The Braves have announced they have signed a star third baseman austin riley to a 10-year, $212 million contract extension. Riley will earn $15 million next season, $21 million in 2024, then $22 million a year through 2032. The deal also contains a 2033 club option worth $20 million. Riley is a client of ALIGND Sports Agency.
This is a stunning and unusual development that maintains a long-term franchise mainstay. The deal buys out the 25-year-old’s last three seasons of arbitration eligibility and extends the club’s window of scrutiny to eight years. This locks him in Atlanta for most of his prime, as Riley won’t enter free agency until after his 35-year campaign at the earliest.
A former extra first-round pick, Riley has quickly become one of the organization’s top prospects. He reached the majors shortly after his 22nd birthday in 2019. Riley had his ups and downs during the first two seasons of his big league career, particularly when he knocked out over 36% of his appearances on set as a rookie. Atlanta stuck with him despite that early inconsistency, however, and they’ve been rewarded since Riley broke last year.
Riley appeared in 160 games last season, hitting 33 home runs with a .303/.367/.531 line. This marks a career high in longballs to date, but this marker will not remain his personal best for much longer. He’s already homered 29 in 436 plate appearances this season, and he hits .301/.360/.604 overall. Riley’s pure slash line hasn’t changed much from 2021-22, but his slight improvement on the net comes at a time when the league-wide offense has plummeted this year. By measure of wRC+, Riley’s offensive production has gone from an already excellent 35 points above average to a breathtaking 63 points above average.
Of the skilled hitters, only Yordan Alvarez, Judge Aaron, Paul Goldschmidt, rafael devers and Mike Trout have a better wRC+ this season than Riley. This is reinforced by batted ball metrics which place Riley among the elite bats in the game. His average outbound speed of 93.7 MPH is more than five MPH faster than the league average. His hard contact rate of 55.9% is also among the best in the league, as is his barrel rate of 17.6%. Simply put, few hitters hit the ball as hard as Riley frequently does.
Of course, Riley’s power was never really questioned. Earlier in his career, his problem was making frequent contacts, but the Mississippi native has made incredible progress in this regard. After making contact on just 63% of his swings as a rookie, Riley has batted on the ball about 73% of the time in each of the last three seasons. It’s not great, but it’s more than enough for a player with its power output. Riley still has an aggressive approach and gets out of the strike zone enough, but his excellent batted ball results make up for what can still be a slightly below average walk rate.
Since the start of 2021, Riley has a .302/.364/.560 slash in just under 1,100 plate appearances. He looks like a bona fide puncher, and the Braves are surely happy to lock him in mid-lineup for the next decade. Riley won a Silver Slugger Award and finished seventh in NL MVP voting last year, and he picked up his first of what the club expects to be many All-Star nods this season.
The Braves are now committed to 75% of their infield for the long haul. Atlanta signed Matt Olson to an eight-year, $168 million deal days after he was acquired from the Athletics in the spring. They had previously Ozzie Albies signed at an affordable price until 2025 (with club options for 2026 and 27). This leaves Dansby Swanson as the only member of Atlanta’s infield not under contract for the foreseeable future, as the shortstop is expected to hit free agency at the end of this year.