ATLANTA – Life is good for Austin Riley. The Braves captain finished third in July by smashing one of Hank Aaron’s records and started August with learning he’d have a chance of staying in Atlanta for at least another decade.
Riley and Braves agreed to a 10-year, $212 million contract on Monday. This deal, the most lucrative in franchise history, includes a $20 million option for 2033, when the All-Star player turns 36.
“How he plays the game and the consistency with which he does everything, is unbelievable,” Braves coach Brian Snicker said. “He does everything right and checks all the boxes to be that guy.”
As Riley has established himself as one of the game’s top players over the past couple of years, he’s given the Braves a reason to make him one of their cornerstones. First base player Matt Olson is signed until 2029, right-hander Ronald Acuna Jr has the club option until 2028 and Ozzy Albis has the club option until 2027.
With the success of The Battery Atlanta, a world title last year and 29 sales this year, the Braves believe they could soon land one of the top five payrolls in the game. Therefore, there is a chance that the club will also try to make Max Fried and Dansby Swanson a 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 a season over the remainder of the deal.
Olson will make $21 million in 2023 and then withdraw $22 million annually from 2024 to 29. The Acuña deal should still be hugely valuable because he won’t make more than $17 million until 2028, when the second of the club’s two options expires. As for the Albies, he won’t make more than $7 million until 2027, when the second of the two club options expires.
Riley just completed one of the greatest months in Braves history, hitting 0.423 with 11 homers and 1.344 OPS in July. He set a franchise record with 26 additional base strokes, breaking the mark set by Aaron when he scored 25 additional base strokes in July 1961.
“He might be the best right-hander in the league right now,” Meryl Kelly said after facing Riley on Sunday.
Riley is at 0.302 with 62 homers and 0.924 OPS since the start of the 2021 season. He ranks second among all third major league men with 9.2 fWAR (Fangraphs’ Wins Above Model), trailing only Guardians’ José Ramírez (11.3) within this period .
“We’re watching a really cool superstar right now,” Kyle Wright, one of the Braves right-handers, recently said of Riley.
Riley currently hits .301 with 29 homers and 0.964 OPS, which ranks second among NL players, behind only Paul Goldschmidt (1.012). An additional 61 Top Songs in MLB put him on the way to a 95th overall this year. Aaron set the franchise record with 92 XBH in 1959. Orioles’ Chris Davis (96 in 2013) was the latest MLB player to score at least 95 XBH in a single season.