It was a disappointing October for the Braves, but one good thing did come out of it — Spencer Strider was extended through the 2028 season with an option for 2029, signing a $75 million deal to stay with the Braves. That’s quite a commitment from an organization to give to a rookie, but Strider is no ordinary rookie. He’s likely to take home the NL Rookie of the Year award after setting the MLB record for the fastest pitcher to 200 strikeouts. Had Strider begun the season in the rotation, he’d be in the conversation for the NL Cy Young award. He’s already one of the best pitchers in baseball, so the Braves were wise to lock him up so soon. But what does that mean for Atlanta’s other star pitchers, Max Fried and Kyle Wright?
Anthopoulos, in locking up a pitcher who has thrown only 134 major-league innings, might fear he will be unable to strike similar deals with Max Fried, who is eligible for free agency after the 2024 season, and Kyle Wright, who is eligible after 2026. But removing Fried and Wright from the equation, Anthopoulos is essentially betting on Strider becoming a perennial Cy Young candidate.
Wright isn’t a free agent until after the 2026 season, so I’m not as concerned with his future. The Braves very well could reach a similar extension with him after his breakout 2022 campaign. Fried, on the other hand, might have one foot out the door.
The ace of the Braves staff for the last three seasons will be a free agent following the 2023 season. He’ll be heading into his age-30 season regarded as one of the best left-handed starting pitchers in baseball, provided he stays healthy. Everyone in baseball with money will be bidding for his services, and he very well could command around $200 million. That’s not a number I expect the Braves to be comfortable with.
If I had to put a percentage on it, I would say there’s only about a 20% chance Max Fried is extended. I do feel like this extension for Strider is, in a way, the writing on the wall for one of the best pitchers in franchise history. The Braves’ payroll is rising, but they already have a lot of money committed to the future, and I don’t think they will be willing to outbid some of the other teams for Fried’s services next offseason.
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