The 10 Most Team-Friendly Contracts Entering 2024 MLB Season

Which players in Major League Baseball are signed to the most team-friendly deals at the beginning of the 2024 season?

Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna Jr
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - AUGUST 12: Ozzie Albies #1 of the Atlanta Braves talks with Ronald Acuna Jr. after hitting a two-run home run in the seventh inning of game one of a doubleheader at Citi Field on August 12, 2023 in New York City. The Braves defeated the Mets 21-3. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

If you need an idea of why the Atlanta Braves recently extended president of baseball operations and general manager Alex Anthopoulos through the 2031 season, look no further than this list.

Four of what we’ve determined to be the 10 most team-friendly contracts in baseball belong to players employed by the Braves, and really, there could could have been even more Atlanta stars on this list.

First baseman Matt Olson is signed to an eight-year, $168 million contract that runs through the 2029 season, and includes a $20 million club option for 2030. After a nice first season with the Braves, Olson exploded in 2023, clubbing a franchise-record 54 home runs and driving in a league-leading 139 runs. He had to settle for a fourth-place finish during a deep NL MVP race a year ago, but in many years Olson’s 2023 production would have won him the award.

Meanwhile, third baseman Austin Riley has become a perennial NL MVP candidate, finishing in the top seven in voting for the award in each of the last three seasons. Riley’s 10-year, $212 million contract runs through the 2032 season, with a $20 million club option for the 2033 season.

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While Riley’s contract is lucrative, he certainly left money on the table annually to remain in Atlanta.

For Olson and Riley not to be on this list gives you an idea both of how many team-friendly deals the Braves have signed their star players to, and how difficult it was to crack these rankings.

Also not on the list are likely future Hall of Famers Gerrit Cole and Bryce Harper. Both Cole and Harper’s long-term deals with the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies, respectively, currently look team-friendly. But both are in their early 30s and have enough time remaining on their contracts that the perception of their deals could change.

With all that acknowledged, here’s a look at the 10 most team-friendly contracts entering the 2024 season.

10. 2B Ketel Marte, Arizona Diamondbacks

Original Deal: Five years, $76 million with $13 million club option for 2028

Amount Remaining on Deal: Four years, $59 million with $13 million club option for 2028

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Age in 2024: 30

Ketel Marte recorded at least one hit in every postseason game the Diamondbacks played a season ago, except Game 5 of the World Series. And even on that night, Marte still found his way on base three times via walk. In total, he hit .329 over 73 postseason at-bats as Arizona made a Cinderella run to the World Series.

Marte’s excellent postseason run came after his most complete regular season since he finished fourth in NL MVP voting in 2019. Over 150 games, Marte homered 25 times, drove in 82 runs and posted an .844 OPS. While he’s been a super-utility player throughout his career, Marte played almost exclusively at second base in 2023, finishing the campaign with two defensive runs saved.

Arizona’s playoff run in 2023 might have been unexpected, but they are a team built to last, with Marte under contract into his mid-30s. And his deal isn’t even the most team-friendly one the Diamondbacks currently have on the books.

9. CF Michael Harris II, Atlanta Braves

Original Deal: Eight years, $72 million with club options for 2031 and 2032

Amount Remaining on Deal: Seven years, $62 million with club options for 2031 and 2032

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Age in 2024: 23

A third-round pick out of Stockbridge High School (Georgia) in 2019, Harris made his MLB debut in May of 2022, and almost immediately became a core piece for a Braves team full of stars.

Before Harris had even completed his first MLB season — which culminated in him winning NL Rookie of the Year — Atlanta signed him to a long-term deal.

Not only is Harris signed through the 2030 season, but the Braves hold affordable club options on him for the 2031 ($15 million) and 2032 ($20 million) seasons. At a position without a ton of players who make an impact on both sides of the ball, the Braves have a chance to control Harris at a below-market-value price through his age-31 season.

On a team that hardly needed another elite offensive player, Harris posted an .878 OPS after the All-Star Break a season ago. And his tremendous defensive instincts in center field will make him a perennial All-Star candidate, and perhaps someone that could compete for an MVP one day.

