Hairston Jr.: Braves' Front Office Should Be Doing Cartwheels

Ronald Acuna Jr. became the youngest player to sign a contract worth at least $100 million – and it might be the biggest mistake of his life

Reiter Than You
April 03, 2019 - 8:41 pm
Ronald Acuna Jr. Atlanta Braves

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The Braves have signed Ronald Acuna Jr. to an eight-year, $100-million extension that will keep him in Atlanta through the 2026 season. Acuna, 21, is the youngest player in baseball history to sign a contract worth at least $100 million.

And it might be the biggest mistake of his life.

“If I’m the Braves’ front office, I’m doing cartwheels,” Jerry Hairston Jr. said on Reiter Than You. “Getting Acuna to sign an eight-year deal with two club options – it’s not even a mutual option – for Acuna, who is a generational type of player, he’s the face of the franchise. I think it’s a terrible deal if you’re Acuna. This guy is the reigning Rookie of the Year. He doesn’t even get a signing bonus.”

Acuna hit .293 with 26 home runs, 64 RBIs, 78 runs and 16 steals in 111 games as a rookie last season. Hairston believes he should have signed a five-year deal worth anywhere from $75-90 million.

“You have the perfect blueprint (with) Mike Trout,” Hairston said, referring to the six-year, $144.5 million deal Trout signed in 2014 at 22. “I’m not even saying he’s Mike Trout. Do it five years for $90 (million). Now the Braves have Acuna under contract for eight years for $100 million. This guy could be the face of the game in two or three years. He has that type of ability. Why not sign a five-year deal? You’re throwing away three or four years of free agency. I think he’s going to regret that deal in about two or three years.”

Hairston doesn’t fault Acuna for taking this deal; he faults Acuna’s agent.

“The one is really on the agents,”  Hairston said. “You have to look out for your players. If you’re 20, 21 years old, ask the veteran players in the clubhouse. Ask them. Ask them. I don’t blame Acuna. He sees $100 million, (he’s thinking ), ‘Oh, my gosh! There’s $100 million in guaranteed money! Let me jump on it!’ If I was a veteran guy on that team (I’d) pull him aside and say, ’Hey kid, $100 million is a lot of money. I’m not saying it’s not. But why don’t you sign a five-year deal? Don’t sign the eight-year deal.’”

Don’t think it matters? It does. 

“No one is getting huge contracts anymore at 31, 32 years of age,” Hairston said. “So you set yourself up to get guaranteed money (for) five years. Then it assures me to hit free agency at 26 years old – just like Manny Machado, just like Bryce Harper, right? Then you can sign a 10-year (deal). By that time, it’s going to be 10 years, $400 million. You don’t know what’s going to happen. Sign your guarantees now, don’t give up three or four years of free agency.”

Acuna will be in Atlanta through at least his age-28 season. Team options could make that 30.

“Now he’s going to hit the market (around 30), and at that time, they’ll say, ‘We’re not giving those long-term deals to 31-, 32-year-olds,’” Hairston said. “That’s what crushes me. And the options that he got were club options. There weren’t even mutual options. So I don’t put the onus on 21-year-old Acuna. I’m looking out for this kid.”