth more than $20 million a pop. Plus the Braves get the option to keep him beyond it.
Not that Acuña is going to be wanting for anything. It makes total sense for him to take this deal now and to secure his financial future given that he’s many, many years from getting the sort of leverage that can earn him a larger pay day. Such is the new normal with young superstars in Major League Baseball.