Well… free agency is officially dead in Major League Baseball.
The deal includes a $10 million buyout and two club options worth roughly $17 million each. In total, with both club options, the deal is worth a maximum of $124 million over 10 years. With a maximum average annual value of $12.4 million, as noted by Passan, this “is the sort of deal teams dream of.” As reported by the Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, under the conditions of the new deal, Ronald Acuña Jr. could be under Braves’ control through the 2028 season (his year 30 season). Acuña was not set to become a free agent until after the 2024 season.
With the new deal, Acuña is now the youngest player to ever receive a $100 million plus contract. The new contract will begin this season, with Acuña’s new salary replacing the $560,000 he was slated to make in 2019.
Acuña, 21, is coming off a remarkable 2018 rookie season where he slashed .293/.366/.552 with 26 home runs, 16 stolen bases and 64 RBIs in 111 games following his debut on April 25. Acuña was an offensive force to be reckoned with in the Braves’ National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, in which he became the youngest player in MLB history to hit a postseason grand slam (against rookie phenom pitcher, Walker Buehler, in game 3 of the NLDS). Acuña was awarded National League Rookie of the Year in 2018, in front of Washington Nationals breakout star outfielder Juan Soto.
Acuña is one of only seven players with 25 home runs in a season before turning 21; and notably, the fastest to reach that mark, at 92 games. With the exception of Tony Conigliaro, the other five players on that list (Mel Ott, Frank Robinson, Al Kaline, Orlando Cepeda and Eddie Mathews) all went on to have Hall of Fame careers. By all accounts, Acuña is a 5-tool outfielder with massive upside for the Braves. On the young 2019 season (through 4 games), Acuña has gone 3-for-14 with a home run, 2 RBIs and a stolen base.
In an offseason narrative dominated by the apparent demise of free agency and the unwillingness and un-interest of clubs to shell out large long-term contracts to superstar free agents, teams have been anything but frugal with contract extensions. As noted by Passan, since November 1, 2018, MLB teams have now guaranteed over $4 billion, a majority of which has been in contract extensions.
Despite a disappointingly slow start to the season, which included getting swept by their NL East division rival Philadelphia Phillies, the Atlanta Braves now have something to be very excited about.