ATLANTA — Life is good for Austin Riley. The Braves’ third baseman ended July by breaking one of Hank Aaron’s records, and he began August by learning that he will have the chance to stay in Atlanta for at least another ten years.
Riley and the Braves agreed a 10-year deal for $212 million on Monday. This deal, the most lucrative in franchise history, includes a $20 million option for 2033, when the All-Star slugger will be 36 years old.
“How he plays the game and the consistency with which he does everything is incredible,” said Braves manager Brian Snitker. “He does everything right and checks all the boxes to be that man.”
Having proven himself to be one of the best players in the game over the past two years, Riley has given the Braves reason to make him one of their cornerstones. First baseman Matt Olson signed until 2029, rightfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. has a club option until 2028 and Ozzie Albies has a club option until 2027.
Thanks to the success of The Battery Atlanta, last year’s World Series title and 29 sales this year, the Braves believe they can earn one of the game’s top five very soon. So there’s a chance the club will also try to make Max Fried and Dansby Swanson part of the long-term future.
With this deal, the Braves bought three arbitration years for Riley, who will earn $15 million in 2023, $21 million in 2024 and $22 million per season over the remainder of the deal.
Olson will earn $21 million in 2023 and then take out $22 million per year from 2024-29. Acuña’s deal should remain quite valuable as he will not make more than $17 million until 2028, when the second of two club options expires. As for Albies, he won’t make more than $7 million until 2027, when the second of his two club options expires.
Riley just had one of the best months in Braves history hitting .423 with 11 home runs and a 1.344 OPS in July. He set a franchise record with 26 extra-base hits, breaking the milestone Aaron had set when he recorded 25 extra-base hits in July 1961.
“He might be the best right-handed batter in the league right now,” said D-backs starting pitcher Merrill Kelly after facing Riley on Sunday.
Riley has hit .302 with 62 home runs and a .924 OPS since the start of the 2021 season. He ranks second among all major league third basemen with a 9.2 fWAR (Fangraphs’ Wins Above Replacement Model), behind only the Guardians’ José Ramírez (11.3) in this span.
“We’re looking at a superstar now,” Braves righthander Kyle Wright said of Riley recently.
Riley currently hits .301 with 29 home runs and a .964 OPS, ranking second among NL players, only behind Paul Goldschmidt (1,012). His MLB-best 61 extra-base hits brought him up to 95 in total this year. Aaron set the franchise record with 92 XBH in 1959. The Orioles’ Chris Davis (96 in 2013) was the most recent MLB player to reach at least 95 XBH in one season.