The Atlanta Braves continue to wrap up their core young players, announcing today that they have signed starting pitcher Julio Teheran to a six-year contract. This comes on the heels of a two-year deal for Jason Heyward and an enormous eight-year deal for Freddie Freeman.
Teheran’s deal is reportedly worth $32.4 million guaranteed through 2019, with a $12 million option ($1 million buyout) for 2020. Contract details have not been fully announced, so this is currently just reporter’s quoting sources.
Julio’s first arbitration year is not until after the 2015 season, so this deal takes Teheran through all of his arbitration years and buys out his first free agent season, with a team option for his second free agent season. That’s a great deal for Atlanta, and it’s a good deal for Teheran too, since he’ll hit free agency in 2021 at age 30.
It’s great to see the Braves securing their young talent and locking in more payroll certainty. I have to believe that Andrelton Simmons will be their next target for a long term deal, since his arbitration years begin after this season. The Braves payed a higher than necessary premium for waiting to sign Freeman until after he had hit arbitration (and put up an MVP-worthy season).
Keep in mind that Teheran finished fifth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting last year. It feels like he’s been around longer, and while he made his Major League debut in May of 2011, he pitched sparingly in the Majors from 2011 to 2012. Remember that in 2012 the Braves went about tinkering with Teheran’s delivery, which messed him up most of the season (at triple-A); with Julio only ironing out his delivery in winter ball.
There might be some people who see this contract, only a year removed from that unimpressive second year in triple-A, as committing too much money to a player who is not fully vetted. That is certainly a risk with early career multi-year guaranteed deals, but with players like Teheran and Simmons, the Braves should be very familiar with them and what they can do having watched their development for years in the minors. That seems like a better risk to take than the recent free agent or trade-signings of unfamiliar players like Derek Lowe, Kenshin Kawakami, Dan Uggla, and B.J. Upton.
It’s time for the Braves to spend more money on their own players (that they know better than anyone) rather than committing their funds to free agents. Perhaps this was a case of not previously having any home grown players worth signing long term until now. And while the Braves seemed to miss the boat on Martin Prado, they certainly did the right thing by not signing guys like Yunel Escobar, Tommy Hanson, and Jair Jurrjens to deals like the one Teheran or Brian McCann received.
While it could be argued that the Braves were a year or two late with the Freeman extension, perhaps they did try to sign him and Jason Heyward prior to this year. In fact, rumblings that I heard prior to this season indicated that they were trying to sign those two, but that the players’ side wanted to wait.