Atlanta Braves show they’re serious about keeping young roster intact

The Atlanta Braves have locked up another prized piece of their present and future. The team announced it signed rookie outfielder Michael Harris II to an eight-year, $72 million contract on Tuesday night.

The 21-year-old Harris made his MLB debut on May 28 and has since become manager Brian Snitker’s primary center fielder. He owns a .287/.325/.500 batting line to go along with 12 home runs, 39 RBIs and 13 stolen bases already.

Atlanta drafted Harris in the third round of the 2019 MLB Draft. His new deal is the latest example of Atlanta securing a player in the raw stages of his MLB career to jump at a contract, providing the franchise with long-term, financial flexibility. In the past three years, they’ve extended Austin Riley (10-year, $212 million), Matt Olson (eight-year, $168 million), Ronald Acuna Jr. (eight-year, $100 million) and Ozzie Albies (seven-year, $35 million deal).

Each of those four was an All-Star selection in the past year. At 28 years old, Olson is by far the elder statesman of the group. Acuna (24), Albies (25) and Riley (25) inked their extensions by their third MLB seasons. They make for quite the promising core.

On the season, Atlanta has tallied 182 home runs (second in MLB), a .765 OPS (second), 575 runs (third), 1,017 hits (sixth) and a .252 batting average (seventh). 

The Braves are 72-46, good for second in the NL East and three-and-a-half games back of the New York Mets. Coming off their 2021 World Series title, the Braves acquired Olson from the Oakland Athletics for a quartet of highly regarded prospects: catcher Shea Langeliers, outfielder Cristian Pache and pitchers Ryan Cusick and Joey Estes.

The move for Olson was made amid the uncertainty of franchise first baseman Freddie Freeman, who ultimately signed a six-year, $162 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Braves have traditionally developed from within. The bulk of their starting rotation was either drafted or came up through their farm system (Max Fried, Kyle Wright and Spencer Strider). With All-Star shortstop Dansby Swanson a free agent after this season, Atlanta could presumably let the 28-year-old walk and plug in Vaughn Grissom, who has been with the team since Aug. 10 and is the club’s No. 1 prospect.

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