By Jake Mintz
FOX Sports MLB Writer
Wednesday, the Atlanta Braves announced they had agreed to an eight-year, $72 million extension with the rookie outfielder Michael Harris II. The contract includes two team options worth an additional $35 million, which if exercised would push the deal through to the end of the 2032 season.
I don’t even know what I’m doing tomorrow.
The deal is yet another in a long line of long-term pacts between the Braves and their young superstars. Earlier this season, they signed 25-year-old third baseman Austin Riley to a 10-year, $212 million extension. Last offseason, they gave Matt Olson eight years for $168 million after trading for the 28-year-old first baseman. In the space of nine days in April 2019, they extended Ronald Acuña Jr. and Ozzie Albies to eight- and seven-year contracts, respectively.
Michael Harris II highlights the best recruits of the week
In a June episode of “Flippin’ Bats,” Ben Verlander discussed whether Michael Harris II was baseball’s best rookie this season.
These five bats keep Atlanta’s window of contention open for the foreseeable future.
The Harris deal is also notable in that it’s only 70 games into his big league career. Called up May 28, the 21-year-old Atlanta native was spectacular, slashing .288/.327/.498 with 12 homers and 14 interceptions while playing phenomenal defense in center field. Going forward, he is a legitimate 30/30 threat.
The extension is understandable for both parties. As a rookie, Harris is still three years away from a true payday in officiating. By then, his performance could fall off a cliff. Don’t forget folks: for every José Ramírez expansion, there’s a Scott Kingery expansion. But you can never hate a young player for securing generational wealth. Harris has earned that right. The Braves have their center fielder of the future, and a local and local to boot.
Some extensions exploit, some don’t. Some take advantage of young players unfairly, capping their overall earnings well below their true value. Some provide players with financial stability and keep them in an organization for years to come.
Harris is far from the last young pre-offer player in the league right now who might be tempted by the stability of an overtime. Let’s jump into MLB country and look at some other notable hitters (pitchers are a different, more volatile bag of worms) to see who might be the next big name to lock it down long term.
Adley RutschmanVS, Orioles
After a tough first month, the Baltimore rookie backstop has gotten the hang of things and might already be baseball’s best catcher. (The only one I would take over right now would be Will Smith). As of June 10, Rutschman has a .911 OPS, the 13th-highest rating in baseball during that span. More impressively, he walked a 15.2% clip during that streak, good for eighth-best in the game. That’s a ridiculous achievement for a rookie receiver.
Rutschman won’t enter free agency until after the 2028 season, but it’s never too early to think about the future; the Manny Machado years flew by in Baltimore. But pre-umpire overtime for generational receivers is rare, due to the position’s susceptibility to injury and receivers’ tendency to fall offensively past their short-gloved peers. Remember how good Jonathan Lucroy was during a hot second?
Orioles’ Adley Rutschman makes long-awaited MLB debut
Ben Verlander talks about Adley Rutschman’s early days in MLB and how young superstars are giving their small-market fans hope for the future.
Salvador Pérez is the only wide receiver in recent memory to sign an extension early in his career, but that five-year, $7 million deal he signed with Kansas City after his first two months in the big leagues is usually considered the most exploitative. contract ever. It’s so criminal that you can’t use it as a mockup. The most realistic comparison for Rutschman is the eight-year, $167 million contract Buster Posey signed with the Giants before his first year as an umpire.
We haven’t seen Mike Elias Baltimore’s diet offer extensions to this new generation of Good Orioles, so it’s hard to say where things stand with Rutschman. The only record is the José Altuve extension that Elias presumably oversaw during his time with the Astros.
Julio Rodriguezheart rate, sailors
It’s honestly hard to imagine what a Rodríguez expansion would look like. Like Harris, he has less than 105 games in his MLB career, but it’s clear to anyone who’s watched the Home Run Derby that Julio is That Guy. With Fernando Tatis Jr. on a ringworm-related timeout for the foreseeable future, Rodríguez assumes the overused title of Next Great Face of Baseball.
In his first 431 plate appearances, he has 19 homers, 21 interceptions, and 131 OPS+, while providing surprisingly good defense at center. He is still only 21 years old. A Rodríguez extension would likely rival, if not exceed, the massive 14-year, $340 million contract Tatis received from the Padres.
