Braves Sign Michael Harris To Eight-Year Extension – MLB Trade Rumors

Braves Sign Michael Harris To Eight-Year Extension - MLB Trade Rumors

The Braves moved quickly to lock up yet another budding star on a contract extension, announcing Tuesday night that they had signed a starting center fielder. Michael Harris II to an eight-year, $72MM contract spanning the 2023-30 seasons. The contract contains club options for the 2031 and 2032 seasons as well.

Michael Harris II |  Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Braves, one of the few major league teams to publicly disclose terms of their contracts, added that Harris will earn $5MM per season in 2023-24, $8MM annually in 2025-26, $9MM in 2027, $10MM annually beginning in 2028. – 29, and $12MM in 2030. The 2031 option is valued at $15MM, and the 2032 option is valued at $20MM. Both come with $5MM buyouts.

Harris, a front-runner to finish in the top two of National League Rookie of the Year voting — perhaps along with a teammate Spencer Strider — would have been a free agent after either 2027 (with top two Rookie of the Year finishes) or after the 2028 season but will instead forgo a trip to the open market in his mid-20s to sign a long-term one. pact with his hometown team.

The eight-year pact continues an aggressive trend by an Atlanta front office that has not been afraid to pay considerable sums to its young stars early in their careers. Outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. (eight years, $100MM) and a second baseman Ozzie Albies (seven years, $35MM) 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 agreed to before he even had a full year of major league service time.

More recently, the Braves went black Matt Olson to an eight-year, $168MM extension the day after acquiring him in a five-player blockbuster deal with the A’s. And this past summer, while so many teams were focused on the trade deadline at the end of July, the Braves worked out a ten-year, $212MM extension for a third baseman. Austin Riley (before also making a handful of trades myself, of course).

Harris, 21, was the No. 98 overall pick in the 2019 draft and boosted his prospect stock with a torrid run through the minors that culminated in him skipping Triple-A altogether earlier this year. Despite being promoted right from Double-A, Harris didn’t miss a beat in the Majors. He recorded 268 plate appearances in the Majors, tonight’s performance included, and turned in a robust .287/.325/.500 batting line with a dozen home runs, 14 doubles, two triples and 13 steals (in 13 attempts). Couple that production with additional center field defense (5 Defensive Runs Saved and Outs Above Average alike), 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 some risk for both sides. Harris has just 71 games of big league experience under his belt with no Triple-A seasoning to speak of. In fact, he played just 43 games in Double-A before his promotion. And, as he has been so far in his big league career, the Braves would certainly like to see him improve on a dismal 3.7% walk rate. He’s currently sporting a .345 average on balls in play that will likely drop a bit, though players with Harris’ kind of speed (94th percentile sprint speed, via Statcast) can often sustain BABIP numbers higher than the league average.

The risk for Harris, meanwhile, is the same that teammates such as Acuna and Albies took when inking their own deals. He’s locking in a life-changing amount of money, sure, but a top-two finish in Rookie of the Year voting would have put Harris on track for arbitration after the 2024 season (or, absent that top-two finish, after the 2025 campaign). As things stand, he could either be a free agent after the 2027 season, going into his age-27 season, or after the 2028 campaign (when he would be going into his age-28 season). Free agents that young are the kind that tend to get decade-long contracts north of $200MM or even $300MM.

Of course, we can’t know if Harris will keep up his current pace for a full six years. We see players debut with great fanfare and fade from the spotlight somewhat regularly, and injuries can always affect a player’s development and open-market earning power. Harris is certainly aware that any early-career extension like this has the potential to become a red-hot bargain for the team, just as the Braves are aware that Harris isn’t necessarily a lock to cement himself among the game’s elite young outfielders. That’s the balance all teams and players strive to strike in early extensions like this one, and it seems that in this case, the Braves and Harris have found a sweet spot that will come in just short of Acuna’s deal.

While these contracts tend to be bargains of a significant nature when they hit — as they have almost universally done for the Braves up to this point — it’s also worth pointing out that they inflate a team’s luxury-tax ledger earlier than might otherwise be the case. . A $72MM contract for Harris will give him an immediate $9MM luxury hit (the average annual value of the contract) when he would otherwise count less than $1MM against the tax line.

Atlanta has a $207MM luxury payroll this year and $128MM already counts against next year’s ledger, and that’s before including Harris contract or arbitration raises for any of Max Fried, AJ Minter, Mike Soroka or Tyler Matz (except for some free or commercial additions this winter). The extensions are still likely to be cost-effective moves for the team in the long run, but the Braves will have about $50MM of luxury commitments to Acuna, Albies, Riley and Harris alone next season if this deal actually goes through.

None of this should serve as 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 the lineup for the foreseeable future gives the Braves the advantage of an explosive quartet controlled at a mere fraction of market value. . The reduced nature of their salaries – relative to market prices – should allow the team to continue to invest in free agents to complement the core, keeping the Braves well positioned to contend in the National League East for the foreseeable future. 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 certainly only makes tonight’s deal sweeter for Atlanta’s newest homegrown, hometown star.

FanSided’s Robert Murray first reported that the two sides were “deep” in negotiations on an eight-year deal. Jon Heyman of the New York Post reported that the contract would contain at least one option and be valued at $72MM (Twitter links).

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