Braves: What does Ohtani’s deal means for a potential Acuña extension?

MLB: SEP 27 Cubs at Braves

Everyone expected Shohei Ohtani to shatter Major League Baseball’s record for the largest contract ever, but nobody could have possibly expected him to sign for an astounding $700 million over 10 years. It’s the biggest contract in North American sports history, and it’s one that should stand for quite some time.

However, Ohtani isn’t the only one sitting fat and happy on this Monday. Every other elite player nearing free agency should also be salivating at that number. Juan Soto is somebody that immediately comes to mind. He’s set to test free agency next offseason and can really hold the Yankees’ feet to the fire after they spent significant prospect capital to acquire him in a trade. Sure, Soto won’t sniff the $700 million figure that Ohtani just signed for, but his patience is going to pay off. It now seems highly likely he will sign for over $500 million, becoming the second highest-paid player in the league.

From the Braves perspective, one also has to wonder what this deal means for Ronald Acuña Jr.’s future contract. Unlike Soto, Acuña is nowhere close to free agency after signing a 10-year, $100 million contract with the Braves. He’s under team control through 2028, but the sooner an extension gets done, the better deals it’s going to be for Alex Anthopoulos and company.

The Braves have been aggressive in getting their young core extended to team-friendly contracts, and it all started with Acuña back in April of 2019. However, that contract only takes him through his age-30 season. He’s in line for one of these mega-contracts next time around, and it certainly feels like the Braves will do everything in their power to ensure he doesn’t leave in free agency like Freddie Freeman and Dansby Swanson have done in recent offseasons.

If Acuña hits free agency five years from now, he’ll likely fetch a contract similar to what Soto will receive in the $500 million range. Perhaps even more with the way these deals continue to get bigger. Getting ahead of the curb could allow them to lock it in at a much lower figure, perhaps in the $300-400 million range.

The Braves have never been a club to operate in that price range, but they did just hand Austin Riley the largest contract in franchise history not long ago, paying him $212 million over 10 years. One has to think they would be willing to go significantly higher for Acuña, and while $300-400 million sounds outrageous, it could be a bargain by the time it kicks in.

It wasn’t long ago that Bryce Harper‘s 13-year, $330 million contract seemed like a potential mistake. That contract now looks like a bargain. Harper has come as advertised since joining the Phillies, and he’s only scheduled to earn $26 million over each of the next five seasons before that number falls to $22 million over the last three years of the deal.

The sooner the Braves get a deal done with Acuña the better. Contracts aren’t getting any smaller. In five years, $500 million may be commonplace among the league’s elite players. It may sound crazy, but after seeing the Dodgers pony up $700 million for Ohtani, nothing really sounds crazy anymore.

Photo: Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire

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