Atlanta Braves, MLB

Braves keep young core together by signing Ozzie Albies to extension

The Atlanta Braves and 22-year-old second baseman Ozzie Albies reach deal on a seven-year contract extension

The Atlanta Braves are doing everything they can to ensure the club’s young, star players remain in Atlanta for years to come.

Their latest move came on Thursday, when the club reached an agreement on a contract extension with second baseman Ozzie Albies, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. MLB Network’s Joel Sherman reports the deal is for seven years and $35 million, with an official announcement expected later today.

Albies, 22, is in his third season with the Braves after signing as a 16-year-old out of Curacao in 2013. In 11 games this season, he’s hitting .364 with a home run and two RBI. Last year he made his first All-Star Game appearance after hitting .261 with 24 home runs, second in the majors among second baseman behind only the Chicago Cubs’ Javier Baez. Albies is making $575,000 this season as part of his rookie contract, and wouldn’t have been eligible for arbitration for another two seasons. With this new deal, however, he’ll make an average of $5 million a year up until his age-28 season, with options to extend the deal for a further two years.

Albies is part of a young core the led the Braves to the NL East title in 2018. The club’s other budding superstar, Ronald Acuna, signed an eight-year, $100 million extension on April 2 that could keep him in Atlanta through his age-30 season. While Acuna opted for financial security in the near future, with his potential as a franchise player he could be leaving millions of dollars on the table, especially considering the $300-400 million deals signed by the likes of Manny Machado, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout this offseason.

That players like Albies and Acuna are choosing to sign extensions well before they hit the free agency market shows a growing trend around baseball. Free agency, long the aspiration of players wishing to get a big payday, is no longer desirable as teams are reluctant to hand out big deals to veterans. Harper and Machado had to wait until February before signing their deals this offseason, while players like Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel still remain unsigned.

Star players are still getting paid, but the ordeal is something they’ll like to avoid. Even rookies are beginning to see the benefits of signing contract extensions. The Chicago White Sox gave outfielder Eloy Jimenez, the No. 3-ranked prospect coming into this season, a six-year, $43 million deal before he even played a game in the majors.

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The Braves clearly see the advantage in keeping their two young stars under team control on friendly deals long-term. “Hopefully, this isn’t the last deal we do with him. Hopefully, he ends his career as a Brave and he goes in the Hall of Fame one day as a Brave. But this is a starting point,” Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. He was speaking about Acuna earlier this month, but his statement remains true of Albies as well. And thanks to the new deal, they’re be playing together at SunTrust Park well into the prime of their careers.

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