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Ronald Acuña Jr., Braves agree to $100M, 8-year contract

April 2, 2019
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Atlanta Braves' Ronald Acuna Jr. reacts to hitting a solo home run for a 5-0 lead over the Chicago Cubs during the third inning of a baseball game, Monday, April 1, 2019, in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

ATLANTA (AP) — When Ronald Acuña Jr. is earning $17 million per year in his prime, the Atlanta Braves may have one of baseball’s best bargains.

From the perspective of Acuña, that possibility isn’t a concern. At 21, he is the youngest player to land a $100 million deal and he said he has no regrets about gaining that security so early in his career.

Acuña and the Braves agreed to a $100 million, eight-year contract on Tuesday, the largest deal for a player under club control with less than one year of major league service.

The NL Rookie of the Year , Acuña agreed to a deal with two team options that, if exercised, would raise the value to $124 million over 10 years.

“No, I have no regrets,” Acuña said through a translator. “No one can see the future. No one knows what’s going to happen tomorrow, so I’m extremely happy with the decision we’ve all made and I’m just excited to be here.”

Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos said Acuña and the team shared equal interest in the long-term deal.

“The key was that these deals only get done when both sides want to get it done,” Anthopoulos said. “The last few weeks we went back and forth and this morning we were finally able to come to terms.”

Anthopoulos said he felt more confident about extending the big offer after seeing Acuña retain his work ethic following his 2018 success.

“Everybody could see how talented he is,” Anthopoulos said. “Like I said, best young player I’ve seen. But from a front office standpoint, I wanted to see how Ronald came into spring training. He was the exact same guy, which was telling to me.”

Acuña opened his first full season last week as the Braves cleanup hitter. He hit his first homer of the year in Monday night’s 8-0 win over the Chicago Cubs .

He made his major league debut last April 25 and began Tuesday with 165 days of service. Acuña would have been eligible for free agency after the 2024 season.

Atlanta renewed his contract last month for a salary of $560,000 in the major leagues — $5,000 above the minimum — and $232,944 in the event he is sent to the minors.

His new superseding contract calls for $1 million each in 2019 and 2020, $5 million in 2021, $15 million in 2022 and $17 million in each of the following four seasons. Atlanta has a $17 million option for 2027 with a $10 million buyout. If that is exercised, the Braves also have a $17 million option for 2028 — the year Acuña turns 31.

“I don’t think much is going to change, to be honest,” Acuña said. “I do come from a humble place, La Guaira, Venezuela. I’m proud to be from there and I plan to just continue to put work in.”

His deal is the second largest in Braves’ history behind Freddie Freeman’s $135 million, eight-year agreement before the 2014 season.

“Our focus was we just wanted Ronald to be a Brave longer than six years and ultimately come to an agreement that gives him the financial security but also allows him to hit the market again at a stellar young age, to get a good deal,” Anthopoulos said.

Acuña hit .293 with a team-high 26 home runs, 64 RBIs and 16 steals in 111 games last year. He is 3 for 14 with one home run in four games this year.

Anthopoulos and Acuña each said they hope this isn’t the outfielder’s last contract with the Braves.

“I’m looking forward to spending the next 10 years here and I hope to finish my career here as well,” Acuña said.

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