Riley on Braves' busy Deadline: 'More championships in our future'

August 3rd, 2022

ATLANTA -- If you're wondering how Braves president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos was feeling immediately after the Trade Deadline expired on Tuesday night, here was his response when he was asked when Austin Riley’s contract extension had been completed on Monday. 

“Until it’s done, it’s not done,” Anthopoulos said on Tuesday afternoon. “I think it was around 6 o’clock or 7 o’clock last night. Was it last night? Honestly, with today’s Trade Deadline, it’s a blur. I think it was last night or two days ago.”

After Spencer Strider recorded a career-high 13 strikeouts in the Braves’ 13-1 win over the Phillies on Tuesday night at Truist Park, Anthopoulos had time to get at least a few hours of well-deserved rest. He had spent the past two days securing Riley for the next decade and completing four trades aimed toward strengthening Atlanta’s bid to win a second straight World Series.

“He’s banging the phone lines and trying to find players, then he takes 10 minutes and locks [Riley] up for 10 years," manager Brian Snitker said. "It’s amazing to me how he keeps that many things going.”

With Tuesday’s win, the Braves moved within 2 1/2 games of the National League East lead. More important, with the many moves made over the past two days, they strengthened themselves for the future and for this weekend’s five-game series against the first-place Mets.

Anthopoulos began Monday’s activity by acquiring Ehire Adrianza, whose versatility will help at second base and across the diamond. Approximately six hours later, after passing on some trades that would have created long-term commitments, the tireless executive completed Riley’s 10-year, $212 million deal. Then, just as the late-night news was starting on the East Coast, he acquired left fielder Robbie Grossman and starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi from the Astros for veteran reliever Will Smith.

This whirlwind of activity left Anthopolous feeling satisfied, right?

“I wouldn’t use the word 'satisfaction,' because you don’t know how it’s going to turn out,” Anthopoulos said. “It’s not that I’m not a glass-half-full guy. My job is to worry and stay five steps ahead and make sure we are covered.”

Well, with Grossman, the Braves have gained a switch-hitter who produced a .999 OPS in 96 plate appearances against left-handers for the Tigers this year. He could share some time in left field with Eddie Rosario, who recorded a pair of hits, including a double in Atlanta's six-run fifth inning on Tuesday. Rosario has shown some improvement while going 7-for-18 in his past six games.

The addition of Odorizzi gives the Braves some insurance and rotation depth as they play a doubleheader on each of the next two weekends. Anthopoulos then further strengthened his pitching staff with Raisel Iglesias, who will provide late-inning help this year and possibly be the club’s closer over the next three seasons.

Why does Anthopoulos think he has been able to make multiple significant moves before the past two Trade Deadlines?

“Have your family be out of town,” Anthopoulos said. “Seriously, I learned that in 2015, when my family went to Europe and I had my best Trade Deadline [with the Blue Jays].”

With his wife and kid in Canada this week, Anthopoulos extended his mastery of the trade market and created another cornerstone by giving Riley a chance to remain with the Braves until he’s 36 years old. It’s a deal that was completed so quickly that Snitker said he didn’t know about it until it was announced.

“It’s definitely a goal for me to be here my whole career,” Riley said. “The guys who have come before me, like Hank Aaron and Chipper Jones, it’s pretty special to know you could potentially have that opportunity.”

Riley may have left some money on the table as he currently finds himself as one of the top candidates for the NL MVP Award. But the 25-year-old third baseman wanted to be part of something special. The Braves won a World Series last year and now have the option to control Riley, Matt Olson and Ronald Acuña Jr. through the 2028 season. Olson is locked up through '29 and Riley through '32.

“We’ve got a really good group here -- a good core -- and I think there are a lot more championships in our future,” Riley said.

Anthopoulos spent the past few days trading the opportunity to sleep for the chance to improve his team. It’s just what he does this time of year.

“As you’re going through it, you’re on adrenaline and you’re not thinking about it,” Anthopoulos said. “You’re anxious and you don’t sleep because you have so many things in your head. Every Trade Deadline is the same. The days just blend together and you’re glad when it’s over.