9:10 p.m.: The contract under discussion would guarantee Harris about $72MM, Heyman reports.
21:04: The Braves and rookie outfielder Michael Harris II are “deep” in negotiations over an eight-year contract extension, FanSided’s Robert Murray reports (Twitter link). Jon Heyman of the New York Post adds that the contract discussed has an option for a ninth season.
The new collective labor agreement creates some interesting wrinkles for an extension scenario like this. Harris has a good chance of finishing first or second in National League Rookie of the Year voting – probably along with teammate Spencer Strider —which would earn him a full year of service for the 2022 season, despite not finishing the year with the required 172 days on the major league roster.
The start date of the contract will then turn out to be all the more important. If the contract goes into effect in 2023 and Harris does indeed get a full year of service for the 2022 season based on the Awards vote, the deal would technically buy out his last five seasons of club control and include another three free-agent years (with an option for at least a fourth). If Harris collapses and eventually falls through the Rookie of the Year vote, an eight-year deal starting in 2023 would technically cover six years of club control and two free-agent seasons. In theory, that distinction should affect the pricing of the later years of the contract.
In the past we have seen similar situations regarding Super Two status. Chris ArcherFor example, his first overtime with the Rays included two sets of potential salaries: one set in case he qualified as a Super Two player and another, smaller set in case he became a little shy of Super Two status. It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, of course, but speculatively speaking, the Braves and Harris camp could explore some contingent salary structures based on this year’s Rookie of the Year vote.
Aside from such intricacies, the expansion for Harris, if completed, would continue an aggressive trend of an Atlanta front office unafraid of paying significant amounts of money to its young stars early in their careers. Outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. (eight years, $100MM) and second baseman Ozzie Albies (seven years, $35MM) both signed early, very club-friendly extensions that include a few club options beyond their guaranteed years. Acuna’s deal, as discussed with Harris, was agreed before he even had a full year of Major League service time.
More recently, the Braves have inked Matt Olson to an eight-year extension, $168MM the day after he bought it in a five-player blockbuster at the A’s. And while so many teams were focused on the late July trading deadline last summer, the Braves negotiated a $102 MM ten-year extension for the third baseman. Austin Riley (before doing a handful of trades, of course).
Harris, 21, was the No. 98 overall pick in the 2019 draft, bolstering his prospect stock with a torrid race through the minors that led to him skipping Triple-A entirely earlier this year. Despite being promoted from Double-A, Harris hasn’t missed a moment. He recorded 268 at bats in the Majors, including tonight’s appearance, and delivered a robust .287/.325/.500 batting line with a dozen homers, 14 doubles, two triples and 13 steals (in 13 attempts). Couple that production plus midfield defense and it’s easy to see how the Braves have quickly become enamored with the dynamic young outfielder.
As with any overtime for a young player, there is certainly some risk to both sides. Harris has just 71 big league games to his name with no Triple-A seasoning to speak of. He only played 43 games in Double-A prior to his promotion. And, as good as he’s been in his big league career, the Braves would certainly like to see him improve to a dismal 3.7% run. He currently averages .345 on balls in play that will likely drop a bit, although players with Harris’ type speed (94th percentile sprint speed, per Statcast) can often keep BABIP numbers higher than the league average.
The risk to Harris, meanwhile, is the same that teammates like Acuna and Albies took when signing their own deals. He would certainly bring in a life-changing sum of money, but a top two finish in Rookie of the Year voting would put Harris on track for arbitration after the 2024 season (or, without that top two finish, after the 2025 campaign). As things stand, he could have either been a free agent after the 2027 season, heading into his 27-year season, or after the 2028 season (when he was to enter his 28-year season). Free agents that young are the types that tend to make ten-year contracts north of $200MM or even $300MM.
We certainly don’t know if Harris will maintain his current pace for six years. We see players debuting with a lot of fanfare and disappearing from the spotlight with some regularity, and injuries can always affect a player’s development and the earning potential of the open market. Harris is certainly aware that such an early career extension has the potential to become an outright bargain for the team, just as the Braves are aware that Harris is far from a lock to self fortify among the game’s elite young outfielders – for a variety of reasons. That’s the balance that all teams and players strive for in early overtime like this, and it looks like in this case the Braves and Harris have found a sweet spot that will be way below the Acuna deal.
While these contracts are usually bargains of a significant nature when they hit — as they’ve almost universally done for the Braves thus far — it’s also worth pointing out that they’re more likely to blow up a team’s luxury tax book than they do otherwise. case would be. A $72 MM contract for Harris will get him an immediate luxury hit of $9 MM (the average annual value of the contract), when he would otherwise have counted less than $1 MM against the tax.
Atlanta has a luxury payroll of $207MM this year and $128MM already counting against next year’s ledger, and that’s before a Harris contract or arbitration increases for any of the Max Fried, AJ Minter, Mike Soroka or Tyler Matzek (plus any free agent or trade additions this winter). The extensions are still likely to be cost-effective steps for the team in the long run, but the Braves will have about $50 million in luxury pledges to Acuna, Albies, Riley and Harris next season alone if this deal does indeed go through.
Of course, all this should not serve as a deterrent. Harris looks like a burgeoning young star, and by placing him alongside Acuna in the outfield and Acuna, Riley and Albies in the lineup in the near future, the Braves gain the advantage of an explosive quartet controlled for just a fraction of the market value. The lower nature of their salaries – relative to market prices – should allow the team to continue investing in free agents to replenish the core, keeping the Braves well positioned to compete in the National League for the foreseeable future. east. Growing up in the Atlanta area and attending high school just 40 miles south of Truist Park makes Harris all the more marketable to the fans, and certainly only sweetens the possibility of a deal for the newest star of the game. homegrown in Atlanta.