October of 2022 is a month most Braves fans would like to forget, but one lasting thing did come out of it. The club inked Spencer Strider to a six-year extension worth $75 million guaranteed. It’s a deal that comes with risk for both sides, but it has the potential to be a very favorable one for the Braves if Strider continues to perform as he did as a rookie.
Strider’s contract extension was the largest one ever handed to a rookie pitcher, but his numbers from 2022 suggest he could be worth every penny. Strider became the fastest pitcher ever to record 200 strikeouts, breaking Randy Johnson’s record. He struck out over a third of the batters he faced and became the first pitcher in MLB history to strike out 200+ batters without giving up 100 hits in a single season.
As Alex Anthopoulos put it, he’s never seen anything like this before. From Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic:
“I’ve been in baseball 23 years, and I’ve never seen this before,” Anthopoulos told The Athletic’s Jeff Schultz, a reference to Strider’s 202 strikeouts and 2.67 ERA in 131 2/3 innings. “He’s either the exceptional talent we think he is, or it’s an outlier. But I’ve never seen it. I’ve never seen his package of ability, makeup, stuff. I’ve never seen it. I’ve seen plenty of good, young arms, but I’ve never seen this. And you can look at all the accolades that he’s gotten like the strikeout record. If he had started the entire year, he’d be in the Cy Young conversation.”
There is no comparable contract to the one the Braves handed Strider. They bought out his arbitration years for $44 million – a figure he likely never would have achieved had he gone through the arbitration process, but the point of this extension appears to be clear. They wanted Strider locked in at a reasonable rate ($22 million or less per season) for the entirety of their championship window, which looks to extend to the end of the decade. For that to happen, they were even willing to frontload the deal and give him more money during what would have been his arbitration years.
Is there risk here for the Braves? Absolutely, but this contract is a sign that they expect Strider to be the head of this staff next year and beyond. Had they waited and Strider continued to perform at this level, this is a contract that may have never been signed, which is a risk the Braves weren’t willing to take.
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