ATLANTA — Life is good for Austin Riley. The Braves third baseman ended July by breaking one of Hank Aaron’s records and he started August by learning he’ll have a chance to stay in Atlanta for at least another decade.
Riley and the 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 slugger will be 36 years old.
“How he plays the game and the consistency with which he does everything, is unbelievable,” Braves manager Brian Snitker 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 best players over the past two years, he has given the Braves reason to make him one of their cornerstones. First baseman Matt Olson is signed through 2029, right fielder Ronald Acuña Jr. has a club option through 2028 and Ozzie Albies has a club option through 2027.
Thanks to the success of The Battery Atlanta, last year’s World Series title and 29 sellouts this year, the Braves believe they could soon have one of the game’s top five payrolls. So, there’s a chance the club will also attempt to make Max Fried and Dansby Swanson a part of the long-term future.
With this deal, the Braves bought out three arbitration years for Riley, who will make $15 million in 2023, $21 million in 2024 and $22 million per season over the remainder of the deal.
Olson will make $21 million in 2023 and then draw $22 million annually from 2024-29. Acuña’s deal should continue to be quite valuable as he will not make more than $17 million through 2028, when the second of two club options would expire. Nor for Albies, he will not make more than $7 million through 2027, when the second of his two club options would expire.
Riley just completed one of the greatest months in Braves history, hitting .423 with 11 homers and a 1.344 OPS in July. He set a franchise record with 26 extra-base hits, breaking the mark Aaron set when he tallied 25 extra-base hits in July 1961.
“He might be the best right-handed hitter in the league right now,” D-backs starting pitcher Merrill Kelly said after facing Riley on Sunday.
Riley has hit .302 with 62 homers 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), trailing only the Guardians’ José Ramírez (11.3) within this span.
“We’re watching a superstar right now,” Braves right-hander Kyle Wright recently said of Riley.
Riley is currently hitting .301 with 29 homers and a .964 OPS, which ranks second among NL players, trailing only Paul Goldschmidt (1.012). His MLB-best 61 extra-base hits put him on pace to total 95 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 record at least 95 XBH in a season.