ATLANTA — Life is good for Austin Riley. The Braves third baseman ended July breaking one of Hank Aaron’s records and entered August knowing he will have a chance to stay in Atlanta for at least another decade.
Riley and the Braves agreed to a 10-year, $212 million deal on Monday. This deal, the most lucrative in franchise history, includes a $20 million option for 2033, when the All-Star slugger turns 36.
“The way he plays and the consistency with which he does everything is unbelievable,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He does everything right and checks all the boxes to be that guy.”
As Riley has established himself as one of the best players in the game over the past two years, it has given the Braves a reason to make him one of their mainstays. First baseman Matt Olson is signed through 2029, right fielder Ronald Acuña Jr. has a club option through 2028 and Ozzie Albies has a club option through 2027.
Thanks to the success of The Battery Atlanta, last year’s World Series title and a sold-out 29 tickets this year, the Braves believe they could soon have one of the top five payrolls in the game. So there is a chance that the club will also try to make Max Fried and Dansby Swanson part of the long-term future.
With this deal, the Braves bought three arbitration years for Riley, who will earn $15 million in 2023, $21 million in 2024 and $22 million per season for the remainder of the deal.
Olson will earn $21 million in 2023 and then $22 million annually between 2024 and 2029. Acuna’s deal should still be quite valuable, as he won’t earn more than $17 million until 2028, when the second of the club’s two options would expire. As for Albies, he won’t earn more than $7 million until 2027, when the second of his two club options would expire.
Riley just had one of the best months in Braves history, hitting .423 with 11 home runs and a 1.344 OPS in July. He set a franchise record with 26 extra-base hits, breaking the mark set by Aaron when he had 25 extra-base hits in July 1961.
“He might be the best right-handed hitter in the league right now,” D-backs starting pitcher Merrill Kelly said after facing Riley on Sunday.
Riley has hit .302 with 62 home runs and a .924 OPS since the start of the 2021 season. He ranks second among all major league third basemen with a fWAR (Fangraphs model of wins above replacement) of 9.2 , behind only José Ramírez (11.3) of the Guardians in this span.
“We’re looking at a superstar right now,” Braves right-hander Kyle Wright recently said of Riley.
Riley is currently hitting .301 with 29 home runs and a .964 OPS, which ranks him second among NL players behind only Paul Goldschmidt (1,012). His 61 extra-base hits, the best in the MLB, put him on pace for a total of 95 this year. Aaron set the franchise record with 92 XBH in 1959. The Orioles’ Chris Davis (96 in 2013) was the most recent MLB player to record at least 95 XBH in a season.