Extension season is in full swing, as reigning National League Rookie of the Year Ronald Acuna Jr. has signed a contract that could keep him in Atlanta for 10 seasons. Acuna’s deal starts this season, goes through at least the 2026 season, and has two options for the 2027 and 2028 seasons worth a minimum of $100 million and a maximum of $124 million.
As the headline suggests, this is a very team-friendly deal signed by Alex Anthopolous and Co. in Atlanta. Acuna, who his the ground running in his rookie season after getting left behind in Triple-A for service time manipulation reasons, was on track to hit free agency after the 2024 season. This means he’s giving the Braves two guaranteed free agency years and possibly two more with the option years.
So, all in all, the Braves are getting Acuna for possibly 10 seasons at just $124 million. That’s an average of $12.4 million per season, which is what, like, a one or two win player gets in free agency. At no point, I’m fairly certain, will the Braves pay Acuna more than $17 million in any of those seasons. As I pointed out in that Eloy Jimenez article when comparing the situation to Kris Bryant, you’d expect a superstar player like Acuna to earn around $30 million in his final arbitration years.
The Blue Jays should most certainly be planning to do something similar with their future star, Vlad Jr. Acuna is about as close to a comparable as you can get to Vlad given the fact he was the league’s No. 1 prospect who broke into the league at the age of 20. Vlad will do the same in just a few weeks.
The other similarity, of course, is the service time manipulation. With Jimenez’s deal, the White Sox pushed all the bullshit aside and signed him so he could be on the roster on Opening Day. The Braves didn’t do that and neither did the Jays. As shitty as it is for the player and the fans, the Braves manipulating Acuna’s service time ultimately helped make this team-friendly deal possible. Had they brought him up on Opening Day, they’d be negotiating with a player who could hit the open market after the 2023 season.
So, yeah. Let’s go. Let’s get Vlad up here and let’s get him signed long-term. Getting him signed to a team-friendly deal like Acuna’s would offer a tremendous amount of payroll flexibility during his prime years. And, of course, the players deserve to be paid.