Braves GM on risks of handing out early contract extensions

Braves trade deadline

Rival fan bases cannot stand the Braves’ method of building its roster — extending core pieces early at potentially team-friendly rates. The most recent being Sean Murphy, who inked a six-year, $73 million deal worth just north of $12 million per year, which is inarguably a bargain for a player of his caliber. And that’s on top of the other contract extensions the club has handed out over the past few years.

Ronald Acuna Jr. signed an eight-year, $100 million contract extension shortly after making his big league debut. Ozzie Albies also signed a similar deal worth $35 million over seven years. Austin Riley, Matt Olson, Michael Harris II, and Spencer Strider have followed under similar structures, all of which are considered bargains by many.

The dollars and cents of these deals are discussed at nauseam, but what isn’t discussed too often is the risk associated with these deals. Will said player’s production continue? Will they remain healthy? That is why they should be considered potentially team-friendly contracts. And Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos was there to remind everyone of these facts.

“By all these guys staying, it ensures, hopefully, that we stay competitive – assuming, one, that they stay healthy and two, they continue to perform. That’s not always a given. As much as these guys are talented, and they’re great people and they work hard, no one plans on having a bad year, no one plans on getting hurt. But it happens. You’re dealing with human beings,” Anthopoulos stated, via Justin Toscano of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Ozzie Albies missed much of the 2022 campaign due to injuries. Ronald Acuna tore his ACL. Do you think Mike Soroka would’ve been mad at signing one of AA’s patented extension before he tore his Achilles? There are thousands of examples of young players bursting onto the scene and then fizzling out. People often forget the risk associated with these types of deals.

Atlanta is just incredibly efficient at evaluating their own talent. The Braves are the standard of drafting and developing in baseball, with the Dodgers and Astros in the conversation. Atlanta acquires good players, turns them into great ones, then extends them before they price themselves out of the team’s budget.

“It’s a model that we’ve employed. I think it’s important for us, for the parameters that we have, for the market we have, for what we have to work with. That doesn’t mean that if I were a general manager in some other city, that I would feel the same way. But I do believe everything you do should be team-specific and in my view, with the way things are set up, this is what works for the Braves,” Anthopoulos continued. 

Another important reality of all these contract extensions — the players agree to them. Nobody is forcing Acuna, Albies, Riley, Harris, Strider, Murphy, or any other future extension candidate to sign these deals. They’re doing it because it guarantees them a certain amount of money that arbitration would never guarantee, and maybe more importantly, the culture is among the best in sports.

Austin Riley was happy to be in Atlanta for what could be the rest of his career. Michael Harris grew up in Stockbridge and a fan of the team. Spencer Strider wanted to remain with a consistent title contender. Matt Olson is a hometown kid. Sean Murphy sees Atlanta as a great place to be for a combination of those reasons.

The Braves are a well-oiled machine. Players, coaches, and front office personnel all love being part of this organization. And what fans of rival teams continue to overlook is the risk associated with these types of contracts. Everyone involved wants these deals to work out, including the players that sign them.

“The point of these deals is for it to work out for all sides, right? Players want to perform well, they want to stay healthy. Team wants the same thing. No one wins if things aren’t going well,” Anthopoulos finished.

David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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