Braves keep young star Michael Harris home with eight-year contract extension

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

As far as fairy tales go, it is difficult to script one better than the story of Michael Harris.

He rooted for the Braves as a young kid growing up in the Atlanta area, and always dreamed of one day donning their uniform and having the “A” on his cap. He watched tons of Braves games, idolizing the franchise’s great players along the way. Meanwhile, he put in the work in his own baseball career, grinding away at his craft in hopes of someday being like his childhood heroes.

It led to this storybook moment: Harris signed an eight-year, $72 million contract extension with the Braves, the team announced Tuesday night. It is massive news for the organization’s present and future.

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And for Harris, it is the latest – and biggest – chapter in a heartwarming start to a career for the kid who always wanted to play for his hometown team. The player nicknamed “Money Mike” received a well-deserved payday just months after being in Double A before the Braves called him up to the majors.

Harris’ extension runs through the 2030 season. It includes a $15 million club option for 2031 with a $5 million buyout, and then a $20 million club option for 2032 with a $5 million buyout.

Harris will make $5 million per year for 2023-24, $8 million per year for 2025-26, $9 million in 2027, $10 million per year in 2028-29 and $12 million in 2030. The deal will be worth $102 million over 10 years if the Braves exercise both options.

Harris, the five-tool talent, will be wearing a Braves uniform for a long time. Not only does he get to spend a major chunk of his career with his favorite team, but he is officially a long-term part of a core that could win multiple World Series.

At the time his deal became official, Harris was batting .287 with an .825 OPS. He had 12 home runs and 39 RBIs. He might be the leading candidate for National League Rookie of the Year, which almost certainly will not be the only accolade for which he will position himself throughout his career. Harris, whom the Braves drafted in the third round in 2019, is the youngest player in the major leagues.

This story all began almost four years ago, when the Braves scout Chris Lionetti first laid eyes on Harris. Lionetti invited Harris to an event at the Braves’ ballpark, and the organization followed him ever since. Harris was a pitcher in high school, but desperately wanted to be a hitter – and told the Braves this. They bought into Harris’ vision for himself, especially after Lionetti and Dana Brown, Atlanta’s vice president of scouting, saw Harris’ energy change when he switched from pitching to playing center field during a high school game his senior year.

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Not long before the draft, the Braves brought Harris to the stadium for a workout. As he launched baseballs up to the Chop House during batting practice, the Braves’ scouting team was amazed. Reed Dunn, a Braves scout, once said Harris’ workout reminded him of when he worked for the Nationals and they worked out Bryce Harper. “I think he hit like 15 to 20 balls out, and he wasn’t hitting wall-scrapers,” Dunn said. “He was hitting them where Freddie Freeman hit the ball.”

Since the Braves called up Harris on May 28, he has exceeded expectations. They spotted a gem years ago, and he has turned into a star. A scary thought for opponents: He is probably only getting started.

Harris is known for his seemingly slow heartbeat, a trait that veterans – not rookies – often possess. He has hit multiple game-tying home runs in the ninth inning. In center field, featuring tremendous range and always flashing the leather, he has already made enough plays to fill one of those YouTube highlight reels that will be set to hype music.

“I think I told myself the other day I felt like I was a fan playing on the team,” Harris told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in June. “You really can’t make this up, honestly. You can dream it, but nothing really compares to it, just being out there on the field, having that Braves jersey on with your name on it. And just having people behind you cheering for you, just wanting the best for you.”

As he has made a name for himself as a rookie, Harris always seemed like the logical choice to be one of the franchise’s cornerstones. He is talented, but humble. As an Atlanta sports fan, he embraces the city’s sports culture and connects with fans. He is a young star who connects with fans.

The Braves were smart to do this now. Harris hasn’t even played a full season, but he’s displayed his five tools with enough regularity to believe he can be a star for years to come. At the rate he has played, his price only would have skyrocketed.

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

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Harris’ extension means the Braves have a large and talented core as they chase more championships. The expectations will be high. This team should be a force for years to come.

Here is what the Braves’ core of position players for the future looks like:

- Austin Riley is signed through at least the 2032 season.

- Ronald Acuña is signed through 2026 season but his contract includes club options for 2027 and 2028.

- Matt Olson’s contract runs through 2029 and includes a club option for 2030.

- Ozzie Albies’ deal has club options for 2026 and 2027.

And now Harris is among them. An Atlanta kid at heart, Harris, who seems destined to eventually be a superstar in this sport, will play for his hometown team, in the uniform he dreamed of wearing, for a long time.

You couldn’t write a better story.