The Atlanta Braves took yet another step towards securing their long-term future on Friday when they signed Julio Teheran to a six-year, $32.4 million deal. Teheran, who completed his first full season at the big league level last year, finished 14-8 with a 3.20 ERA in 2013, rebounding well from a disappointing 2012 campaign with triple-A Gwinnett.
The contract features the option for an extension through the 2020 season, bringing the total to $44.4 million over seven years. If Teheran remains healthy and continues to improve, this contract would well prove to be a bargain (especially taking into consideration the current salaries of top-of-the-rotation pitchers). The 23-year old righty possesses the potential to develop into a true ace, and locking him up for the foreseeable future at a relatively discounted price is a smart move by the Atlanta front office.
The deal comes on the heels of Freddie Freeman’s eight-year, $135 million contract and Jason Heyward’s two-year $13.5 million signing. Freeman is the true future of the franchise. He has demonstrated steady improvement and unparalleled consistency for such a young player, and with first basemen commanding such high salaries (for increasingly less production, it would seem), the Braves were smart to pay Freeman what they did.
Heyward, on the other hand, is still unproven. He has yet to blossom into the player we all expected him to, taking a bit of a step backward last year from his 2012 campaign. The two-year contract will give Heyward time to prove himself, and by signing him to such a short-term deal, Atlanta won’t be financially crippled if he never does.
Teheran represents a third major piece of the puzzle for the Braves, who believe the best is yet to come from the young starter. Teheran himself is determined not to allow the contract to affect his play or development. With his family now financially stable, he will be able to focus solely on pitching.
Now, the Braves can turn their attention toward Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel may well be the final piece of the equation for Atlanta. He’s the most dominant closer in the game, and at just 25 years of age, he likely will be for quite some time. I’m inclined to say the Braves should give him his asking price ($9 million), but I’m not privy to the ins and outs of the team’s fiscal situation.
Whatever that may be, Atlanta would be wise to settle a deal with the closer for at least the next few seasons. Based on his performance over the last two years, the Braves may not be able to afford to lose him.