The Braves got in on the contract extension extravaganza this spring by locking up Ronald Acuña Jr. and Ozzie Albies for the next decade. While it’s tough to predict how these deals might look in, say, 2024, it’s safe to safe the Braves are likely to come out ahead on both deals when it’s all said and done.
So, who’s next? That’s been a popular question in recent weeks. Let’s take a look at what it might take for a handful of candidates and how likely it is we see an extension in the coming months.
Current contract: $21M in 2019, $22M in 2020 and 2021
It won’t come as a shock that Freddie is the obvious candidate. He’s said he would like to follow in the footsteps of Chipper Jones and remain in Atlanta through the duration of his career. And as he nears his 30th birthday, he has shown no signs of slowing down. If anything he’s becoming more of a complete hitter and has improved defensively in recent years.
The Braves’ front office likely isn’t feeling any pressure to extend Freeman. He’s under control through 2021, and if recent history is any indication, there probably won't be a ton of teams lining up for a 32-year-old first baseman should he somehow reach free agency.
As long as Freddie doesn’t fall off a cliff, an extension into his mid-30s seems likely for both parties. My guess is it happens next winter. Something like 3 years and $75 million on top of his current deal would likely satisfy everyone.
Current contract: $585K in 2019, Arbitration Eligible in 2020, 2021 and 2022
Dansby’s been an enigma since debuting in Atlanta. He’s shown flashes of brilliance at the plate, but it was generally fueled by favorable luck and wasn’t sustainable. Injuries have taken their toll as well. And while his defense greatly improved last season, the bat still lagged.
It’s still early, but Dansby looks like the guy so many believed in as a prospect. Will it continue? There are signs we could be witnessing a true breakout with his retooled swing and improved approach at the plate.
It’s hard to really compare him to anyone when trying to find a baseline for a contract extension. Alex Bregman, who was selected with the No. 2 pick right behind him in 2015, just inked a 6-year, $100 million extension. Obviously, Dansby isn’t at Bregman’s level now and is unlikely to ever reach those heights as one of the game’s best players, but it does show the desire for players to lock in financial security, even if they benefitted from a major signing bonus (Swanson landed a $6.5M check from the Diamondbacks).
Outside of Dansby being open to a similar deal to what Albies just signed — a no-brainer for the Braves and any other team for that matter — it’s probably in both sides’ best interest to let things play out for a full season and evaluate then.
Current contract: $5.5M in 2019, Arbitration Eligible in 2020 and 2021
Foltynewicz, 28 in October, had the breakout campaign in 2018 that many hoped for. His 2019 has been slowed by an elbow injury, but it seems like he should debut within the next week. That’s obviously good news for the Braves.
Is it time to consider a contract extension? I’m not so sure. And this goes for just about every pitcher in the organization. Outside of being open to team-friendly extension — and why should he at this point? — it’s risky to guarantee significant money and years to pitchers in general. He’s dealt with elbow issues throughout his career, and while it hasn’t cost him significant time, it has to be somewhat of a concern.
Perhaps this is a little off-the-radar, but would anyone be shocked if Donaldson and his agent didn't want to go through free agency next winter? Now healthy, he’s reminding everyone just how good he can be at the plate and in the field when his body cooperates. (I type this while knocking on wood because we’re an injury away from this all being moot.)
Donaldson turned 33 last winter and looks to be in terrific shape. As we know, he knows Anthopoulos well from their days in Toronto, something that impacted their free agency negotiations six months ago.
I can’t imagine the Braves (or any team for that matter) going beyond two more guaranteed years given Donaldson’s injury concerns. The front office will have minimal payroll obligations next season, and they could easily fit in another $20-25M deal should they decide to keep JD around past 2019. This might be more of a wait-and-see situation for both parties as Donaldson looks to continue rebuilding his value and the Braves see if he can hold up for the entire season.
Would he be open to something similar as to what Ozzie Albies just signed? He probably would come up short in terms of years and dollars, but even $15-20 million guaranteed would likely appeal to the young utility player as someone who did not sign for much money out of Panama. A buy out of his arbitration years and a year or two of free agency would be intriguing. The contract David Bote just signed with the Cubs could be a baseline.
One of the young pitchers
Considering the likes of Max Fried, Mike Soroka, Touki Toussaint and Kyle Wright all have 5+ years of team control remaining, it’s hard to envision any of them getting a deal done for a bevy of reasons.