ATLANTA -- The Braves have done their due diligence by discussing the possibility of a contract that would extend through Ronald Acuna Jr.'s arbitration-eligible seasons. But the young phenom said there is no validity to a report that he recently turned down a $30 million offer.
"To be honest, I'm not sure where that came from," Acuna said through an interpreter. "As of now, I haven't received a contract. Nobody has talked to me about it. There was no contract that was turned down, or anything like that."
Acuna's family expressed interest in gaining the financial security that would accompany such a long-term deal. But a source said informal discussions have not yet led to a formal offer being made by the team.
Acuna denied the report just before being part of the Bobby Cox-managed Braves Futures Stars team that lost to the Braves, 5-4, at SunTrust Park on Tuesday night. Cox laughed when he was asked why he had chosen to place the prized prospect in the second spot of his lineup.
"We couldn't hit him one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, so …" Cox said. "He can hit anywhere. It doesn't matter where he hits in the lineup. He's a dynamic five-tool guy. He needs a little more seasoning at Triple-A, and get him off to a good start. Hopefully he gets up here pretty soon."
Provided an opportunity to play against the team he could be a part of within the next few weeks, Acuna went 1-for-3. He struck out looking in the first inning, then recorded a third-inning single that came off the bat at 115.1 mph, per Statcast™. That was higher than any exit velocity recorded by a Braves player last season.
Acuna ranks second on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list. The 20-year-old outfielder may make his Major League debut as soon as April 14, which is the earliest date the Braves can add him to their roster and secure an extra season of contract control.
If Acuna debuts after April 13 and is never optioned back to the Minors, he would not be eligible for free agency until after the 2024 season. He will likely debut early enough this season to become classified as a Super Two arbitration-eligible player after the '20 season.
When a team offers a contract extension to a player with less than three years of service time, it gains cost certainty through the arbitration-eligible years. Many similar offers extend beyond the date when the player could first enter the free-agent market or include options for those seasons. Thus, this is a way to extend the contractual control tenure.
By buying out the arbitration-eligible seasons and extending the contract beyond 2024, the Braves would eliminate the benefit of keeping Acuna off the big league roster through April 13.
The Phillies went this route on Sunday, when Scott Kingery, one of their top prospects, agreed to a six-year, $24 million deal. Kingery had also been targeted to join Philadelphia's roster at some point after April 13. But he will now likely make his big league debut during this week's opening series against the Braves at SunTrust Park.
Players with less than three years of service time who agree to a contract extension gain financial security to protect against injury or other unforeseen developments that could adversely affect future earnings. But a player with Acuna's tremendous talent could also end up leaving a significant amount of money on the table through his arbitration-eligible seasons.