ATLANTA – Life is good for Austin Riley. The Braves’ third baseman ended July breaking a record held by Hank Aaron, and began August knowing that he would have a chance to stay in Atlanta for at least another decade.
Riley and the Braves on Monday agreed a 10-year contract worth $212 million. The most lucrative deal in franchise history includes a $20 million option for 2033, when the All-Star Slugger will turn 36.
“How he plays the game and the consistency with which he does everything is just unbelievable,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He does everything right and he checks all the boxes for being the man.”
As Riley has established himself as one of the best players in the game over the past two years, he has given the Braves a reason to make him one of their cornerstones. First baseman Matt Olsson is signed through 2029, right fielder Ronald Acuna Jr. has a club option through 2028 and OG Albiz 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. Therefore, there is a chance that the club will also try to make Max Fried and Dansby Swanson part of the long-term future.
With the deal, the Braves bought three arbitration years for Riley, who would earn $15 million in 2023, $21 million in 2024, and $22 million per season on the remaining deal.
Olsson will earn $21 million in 2023 and then $22 million annually through 2024-29. Acuña’s deal should be quite valuable as he will earn no more than $17 million until 2028, when the second of the two club options expires. As for Albiz, he will earn no more than $7 million until 2027, when the second of his two club options expires.
Riley completed one of the greatest months in Braves history, hitting .423 with 11 homers in July and 1.344 Ops in July. He set a franchise record with 26 extra-base hits, breaking the Aaron set in July 1961 when he counted 25 extra-base hits.
“He might be the best right-handed hitter in the league right now,” D-back starting pitcher Merrill Kelly said after facing Riley on Sunday.
Since the start of the 2021 season, Riley has hit .302 with 62 homers and .924 OPS. He is second among all Major League third basemen with a 9.2 fWAR (FanGraph’s Wins Above Replacement Model), trailing only Guardians’ Jose Ramirez (11.3) within this period.
“We’re looking at a superstar right now,” Brave right-hander Kyle Wright recently said of Riley.
Riley is currently hitting .301 with 29 homers and .964 OPS, second among NL players, behind only Paul Goldschmidt (1.012). His MLB-best 61 extra-base hits gave him a pace total of 95 this year. Aaron set a franchise record in 1959 with 92 XBHs. Orioles Chris Davis (96 in 2013) was the most recent MLB player to record at least 95 XBHs in a season.