WASHINGTON — On opening day, the Braves began 2023 like they spent 2022: They extended yet another player.
The Braves and shortstop Orlando Arcia agreed to contract extension. It’s a three-year, $6.3 million, a person with knowledge of the situation confirmed to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. It includes a $2 million club option in 2026 and a $1 million buyout. This means that Arcia will make at least $7.3 million over the deal.
Arcia will make $2.3 million in 2023, $2 million in 2024 and $2 million in 2025.
“I’m just extremely grateful, very happy,” Arcia said through interpreter Franco García before Thursday’s opening-day contest versus the Nationals. “I’m thanking God for this opportunity to continue to play with this team. I’m just extremely excited to be able to stay with this group of guys and continue playing here.”
The deal seems to make sense for both sides.
The Braves lock up a talented infielder for a great price. This would be terrific value for a utility infielder, let alone the team’s starting shortstop to begin 2023. There isn’t much risk at this price for this reason: Even if Arcia doesn’t start for a large portion of the contract, the Braves still didn’t pay a lot.
Arcia, on the other hand, receives security. Arcia, who turns 29 in August, will be in Atlanta until he’s 32 years old if the Braves eventually pick up the club option. This is a better situation than, say, the average utility infielder who is lost in the shuffle and ends up going year to year on minor-league deals. Arcia will have a role with the Braves, who can help get the most out of him.
“Super happy,” Arcia said. “I’m just really grateful for the opportunity to play another three years here. I’m going to give my best effort to make sure that everybody’s happy with my three years here, too.”
Toward the end of spring training, the Braves effectively named Arcia their starting shortstop by optioning Vaughn Grissom and Braden Shewmake to Triple-A Gwinnett. The Braves love Arcia’s cannon of an arm and his good hands in the field. They also believe in his bat.
For now, the Braves will run him out as their starter. The job is his until it is not.
Perhaps Arcia is the starting shortstop for multiple seasons. Or maybe he buys time until Grissom or Shewmake are ready, or until the Braves make some other move for a long-term solution at shortstop.
But even if Arcia isn’t a starter for the majority of his deal, the Braves get a utility infielder at a great price. Arcia can play multiple positions. As a backup, he always stayed ready. He also provides a positive presence in the clubhouse.
“It’s nice. I’m happy for Orlando,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said of the contract extension. “There’s another guy I admire the heck out of because he came to spring training and was kind of nowhere to be found, as far as the (shortstop) conversation. He never altered anything. He had all the energy and everything.
“He ended up having a really, really nice spring, and won a job. I’m very proud of how he accomplished everything. I’m excited, and I’m glad to know that he’s going to be around for a little bit. It’s nice because he’s a wonderful, wonderful young man.”
In 2022, Arcia hit .244 with a 733 OPS. He hit nine homers and drove in 30 runs. This spring, Arcia hit .333 with a .935 OPS over a small sample. He blasted two homers and drove in eight runs.
The Braves see him as a really talented player. They think he has some upside. Plus, they know the defense will be there.
Teams can find a guy who can play shortstop for a day. Finding someone who can play the position for an extended period of time is something else.
Arcia is the latter. He’s probably better than many of the utility infielders that remain unsigned until the middle of February each year.
You can also view it like this: Since president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos arrived in Atlanta, the Braves have carried Ryan Flaherty, Charlie Culberson, Johan Camargo and Ehire Adrianza as utility infielders. Arcia probably exceeds all of them. He was a starting shortstop for a Brewers club that won the NL Central. The Braves think he still has a bit more potential.
In a way, the Braves raised their floor for the coming seasons by extending Arcia. He’s probably better than many of the utility infielders that are on the market every winter. Now, they continue having clarity on that spot.
If Arcia starts at shortstop? Wonderful. If he’s only the utility infielder? That’s fine, too, because the Braves feel they signed him at a good value if he were to only be a backup for the rest of the year.
Arcia is not a big-name extension, but this move continues a trend for the Braves. They have given extensions to Matt Olson, Austin Riley, Michael Harris II, Spencer Strider and Sean Murphy. Years ago, they extended Ronald Acuña Jr. and Ozzie Albies.
The core is here.
“I mean, they definitely know what they’re doing,” Arcia said. “The talent on this team speaks for itself. The talent is huge. The remaining part of what’s left, really, is just to come in every day and put in the work.”
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