There has been plenty of money thrown around this MLB offseason. After a lockout last offseason that led to some slower-moving signings, teams went all in early and often this year.
The large contracts being handed out to free agents impacts not only the open market but teams extending their own players as well. The Red Sox finally locked up Rafael Devers to an 11-year, $331 million extension, according to multiple reports, but that was in doubt for a while.
Free-agent contracts are talked about a lot but teams re-signing their own players is just as important.
Longtime MLB executive and current Atlanta Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos joined WEEI’s Rob Bradford on the Audacy Original Podcast “Baseball Isn’t Boring” to detail the art of the contract extension.
“There are two types of contracts: one that’s going to take you through your prime – probably your mid-30s and so on – and then the other one where you’re going to get a second deal,” Anthopoulos said (20:23 in player above). “So Olson and Riley is their one big deal, right, that’s going to take them through the age of 35 and that’s their one big deal. And then you got other guys that are doing deals at 21, 22 and they’ll get a second deal. It all depends.”
After Freddie Freeman left for Los Angeles in free agency last year, the Braves quickly pivoted to Matt Olson. They acquired him from Oakland and signed the 27-year-old first baseman to an eight-year, $168 million deal.
The Braves then committed $212 million over 10 years to the 25-year-old Austin Riley during last season. Those are two key signings that fit the longer-term contracts that Anthopoulos was talking about.
Then there are guys like Spencer Strider and Michael Harris. The Braves’ duo battled for the NL Rookie of the Year Award and both signed contracts toward the end of last season. The 21-year-old Harris signed an eight-year, $72 million contract in August and the Braves locked up Strider to a six-year, $75 million deal in October at the age of 24.
“The contracts have moved and things have changed. Strider and Harris are six years away from free agency when we’re doing their deal. They’re still far away, we have those guys no matter what for the next six years whether they want to be here or not. We’re doing them a lot earlier than we would’ve,” Anthopoulos said. “Most times we wait until guys are a year out or two years out and I think that’s the biggest change.”
“We’re taking on a lot more risk in doing that. We’ll find out if it works. I hope so, I know all parties want that – players want to play well, have success, the club certainly wants that. But we understand, I’ve said this, no one plans on having a bad year; no one plans on being hurt. It happens. We’re human beings. There’s a trade-off there. We’re certainly sharing risk and hopefully, we want these to work out for both sides that guys are performing well.”
The landscape of the MLB open market has shifted dramatically this offseason and that could have ripple effects on teams’ in-season decision-making with their own players. The Braves are one team that’s been able to lock up their young talent and we could see more teams going down that path.
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