The Braves have extended yet another key member of their impressive young core, this time announcing a six-year, $75MM contract for the right-hander. Spencer Strider. The contract, which covers the 2023-28 seasons, also contains a $22MM club option for the 2029 season. The six-year guarantee buys out Strider’s final two pre-arbitration seasons, all three arbitration years and what would have been his first free-agent season. The 2029 club option gives the Braves control over what would have been Strider’s second free-agent campaign. Strider is represented by Frontline.
Strider, 24 later this month, will earn $1MM both in 2023 and 2024. He’ll be paid a $4MM salary in 2025 before jumping to $20MM in 2026 and $22MM in 2027 and 2028. The 2029 option comes with a $5 MM buyout, which is factored into the guaranteed portion of the contract. If the Braves pick up that net $17MM option for the ’29 campaign, Strider will earn a total of $92MM over seven years.
Strider becomes the fourth young Braves star to be extended this season alone, joining first baseman Matt Olson (eight years, $168MM), center fielder Michael Harris II (eight years, $72MM) and star third baseman Austin Riley (ten years, $212MM). Atlanta, of course, had previously already signed an outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. and second baseman Ozzie Albies to club-friendly extensions. All six of those players are now under club control through at least the 2027 season, giving the Braves a level of continuity and cost certainty that is unparalleled throughout the league.
A fourth-round gem in the extremely truncated 2020 draft (five rounds), Strider skyrocketed through the Braves’ system despite a lack of minor league games in 2020, ultimately making his Major League debut late in the 2021 season. The Clemson product cracked the Braves’ Opening Day roster in 2022, initially working multi-inning stints out of the bullpen before ascending to the starting staff, where he not only found success but emerged as a bona fide front-of-the-rotation arm. .
Overall, Strider broke out with 131 2/3 innings of 2.67 ERA ball and a 38.3% strikeout rate that paced all big leaguers who pitched at least 100 innings. Command was an issue at times in the minors and early in the season, but Strider markedly scaled back on the number of free passes he yielded as the season wore on, finishing out the year with an 8.5% walk rate that was scarcely north of the league average. For someone who walked 13.5% of his opponents over the first two months of the season, the improvement was as remarkable as it was rapid; from June 10 onwards, Strider walked just 6.8% of his opponents.
Strider’s dominance has positioned him as one of the two favorites for National League Rookie of the Year honors, as he and teammate Harris are widely viewed as the presumptive first- and second-place finishers in an extremely strong year for rookies (both in the NL and in MLB as a whole).
The $75MM guarantee for Strider shatters any prior precedent for pitchers with such limited experience. Prior to this deal, the five-year, $35MM contract Madison Bumgarner signed with the Giants more than a decade ago stood as the record extension for a pitcher with between one and two years of service time. (Strider is currently at 1.003 years.) This new contract not only finally topples that dated mark (in decisive fashion), it also surpasses the established extension records for pitchers with two to three years of service time (Blake Snell‘s five-year, $50MM deal) and even with three to four years of service (Sandy Alcantara‘s five-year, $56MM deal).
Because extensions, more so than free-agent contracts, draw heavily from recent comparables, the Strider deal in many ways paves the way for new precedent to be established in multiple service classes. That’s not to say every pitcher with between one and four years of service time will now require $75MM+ to sign an extension, of course; Strider’s case as a Rookie of the Year frontrunner and budding ace is far from the norm.
Nevertheless, as we’ve seen with young position players in recent years, the market for these types of extensions can still advance rapidly. Back when Acuna signed his eight-year, $100MM extension, that was the largest deal ever for a position player with under a year of big league service. That mark was quickly smashed by Wander Franco (11 years, $182MM) and further surpassed this summer by Julio Rodriguez (12 years, $210MM).
More to come.