Can Julio Rodríguez lead the Mariners to the playoffs?
Following Julio Rodríguez’s Home Run Derby show, Ben Verlander was joined by FOX Sports MLB writers Jake Mintz and Jordan Shusterman to discuss whether he can help the Mariners break their playoff drought.
If a deal of this magnitude for a guy with less than a season under his belt sounds absurd, well, it kind of is. But if the Mariners don’t lock Rodríguez up now, it could one day, years from now, turn into a Juan Soto situation. Sure, the Mariners could wait a few years and take advantage of Rodríguez’s pre-arbitration years, in which they can pay him less than $1 million, but if they open negotiations just before arbitration, there’s chances are, as in the case of de Soto, that the price could absolutely skyrocket. This is where the game lies.
We know that the Mariners offered Rodríguez teammate Jarred Kelenic a multi-year extension ahead of the 2020 season. That offer, which Kelenic declined, and JP Crawford’s recent contract extension show that the Mariners are, at all the least, willing to discuss.
Bobby Witt Jr.., SS, Royals
Witt hasn’t exploded offensively like his rookie counterparts in Seattle and Baltimore, but he’s still shown the talent and raw tools that put him at the top of prospect lists in 2022.
The good news: His max sprint speed of 113.7 is in the 93rd percentile in the league, and Statcast ranks his sprint speed as literally the fastest in baseball. The bad news: The metrics think he’s an abyssal defender at shortstop, and he’s only walking a 4.9% clip. Those imperfections are a double-edged sword: his immature swing decisions make him a bigger risk for a long-term deal, but also mean an extension at this time would be much cheaper for the Royals.
Without a real offensive breakthrough, Witt would likely get less than the 10-year, $202 million extension Wander Franco received from Tampa Bay last offseason. It’s probably a risk worth taking for Kansas City, a small-market team that has historically operated on a limited payroll. And general manager Dayton Moore loves locking up “his guys” for the long haul.
Still, I think KC and Witt will wait a bit just to see what happens with his bat. He could either become a solid defensive shortstop with elite speed and outrageous power, or a third baseman who never walks.
Oneil CruzSS, pirate
For the previous one, let’s see what kind of extensions the other 6-foot-8 shortstops got. Oh, you’re telling me there were no other 6-foot-8 shortstops? Got it, very cool.
Yeah, I have no idea on this one.
Cruz was breathtaking at times, capable of feats no other player could dream of, but there was also a ton of swing and miss in his game. Even after his long major league career this year, we still don’t really know what kind of player he will become.
Breaking down Oneil Cruz’s potential
Ben Verlander discusses the potential of baseball’s newest phenomenon, Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Oneil Cruz.
As a prospect, Cruz was borderline unrecognizable because his profile was so bizarre and unique. It also makes it incredibly difficult to imagine as an expansion candidate. How much do you pay for a unicorn that could actually be a horse? That being said, Ke’Bryan Hayes’ recent long-term deal with the Buccos (eight years, $70 million) makes a deal with Cruz a little more likely.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr.1B, blue jays
Vladdy is a slightly different case from the rest of these cats given that he is already in his first year of refereeing. But due to service time manipulation, he won’t be a free agent until after the 2025 season.
Probably the best comparison to any Guerrero deal is Freddie Freeman’s first deal. When Freeman signed that eight-year, $135 million deal with the Braves before the 2014 season, he was just 24 years old and had just finished fifth in the NL MVP race.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. goes to triage against Yanks
On Thursday, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit a three-run homer in the Toronto Blue Jays’ 9-2 win over the New York Yankees.
Although he has taken a slight step back in 2022 following his campaign as world runners-up last year, the 23-year-old Guerrero has been significantly better in his first four seasons than Freeman. That momentum, closer to a decade of inflation and rising wages, means Guerrero could command well beyond that Freeman contract.
In fact, the deal would likely average more than the $35 million a year Anthony Rendon got from the Angels in 2019.
Jake Mintz is the loudest half of @CespedesBBQ and a baseball writer for FOX Sports. He is an Orioles fan living in New York and as a result leads a solitary existence most of October. If he doesn’t watch baseball, he almost certainly rides a bike. You can follow him on Twitter @Jake_Mintz.
Get more from Major League Baseball Follow your favorites for game insights, news and more.