The Braves made their smartest move of the year after it was reported that Ronald Acuña Jr. and the team were finalizing an eight-year, $100-million extension.
The deal includes two club option years, which will keep Acuña in a Braves’ uniform until 2029.
No matter the moves the team makes this season, this is the best move of the year by Alex Anthopoulos and company. Locking up an emerging star like Acuña, for the amount of money the team did, is a win for all sides.
Acuña gets the long-term security every player in their second year in the big leagues dreams of. And the Braves lock down one of the franchise’s cornerstones for years to come. The Braves also avoided seeing a repeat of what happened by the likes of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Each are all-star players that left their original teams for greener pastures. Machado’s trade from the Orioles to the Dodgers last season happened after they saw the writing on the wall. So, at least they got a little something for their star. On the other hand, the Nationals, not so much.
This offseason, baseball has seen Mike Trout, Nolan Arenado, Xander Bogaerts, Chris Sale and Jacob deGrom all sign extensions. Of course, there have been many others. But one thing all of those teams have in common is that they’re locking up their stars before they hit free agency.
In looking at the next free-agent class, there are a lot of players who will no longer be available. The 2019-20 free-agent class was to include Arenado, Sale, Aaron Hicks, and Paul Goldschmidt. Now, the big names are Chris Archer, Madison Bumgarner, Gerrit Cole, Delin Betances, and Yasiel Puig.
For the Braves, locking up Mike Foltynewicz should be next on the list. He has shown himself to be a legitimate ace, and there’s no reason the team should wait in extending him.
Currently, Folty has two more arbitration-eligible seasons after this one. However, locking him up in a deal as they have with Acuña will surely save them some dollars in the long run.
Folty is the only other obvious candidate, but I offer a few other names that the Braves should consider, although not on deals of more than five years.
Freddie Freeman will get a new deal before he’s a free agent after the 2021 season. He’ll be a Brave for life and has expressed his desire in that happening.
Outside of Freeman, the Braves should extend Kevin Gausman. Although he only pitched in 10 games for the Braves last year, his small sample size made many a believer in his abilities outside of the AL East. He’ll never be a top-of-the-rotation guy, but he’ll be consistent in the Braves’ rotation.
Ozzie Albies is another one to keep your eyes on. While he won’t get his extension for another few years, he’s another one the Braves will want to remain in the fold for many years to come.