A look into the Braves future, championship window wide open

Daniel young Braves

The Braves championship window is wide open. After a 26-year drought, the club won the World Series last year and brought the Commissioner’s Trophy back to Atlanta. In what had to be the most improbable postseason run, the club won just 88 games during the regular season, lost its best player to injury in July, and even squandered an early Game 5 lead in the World Series to finally call themselves champions.

However, much like the Nationals, who won the World Series in 2019, championship windows shouldn’t be taken for granted. Washington just traded away Juan Soto and Josh Bell, signaling it’s time for a rebuild. The Braves are doing the opposite, locking up the team’s core for much of the 2020s.

Earlier this week, the team announced they’d agreed to terms on a 10-year, $212 million contract extension with MVP candidate Austin Riley, who capped off a historic month of July with a walk-off double against the Diamondbacks on Sunday — earning him NL Player of the Month honors.

Over that stretch, Riley hit .423 with 11 home runs, 15 doubles, 25 RBIs, and posted a 1.338 OPS. The walk-off double on Sunday, which was his 26th extra-base hit of the month, broke Hank Aaron‘s record of 25 extra-base hits in a single month. Riley was undoubtedly the best player of the month, leading all qualified hitters in July in wOBA, wRC+, AVG, SLG, and WAR. He was just the seventh player since 1901 to hit .420+ and have 26+ XBH in a single month, joining Joe DiMaggioBabe Ruth, and others.

Riley slashed .423/.460/1.344 as the team went 18-8 in July as he continues his ascent to an MVP. On the season, he’s hitting .301 with 29 homers and a .964 OPS, second in the NL, behind only Paul Goldschmidt‘s 1.012 mark.

Riley’s contract gives the Braves control over the third baseman until 2034 at an average salary of $21.2 million per year. Atlanta locked up a vital piece of the World Series team for what will seemingly be in a Braves uniform the rest of his career, but that’s not the only star the team has long-term control over.

Player Position Age Exp. Type Contract Terms Avg. Salary Free Agent Acquired
Michael Harris CF 21 Pre-Arbitration 1 yr, $700,000 $700,000 Drafted
Austin Riley 3B 25 2.138 Arbitration Extension 10 yr, $212,000,000 $21,200,000 2034 Drafted
Austin Riley 3B 25 2.138 Arbitration 1 yr, $3,950,000 $3,950,000 2034 Drafted
Matt Olson 1B 28 4.103 Arbitration Extension 8 yr, $168,000,000 $21,000,000 2031 Traded
Ronald Acuna Jr. OF 24 3.159 Pre-Arbitration Extension 8 yr, $100,000,000 $12,500,000 2029 International
Ozzie Albies  2B 25 4.062 Pre-Arbitration Extension 7 yr, $35,000,000 $5,000,000 2028 International
Jay Jackson RP 34 .089 Pre-Arbitration 1 yr, $1,500,000 $1,500,000 2028 Traded
William Contreras C 24 .112 Pre-Arbitration 1 yr, $710,000 $710,000 2028 International
Spencer Strider SP 23 .003 Pre-Arbitration 1 yr, $710,000 $710,000 2028 Drafted
Kyle Wright SP 26 1.062 Pre-Arbitration 1 yr, $720,000 $720,000 2027 Drafted

The recently acquired Matt Olson is just 28 years old and is under contract until 2031. 24-year-old Ronald Acuna Jr. is one of the most exciting players in the game and won’t hit free agency until 2029. Ozzie Albies is just 25 and under contract until 2028. Kyle Wright is 26 and under team control until 2027. Ian Anderson and William Contreras are both 24 and aren’t set to hit free agency until 2027 and 2028, respectively.

Then, there are guys like A.J. Minter, who is 28 years old and under team control until 2025. The team’s ace, Max Fried, is the same age as Olson and won’t require a contract extension until the same year as Minter. Dansby Swanson is set to hit free agency this offseason, but Alex Anthopoulos has made it apparent that both he and Fried will be handled. Braves Country can expect Swanson and Fried to be locked up on similar term deals as the rest of the core.

And that’s not even considering Spencer Strider (23 years old, FA 2028) and Michael Harris (21 years old). The team has never been in a better place than it is right now. They’ve won four straight division titles and a World Series. Truist Park has become the best environment to watch a baseball game, and they are only just getting started.

Photographer: Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire

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