"We basically put a new bar for a player in less than a year," said Braves General Manager Alex Anthopoulos.
Acuna's deal is the richest ever for a great leaguer with so little experience. It tops the six-year-old $ 43 million extension white sox gave Eloy Jimenez last month before he even made his debut in majors. Acuna's deal is more risky this year and dollar, but it is the right kind of risk for the Braves.
They pay for the player they think he will be. The risk is that he falls or even falls. The potential reward is to have a superstar under contract on a friendly agreement through 2026, with Braves holding two ballots for $ 1
Acuna was billed as the real deal as the prospect, was sensational as a rookie and is filled with the potential to be much more. Anthopoulos called Acuna "the best young player I've seen" but said he was waiting to start contract negotiations until the player reported to the camp.
"I was curious to see what his attitude and reluctance would be in spring training," Anthopoulos said. "He was the same guy who really tells."
Acuna has not been the same player early this season. He's seen even better. It was hard to find much fault with Acuna's battle as a rookie, and his record discipline now looks better. His defense is so-so, but he is such a fine hitter, it hardly means.
Acuna is probably worth $ 12.5 million a year even though he doesn't get better. The low end of Acuna's projections would be a good buy for Braves. Even so, even the best young big leagues usually have to wait a few years for their big pay period.
Braves were willing to give the $ 100 million Acuna now because his potential is out of the charts. Braves has made a similar move before. In 2014, the previous front office wrote Freddie Freeman for an 8-year extension for $ 135 million.
Freeman was 24 years old and had just finished his first All-Star season after two good seasons. This deal has proven great for Braves, because Freeman has been one of the better hitters in baseball. Acuna almost matched Freeman's production in 2018. He was the best hitter on the team after the All-Star break.
Acuna is not at Freeman's level because the latter has proved to be a star player for many years. Maybe Acuna won't do that, but there's a good chance Acuna will be a good ball player with an annual salary of about 25 percent less than Freeman. If that happens, Braves can keep Acuna for two years at a good price.
Acuna significantly increased its value with its ROY season. A bigger future paycheck could have been possible if he had waited, but from the outside it is easy to see why Acuna took this deal now (except you know it guaranteed $ 100 million in pay).
Under his old contract, Acuna would not have been entitled to profitable arbitration until 2021 with earnings far below market until then. Acuna could expect an arbitration award, but even if he believed he was still producing, as he is now, it will still not come close to his true value.
Before the extension, Acuna's free agency had to wait until 2024 when he would only be 26 years old. Bryce Harper, 26, just signed a record $ 330 million free agent with Phillies. It came shortly after Manny Machado, 26, signed a $ 300 million free agent contract with Padres.
It is possible that Acuna could stay on his current course and earn a similar contract when he hit the market. However, it is a high bar. It is conceivable that if Acuna declined this deal, he would end up making less than $ 100 million in the end.
With the extension, Acuna can still be free agent when he is not older than 30.
"I have no regrets," Acuna said through an interpreter. "No one can look forward in the future. No one knows what will happen tomorrow."
Acuna signed with Braves for $ 100,000 as a 17-year-old in his native Venezuela. If Acuna ends up being worth more than this contract, he is still well compensated. Now he has more security.
I love Acuna, that he got a big payday early in his career, in a system that disinfects it. Braves, like most MLB teams, delayed calling Acuna to start their rookie year so they could delay their free agency by one year. Now they have paid big money to delay it by two years.
The decision is not without risk, but it is a big part for Braves.
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