ATLANTA (AP) — Even as they prepare for another postseason, the Atlanta Braves are stocking up for the future.
The reigning World Series champions signed rookie right-hander Spencer Strider to a $75 million, six-year contract on Monday, the latest in a series of long-term deals for their young core.
The signing of Strider, who turns 24 this month, came after just 33 big league appearances. But he’s quickly become one of the team’s most popular players with his 100 mph fastball and bushy mustache.
Strider said he was eager to get a deal done because of “the commitment to winning not just right now but in the future with the guys that are in this clubhouse.”
“That means a lot to me,” he added. “It’s very cool and humbling to have the opportunity to stay here.”
The move came one day before the Braves open their NL Division Series against the Philadelphia Phillies and less than two months after Atlanta signed another rookie, outfielder Michael Harris II, to a $72 million, eight-year deal.
Harris’ deal includes a pair of team options that could raise its value to $102 million over 10 years.
Also in August, the Braves signed Austin Riley to a $212 million, 10-year contract that starts in 2023, handing out the most lucrative deal in franchise history even though the slugging third baseman would not have been eligible for free agency for three more seasons.
The signings of Riley, Harris and Strider were an extension of the Braves’ philosophy to lock up their young stars with long-term deals even when they’re under club control for several more seasons.
Outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. is tied to the Braves until 2027, while second baseman Ozzie Albies is under a cut-rate contract that binds him to Atlanta for three more seasons.
In fact, nearly every key player on the team is under contract or team control at least through 2023. The only exception is shortstop Dansby Swanson, who figures to be one of the biggest prizes in free agency, though the Braves have made it clear they hope he’ll stay in Atlanta.
General manager Alex Anthopoulos began negotiations on a new deal for Strider in early September.
“Sometimes these things just take a little time and they go back and forth,” Anthopoulos said. “But we’re grateful that it got done.”
Strider’s contract includes a $22 million club option for 2029 with a $5 million buyout. If the option is exercised, the deal will be worth $92 million.
Strider opened the season as a reliever but then solidified Atlanta’s rotation, helping the Braves win their fifth consecutive NL East title.
He will earn $1 million per season in 2023 and 2024, $4 million in 2025, $20 million in 2026, and $22 million per season in 2027-2028.
Strider became the first pitcher in baseball history to record at least 200 strikeouts while allowing fewer than 100 hits.
“He’s not scared of anybody,” catcher Travis d’Arnaud said. “He believes in himself, which I think is the most important thing.”
Strider was 11-5 with a 2.67 ERA in 31 games, including 20 starts. He had 202 strikeouts in 131 2/3 innings while giving up 86 hits.
An oblique injury has kept Strider sidelined since Sept. 18. The Braves have said they are optimistic he can return for the playoffs, either as a starter or perhaps working out of the bullpen while he builds up arm strength.
“He’s succeeded in both roles,” d’Arnaud said. “Just to have him out there is big for us and would be tremendous.”
Strider said he’s encouraged about his prospects after throwing off a mound Sunday.
“I feel great,” he said. “We’re still waiting to get out there and do our work for today and see how that goes. But those decisions and everything will be up to the team, of course, and how we want to plan for the series and stuff. I feel good, and hopefully it keeps trending in that direction.”
Like so many of the young Braves stars, Strider knows where he’ll be for many seasons to come.
“That’s the motivation in trying to get something like this done is to be here and stay with the people that I come to work with every day,” Strider said. “I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.”
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