Less than two weeks after the Atlanta Braves locked up Ronald Acuña to a long-term contract extension, the club has now come to terms with Ozzie Albies that will potentially lock him up through the 2027 season.
The contract extension, which begins with the 2019 season, will guarantee Ozzie Albies $35 million through the 2025 season and will give the Atlanta Braves club options for 2026 and 2027 at $7 million each with $4 million buyouts.
Albies, who turned 22 in January, completed his first full season last year where he made the All-Star team and led the majors in home runs by players whose primary position was second base.
The initial reaction around the league is that the Atlanta Braves got a steal with the contract, as they have now locked up their two biggest young stars for under $150 million, not including the option years. There are, of course, those resorting to hyperbole (whether they want to admit it or not), to describe this deal:
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In situations like this, it’s important to understand the deal within the context of the current environment surrounding baseball.
With teams showing an unprecedented reluctance to sign free agents to long-term deals, young stars are resorting to early contract extensions worth tens of millions less to ensure their financial futures are secured. Many are blaming the franchises for this, but I counter that it’s good for the game and good for the players.
Take Acuña’s deal, for instance. It has been rumored that he is looking to uproot his family from Venezuela and move them to the United States. If that is the case, his $100 million deal now makes that far easier to accomplish rather than making the league minimum for another 3 seasons prior to arbitration. Additionally, it allows him the opportunity to remain with a club that he is clearly comfortable with and to play in front of fans that already consider him to be the savior of Atlanta sports.
To put Albies’ new contract in perspective, a reasonable comparison can be made with Jose Altuve’s first contract extension that was agreed to with the Houston Astros in 2014.
Altuve made his debut at age 21 (Albies was 20 when he debuted) back in 2011. His first full season (2012) saw Altuve make the All-Star team while putting up an OPS of .740. Albies’ OPS in his first full season, also an All-Star year, was .757.
After the 2013 season, Altuve and the Astros agreed to a 4-year contract extension worth only $12 million and two option years worth a total of $12.5 million. Altuve went on to make 4 straight All-Star teams where he led the league in batting 3 times while winning one MVP award.
Rather than exercising the two club options, the Astros signed Altuve to another 7-year extension worth $163.5 million.
I don’t think anyone can argue that Ozzie Albies is Jose Altuve, yet he is guaranteed more money than Altuve was at the same stage of their respective careers while allowing him to play with a close friend in a city that he now calls home. If Albies proves to be the player many think he is, he’ll have his opportunity for a huge payday. It is conceivable that the Braves would lock him down again before reaching the option years. If he flames out, he’ll have made more money than he would through the Arbitration process. All the while giving the Atlanta Braves the (dreaded) “financial flexibility” to build a yearly winner throughout the life of his contract.
In my eyes, everyone wins.