Braves sign Michael Harris to eight-year extension

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The Braves moved quickly to lock in another budding star on a contract extension, announcing Tuesday night that they had signed a rookie outfielder at center Michael Harris II to an eight-year, $72 million contract covering the 2023-30 seasons. The contract also contains club options for the 2031 and 2032 seasons.

Michael Harris II |  Dale Zanine - USA TODAY Sports

The Braves, one of the few Major League teams to publicly disclose the terms of their contracts, added that Harris will earn $5 million per season in 2023-24, $8 million per year in 2025-26, 9 million in 2027, $10 million per year from 2028. -29 and $12 million in 2030. Option 2031 is valued at $15 million and Option 2032 is valued at $20 million . Both come with $5 million buyouts.

Harris a favorite to finish in the top two in National League Rookie of the Year voting – possibly alongside his teammate Spencer Strider – would have been a free agent after 2027 (with a top-two Rookie of the Year finish) or after the 2028 season, but will instead forego a trip to the open market in his mid-twenties to sign a long-term pact with his hometown team.

The eight-year-old pact continues an aggressive trend of an Atlanta front office that hasn’t been afraid to pay large sums to its young stars early in their careers. outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. (eight years, $100 million) and second baseman Ozzie Albies (seven years, $35 million) both signed early, very club-friendly extensions that included a pair of club options beyond their guaranteed years. Acuna’s deal, like the one being discussed with Harris, was done before he had even had a full year of Major League service.

More recently, the Braves have inked Matt Olson to an eight-year, $168 million extension the day after he was acquired in a five-man blockbuster with the A’s. And, last summer, when so many teams were focused on the late-July trade deadline, the Braves have agreed to a 10-year, $212 million extension for the third baseman. austin riley (before also doing a handful of trades themselves, of course).

Harris, 21, was No. 98 overall in the 2019 draft and bolstered his prospect pipeline with a torrid run through the minors that resulted in him skipping Triple-A entirely earlier this year. . Despite being promoted as early as Double-A, Harris didn’t miss a beat in the Majors. He recorded 268 plate appearances in the Majors, including tonight’s performance, and had a solid .287/.325/.500 batting line with a dozen home runs, 14 doubles, two triples and 13 interceptions (in 13 trials). Pair that production with more center field defense (5 defensive points saved and above-average strikeouts), and it’s easy to see how the Braves quickly fell in love with the dynamic young outfielder.

As with any extension for a young player, there is certainly a risk for both parties. Harris has just 71 games of big league experience under his belt with no Triple-A seasoning to speak of. In fact, he only played 43 Double-A games before his promotion. And, as good as he’s been so far in his big league career, the Braves would surely love to see him improve on a dismal 3.7% walk rate. He currently sports a .345 average on balls in play which will likely drop a bit, although players with Harris’ type of speed (94th percentile sprint speed, per Statcast) can often maintain BABIP numbers above the league average.

The risk for Harris, meanwhile, is the same that teammates such as Acuna and Albies took when signing their own deals. He’s locking in a life-changing sum of money, sure, but a top two spot in the Rookie of the Year vote would have put Harris on the right track for officiating after the 2024 season. (or, in the absence of this top two, after the 2025 campaign). As it stands, he could have either been a free agent after the 2027 season, before his season at 27, or after the 2028 campaign (when he enters his season at 28). The free agents who are so young are the ones who tend to land decade-long contracts north of $200 million or even $300 million.

Granted, we can’t know if Harris will sustain his current pace for a full six years. We see players debuting to great fanfare and disappearing from the spotlight on a fairly regular basis, and injuries can still impact a player’s development and earning power in the open market. Harris is surely aware that any early-career extension like this has the potential to turn into a bargain for the team, just as the Braves are aware that Harris isn’t necessarily a lock to cement himself among the The game’s elite young outfielders. That’s the balance all teams and players strive for in early expansions like this, and it looks like in this case the Braves and Harris have found a great place that will fall well short of the Acuna deal.

While these contracts tend to be bargains of a large nature when they hit – as they’ve almost universally done for the Braves thus far – it’s also worth pointing out that they inflate the book of contracts. a team’s luxury taxes sooner than would otherwise be the case. . A $72 million contract for Harris will give him an immediate luxury hit of $9 million (the average annual contract value) when he would have otherwise counted for less than $1 million against the tax line.

Atlanta has a luxury payroll of $207 million this year and $128 million already counts in next year’s ledger, and that’s before including a Harris contract or arbitration raises for the ‘one of Max fried, A. J. Minter, Mike Soroka Where Tyler Matz (plus any free agent or trade additions this winter). Extensions are still likely to be profitable moves for the team in the long run, but the Braves will have around $50 million in luxury commitments to Acuna, Albies, Riley and Harris alone next season if this deal is indeed successful. concluded.

None of this should be a deterrent, of course. Harris looks like a budding young star, and pairing him alongside Acuna in the outfield and alongside Acuna, Riley and Albies in lineup for the foreseeable future gives the Braves the advantage of an explosive controlled foursome. at a mere fraction of market value. . The reduced nature of their salaries — relative to market prices — should allow the team to continue investing in free agents to round out the core, keeping the Braves well-positioned to struggle in the National League East for the foreseeable future. The fact that Harris grew up in the Atlanta area and attended high school just 37 miles south of Truist Park only makes him all the more marketable to the fan base, and surely only makes the sweeter affair tonight for Atlanta’s latest homegrown star.

Robert Murray of FanSided Prime reported that the two sides were “deep” in talks over an eight-year deal. Jon Heyman of the New York Post reported that the contract would contain at least one option and would be valued at $72 million (Twitter connections).

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