ATLANTA — Life is good for Austin Riley. The Braves third baseman ended July breaking one of Hank Aaron’s records and started August learning he’ll be lucky enough to stay in Atlanta for at least another decade.
Riley and the Braves agreed to a 10-year, $212 million contract Monday. The deal, the most lucrative in franchise history, includes a $20 million option for 2033, when the All-Star slugger turns 36.
“The way he plays the game and the consistency with which he does everything is amazing,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He does everything right and ticks all the boxes to be that guy.”
As Riley has established himself as one of the best players in the game over the past two years, he’s given the Braves a 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 sales this year, the Braves believe they could soon have one of the top five payrolls in the game. So there’s a chance that the club are also trying to make Max Fried and Dansby Swanson part of the long-term future.
With the deal, the Braves bought out three years of officiating for Riley, who will earn $15 million in 2023, $21 million in 2024 and $22 million per season on the remainder of the deal.
Olson will earn $21 million in 2023 and then take out $22 million a year from 2024-29. Acuña’s deal should continue to be very valuable as he won’t earn more than $17 million until 2028, date on which the second of the two club options will expire. As for Albies, he won’t earn more than $7 million until 2027, when the second of his two club options would expire.
Riley is coming off one of the best months in Braves history, hitting .423 with 11 home runs and 1.344 OPS in July. He set a franchise record with 26 extra hits, breaking the mark Aaron set when he had 25 extra 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 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 José Ramírez of the Guardians (11.3) in this period.
“We’re looking at a superstar right now,” Braves right-hander Kyle Wright said of Riley recently.
Riley is currently hitting .301 with 29 home runs and a .964 OPS, which ranks second among NL players behind only Paul Goldschmidt (1.012). His MLB-best 61 extra-base hits put him on pace to hit 95 total this year. Aaron set the franchise record with 92 XBHs in 1959. Chris Davis of the Orioles (96 in 2013) was the last MLB player to record at least 95 XBHs in a season.