Riley will make $15 million in 2023, $21 million in 2024 and $22 million per year over the remainder of the contract. He’s donating $2.12 million to the Atlanta Braves Foundation.
With this extension, the Braves bought out Riley’s final three years of arbitration. With the way he’s trending as a player, they likely saved money doing it now instead of waiting until he reached free agency, which would’ve been after the 2025 season.
The 25-year-old Riley is batting .301 with a .964 OPS over 101 games this season. He has 29 home runs and 68 RBIs. Riley, named to his first All-Star team this year, leads the majors with 61 extra-base hits. He ranks fourth in homers and sixth in OPS.
According to Baseball Reference, Riley ranks eighth in baseball with 4.7 Wins Above Replacement (WAR). Among the players ahead of him: Aaron Judge, Shohei Ohtani and Nolan Arenado.
“He did everything to play in the big leagues, to be successful,” Bridges told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in a phone interview Monday evening. “I know the hard work that he’s put in, and I know his struggles the whole way through. I couldn’t be happier for him, I couldn’t be happier for his wife and I couldn’t be happier for his whole family.”
And with his performance in July, he placed himself into the National League MVP conversation. In 26 games in July, Riley hit .423 with a 1.344 OPS. He collected 15 doubles, 11 home runs and 25 RBIs.
His 26 extra-base hits in the month are the most ever by a Braves player in a calendar month, breaking a record set by Hall of Famer Hank Aaron in 1961. His batting average and homer totals from the month put him with Hall of Famer Chipper Jones as the only Braves players to bat .400 with double-digit homers in a month.
Since the Braves drafted Riley with the No. 41 overall pick in 2015 out of DeSoto Central High School in Southhaven, Miss., he has developed into one of the sport’s top hitters. Last season, Riley finished seventh in NL MVP voting after batting .303 with 33 homers and 107 RBIs. He also captured his first Silver Slugger Award and was named to the All-MLB First Ream. In the playoffs, he blasted two homers and hit a walk-off single in Game 1 of the NLCS versus the Dodgers.
His meteoric rise earned him a nice deal.
“I kind of figured he was kind of forcing the situation based on last year and how he’s doing so far this year,” Bridges said. “I wouldn’t bet against the child. I know what he had done.”
Riley, who debuted in 2019, was an arbitration-eligible player set to become a free agent after the 2025 season. But he’s put himself among the group of baseball’s best third basemen. Now he’ll be paid as such as his contract passes Matt Olson’s eight-year, $168 deal for the richest in Braves history.
In terms of average annual value on his contract, Riley’s deal will rank fourth for third basemen. Anthony Rendon’s seven-year, $245 million deal leads the bunch, followed by Nolan Arenado’s eight-year, $260 million deal and Manny Machado’s 10-year, $300 million contract.
The Braves have placed themselves in a great position with their quartet of young stars:
– Riley is now signed through at least the 2032 season.
– Ronald Acuña is signed through 2026 season but his contract includes club options for 2027 and 2028.
– Matt Olson’s contract runs through 2029 and includes a club option for 2030.
– Ozzie Albies’ deal has club options for 2026 and 2027.
That’s three members of the starting infield, and one of the starting outfield, under control for a long time. The Braves have a history of fielding players who are beloved by the fans. From Hank Aaron to Chipper Jones, they’ve had a healthy amount of franchise cornerstones. Over the length of his extension, Riley could become another one of them.
As Riley ripped through opposing pitchers, developing into one of the game’s top hitters, one question surfaced: Could the Braves make him part of their long-term future? Atlanta answered the question in a resounding way.
At one point during the Braves’ scouting journey with Riley in 2015, Bridges found himself near Riley on a back field. With no other scouts around, Bridges walked up to Riley and asked him the same question he would eventually ask Riley’s mother.
“Pitcher or hitter?” Bridges asked.
“I’m a hitter,” Riley said, short and sweet.
The rest, as they say, is history.
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