8. RHP Kevin Gausman, Toronto Blue Jays

Original Deal: Five years, $110 million

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Amount Remaining on Deal: Three years, $70 million

Age in 2024: 33

It took Kevin Gausman until his fourth team, the San Francisco Giants, to finally become the front-of-the-rotation pitcher the Baltimore Orioles thought he would be when they used the No. 4 overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft on him.

Why Farhan Zaidi and the Giants let Gausman get out the door after helping to develop him into an All-Star pitcher is unclear.

Beyond the Giants, a whole bunch of teams missed on Gausman as a free agent after the 2021 season, with the Blue Jays ultimately landing him on a straight five-year, $110 million deal, which doesn’t include any additional options or a no-trade clause.

He’s been one of the best pitchers in the sport across the first two seasons of that deal, finishing third in AL Cy Young Award voting in 2023. Since joining the Blue Jays, Guasman leads all pitchers in FIP (2.68) and fWAR (11.0).

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7. RHP Zack Wheeler, Philadelphia Phillies

Original Deal: Five years, $118 million

Amount Remaining on Deal: One year, $23.5 million

Age in 2024: 34

When Wheeler became a free agent after the 2019 season, he was a very good pitcher who had shown flashes of greatness in parts of five seasons with the New York Mets.

Across his first four seasons with the Phillies, he’s transformed into one of the five best pitchers in the game, making this deal a very team-friendly one.

Since joining the Phillies in 2020, Wheeler is fourth among all pitchers in innings pitched (629 1/3), while leading all his peers in fWAR (19.3). Over the past two Octobers, Wheeler has become one of the best modern postseason pitchers, posting a 2.42 ERA over 63 1/3 playoff innings.

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Wheeler will graduate from this list after 2024, when his new three-year, $126 million deal begins with the Phillies. That extension certainly isn’t cheap, but he’s earned it over the first four years of one of the most-team friendly contracts a pitcher has ever signed in free agency.

6. DH/RHP Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Dodgers

Original Deal: 10 years, $700 million with $680 million in deferrals

Amount Remaining on Deal: 10 years, $700 million with $680 million in deferrals

Age in 2024: 29

This one is a bit complicated, because $700 million is an insane amount of money. However, $680 million of that is deferred to 2034-2043. And over the course of this deal, Ohtani will count just over $46 million per season towards the luxury tax threshold.

The present-day value of Ohtani’s deal, according to Spotrac, is around $460 million.

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That would be a fair price for just his services as a hitter, considering he has 124 home runs and a .964 OPS over the last three seasons.

When you add in that Ohtani has a 3.01 ERA and 3.30 FIP over 86 career starts, him counting $46 million towards the luxury tax threshold — which the Dodgers don’t seem to care much about anyway — feels like a steal.

Granted, Ohtani won’t pitch in 2025 as he recovers from his second Tommy John surgery, and there are legitimate questions about how much longer he’ll be able to be a two-way player on a full-time basis. But this is an international superstar, who might just be the most-gifted player to ever step on a diamond.

The Dodgers could have handed him a blank check this past offseason, and no matter what value he wrote on it, both his ability on the field and positive brand impact off of it would have paid for the deal.

5. RHP Spencer Strider, Atlanta Braves

Original Deal: Six years, $75 million with $22 million club option for 2029

Amount Remaining on Deal: Five years, $69 million with $22 million club option for 2029

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Age in 2024: 25

Who knows how Strider will age. At 6-foot, 195 pounds, he’s much smaller than some of the great power pitchers in recent MLB history, like Justin Verlander, Roy Halladay and Roger Clemens. And he’s already undergone Tommy John surgery once, back in 2019 when he was pitching collegiately for Clemson.

What we do know is that right know, he’s arguably the most electric pitcher in baseball. With a four-seam fastball that averaged 97.2 mph a year ago to go with his slider and changeup, Strider paced all starters with 281 strikeouts a season ago. He finished fourth in NL Cy Young Award voting in 2023, the year after he was runner-up in NL Rookie of the Year voting.

Perhaps Strider’s build will mean he has a shorter peak, like Tim Lincecum did. But in the meantime, the Braves have a pitcher that would get $200+ million on the open market signed to a deal similar to Taijuan Walker or Jameson Taillon.

4. 3B José Ramírez, Cleveland Guardians

Original Deal: Seven years, $141 million

Amount Remaining on Deal: Five years, $105 million

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Age in 2024: 31

RamĂ­rez is a five-time All-Star and four-time Silver Slugger Award, and yet it doesn’t feel like everyone is on the same page about just how good his career has been to this point.

