ATLANTA – Life is good for Austin Riley. The Braves’ third warrior ended July by breaking one of Hank Aaron’s records, and he started August knowing he would have a chance to stay in Atlanta for at least another decade.
Riley and the Braves agreed to a 10-year, $212 million deal on Monday. The deal, the most lucrative in franchise history, includes a $20 million option for 2033, when the All-Star slugger will be 36 years old.
“The way he plays the game and the consistency with which he does everything, it’s just unbelievable,” said Braves coach Brian Snitker. “He does everything right and checks all the boxes to be that guy.”
Since Riley has established himself as one of the game’s best players over the past two years, he gave the Braves a reason to make him one of their cornerstones. First initial player Matt Olson is contracted until 2029, right-winger 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 sold-out tickets this year, the Braves believe they could soon have one of the game’s five highest paychecks. So it is likely that the club will also try to make Max Fried and Dansby Swanson part of the long-term future.
With the deal, the Braves purchased three years of arbitration for Riley, who will earn $15 million in 2023, $21 million in 2024, and $22 million per season for the remainder of the deal.
Olson will make $21 million in 2023 and then $22 million per year from 2024-29. Acuña’s contract will continue to be worth it as he won’t earn more than $17 million until 2028, when the second of the two club options will expire. As for Albies, he won’t make more than $7 million until 2027, when the second of his two club picks will expire.
Riley just completed one of the greatest months in Braves history, hitting .423 with 11 goals and 1,344 OPS in July. He set the franchise record with 26 off-site hits, breaking the record Aaron had set when he hit 25 off-site hits in July 1961.
“He’s probably the best right-handed player in the league right now,” D-ranked starting pitcher Merrill Kelly said after facing Riley on Sunday.
Riley has hit the 0.302 mark with 62 starts and 0.924 OPS since the start of the 2021 season. He’s second among all Major League third-base minions with 9.2 fWAR (Fangraphs’ Wins Above Replacement Model), second only to José Ramírez of the Guardians (11.3) in this time period.
“We’re watching a superstar right now,” Braves right-hand man Kyle Wright recently said of Riley.
Riley currently hits the .301 mark with 29 home hits and .964 OPS, second among NL players, just behind Paul Goldschmidt (1,012). His 61 MLB-best basic hits put him up to speed for a total of 95 this year. Aaron set a franchise record with 92 XBH in 1959. Chris Davis of Orioles (96 in 2013) was the most recent MLB player to score at least 95 XBH in a single season.