The Atlanta Braves should be trying to lock up Austin Riley

Witness the power of this fully operational Atlanta Braves third baseman! Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Witness the power of this fully operational Atlanta Braves third baseman! Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /

Now isn’t the right time, but perhaps this Winter should be:  the Atlanta Braves need to make sure Austin Riley sticks around for another decade.

He’s 24 years old.  He’s now between 2 and 3 years of service time, meaning that he’s still not yet arbitration-eligible.  But the Atlanta Braves need to look around and recognize that the time may be about right to get Austin Riley signed to an extension.

There are already calls from commentators this season to rally MVP votes for Riley.  That’s probably (a) a bit over-the-top, and (b) unrealistic for this season.

That said… just the fact that he’s actually in that conversation at all tells you everything you need to know about the turn-around that Riley has experienced this Summer.

There have been some ugly stretches for him at the plate — no doubt.  But in taking the entire season into account, this has to be considered a ‘breakout’ campaign for the young third baseman:

  • He leads the majors in games played for qualified players whose primary position is 3rd base.
  • Second in innings at 3rd behind Oakland’s Matt Chapman
  • Tied for third in defensive runs saved (5) with Manny Machado.  Chapman has 7.  Nolan Arenado only has three.
  • Home Runs:  1st in the National League among third basemen
  • RBI:  third in the NL
  • Walk rate:  5th in the NL
  • Batting average:  1st (in the majors… not just for NL 3B’s)
  • OBP:  2nd in the NL
  • Slugging:  1st in the NL

So durability, offensive production, and improving defense (the metric still hate him and there have been a few youthful lapses here and there):  what’s not to like?

Riley continues to improve… seemingly on a weekly basis.  The transformation has been remarkable and the credit has to go to Riley (for his work ethic), his coaches (Chipper Jones in particular), and the Front Office (for not giving up on him early when so many were willing to do so.

This writer was willing to deal Riley to Miami to snag J.T. Realmuto when the Phillies got the catcher… at this point — while Realmuto has still been very good — guess that would have been a bad idea, eh?

So now (or soon) might be the time:  if this breakout looks sustainable at all, the Atlanta Braves might have their next All-Star third baseman.

The question then becomes this:  are they willing to do what’s necessary to keep him as part of this core group that will make this team a perennial playoff contender?

Next. Still a couple of weak links in the chain gang. dark

Here’s one vote suggesting they do exactly that… while they still can afford him.