Since becoming a full-time player in 2016, RamĂ­rez has been worth 45 fWAR. Over that period, the only two players who have topped him in that category are two slam-dunk Hall of Famers in Mookie Betts (51.9) and Mike Trout (46.6).

RamĂ­rez’s legacy has perhaps been hurt by the fact that he’s never won an AL MVP, but he’s finished in the top six in voting on the award on five occasions, including a second-place finish in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

In April of 2022, RamĂ­rez agreed to a five-year, $124 million extension, which, when added to what was remaining on his prior deal, came out to a seven-year, $141 million deal. Had RamĂ­rez played out his prior contract and become a free agent after the 2023 season, he probably would have comfortably topped the seven-year, $175 million deal that Marcus Semien received from the Texas Rangers prior to the 2022 season. So RamĂ­rez truly took a hometown discount to stay in Cleveland.

3. OF Corbin Carroll, Arizona Diamondbacks

Original Deal: Eight years, $111 million with $28 million club option for 2031

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Amount Remaining on Deal: Seven years, $110 million with $28 million club option for 2031

Age in 2024: 23

By signing Caroll to an eight-year, $111 million deal before the 2023 season, the Diamondbacks assured that they’ll have one of the most explosive players in the sport on their team through at least his age-29 season.

And while a lot can change in seven years, the Snakes will probably exercise Carroll’s $28 million club option for the 2031 season, as opposed to buying him out for $5 million. By the conclusion of this deal, Carroll will have spent parts of 10 years in Phoenix.

Carroll’s team-friendly contract would allow the Diamondbacks to get a bounty if they ever were willing to trade him, but the focus in Arizona should be on keeping him with the team as long as possible. It’s possible his arrival ushered in a golden era for the franchise.

All he did in his first full season with the Diamondbacks was lead the NL with 10 triples, while swiping 54 bags and posting an .868 OPS, en route to finishing fifth in NL MVP voting and capturing the NL Rookie of the Year. Oh, and the Diamondbacks also reached the World Series for just the second time in franchise history.

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2. 2B Ozzie Albies, Atlanta Braves

Original Deal: Seven years, $35 million with $7 million club options in 2026 and 2027

Amount Remaining on Deal: Two years, $14 million with $7 million club options in 2026 and 2027

Age in 2024: 27

Albies did create generational wealth by signing a seven-year contract extension with the Braves in April of 2019. But he’s proven to have left so much money on the table that this deal almost feels predatory on the part of Atlanta.

Not only will the three-time All-Star make just $35 million between his age-22 and 28 seasons, but the Braves have laughably cheap $7 million club options they’ll certainly exercise to retain Albies’ services through his age-30 season.

Albies isn’t going to struggle to get by on his contract, but had he just played out his arbitration years, he would have become a free agent after the 2023 season.

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As a star second baseman in his mid-20s, Albies likely would have received at least the five-year, $125 million deal that JosĂ© Altuve just signed to remain with the Houston Astros. And given that he’s six years younger than Altuve and would have been on the open market, Albies likely would have topped the deal in terms of both years and total value.

Instead, he’ll make $28 million over the next four seasons. Yikes.

1. OF Ronald Acuña Jr., Atlanta Braves

Original Deal: Eight years, $100 million with $17 million club options in 2027 and 2028

Amount Remaining on Deal: Three years, $51 million with $17 million club options in 2027 and 2028

Age in 2024: 26

Even with the right ACL tear that limited Acuña to 81 games in 2021 and caused him to miss Atlanta’s World Series run, this deal may still go down as the most team-friendly deal in MLB history.

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Acuña is the reigning NL MVP, having hit 41 home runs, stolen 73 bases and posted a staggering 8.3 fWAR during an iconic 2023 season. Since the deal began in 2019, Acuña has slashed .292/.384/.534 with a .918 OPS and league-leading 164 stolen bases.

While there are only three guaranteed years remaining on Acuña’s deal, there’s almost no scenario where the $17 million club options for 2027 and 2028 — which have $10 million buyouts — aren’t exercised. No matter what happens after that, Atlanta will have employed a Hall of Fame-caliber player for the first 11 seasons of his career.