Should the Braves start thinking about extending Ronald Acuña Jr?

MLB: JUL 01 Marlins at Braves

Something has been on my brain for a while now, and I think it’s time we discuss it. Is it too early for the Braves to try and extend Ronald Acuña Jr?

Acuña is currently under team control through 2028, so this is not a pressing issue by any means. If the Braves wanted to turn their entire focus on Max Fried in hopes of getting a deal done and worry about Acuña at a later date, it would be totally understandable. However, Alex Anthopoulos has been known for spinning several plates at the same time, and he’s also known for random contract extensions in the middle of the season.

Last year, we saw it several times. Austin Riley signed the most lucrative contract extension in franchise history. Spencer Strider and Michael Harris II also signed long-term extensions as rookies, and the Braves extended Charlie Morton for another season as well around the same time last year. Alex Anthopoulos doesn’t sleep. Even in the middle of a pennant race, he’s already thinking several years into the future.

There is some risk with Acuña, given his injury history, but with a player that is unequivocally a top three player in the league when healthy, sometimes that’s a gamble you have to take. Here’s the reason I think it makes sense to get it over with now.

If the Braves go ahead and lock up Acuña for the remainder of his career, they’ll undoubtedly get him at a significant discount. If he goes to free agency after the 2028 season, he’ll likely receive a contract somewhere in the neighborhood of half-a-billion dollars over 10+ years. I don’t think the Braves will have much interest in that. However, if they go ahead and do it now they can probably settle somewhere around $300 million, a much more palatable number for the Braves.

So, why in the hell would Ronald Acuña Jr. want to do that? He’s already been “ripped off” by the Braves once, right?

Well, there are a couple of reasons. First, is the aforementioned injury history. $300+ million is more than enough to take care of him and several future generations for life. If he suffers another significant injury and doesn’t come back the same, he won’t sniff that much money.

Secondly, and this works out in the Braves favor as well, is they can scrap his current contract, pay him much more over the next five years, and then spread the rest of the money out over the remainder of his career. Acuña gets more money up front, and the Braves mitigate their risk on the backend of his contract. That’s what you call a win-win.

Of course, it takes two to tango, and like I said, there is some risk for the Braves. But if the plan is to keep Acuña in a Braves uniform for his entire career, and he wants to play in Atlanta, the earlier this gets done, the better.

While we are at it, you can essentially copy and paste everything I just wrote about for Acuña for Ozzie Albies. The Braves second baseman is also criminally underpaid and set to become a free agent one year earlier than Acuña. Making sure he’s a Brave for a much longer period also has to be one of the Braves top priorities as we look towards the future.

Photo: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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