LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Braves general manager Frank Wren described the decision to give Freddie Freeman a franchise-record, eight-year contract as the first step in a comprehensive plan to begin locking up a portion of the club's talented young core.
Step two in this process was put in place Friday morning, when the Braves announced they had signed Julio Teheran to a six-year $32.4 million extension that includes an option for the 2020 season. If the option is exercised, the 23-year-old pitcher will earn $44.4 million over the next seven seasons.
"We've been impressed with [Teheran's] approach, his makeup and his maturity," Wren said. "We saw him last year in his first full year in the big leagues make great strides. We also saw him rise to the occasion in the biggest moments. It gave us confidence that he has the makeup and maturity to be a player we can count on for a long time."
Given that Teheran has spent just one full season at the Major League level, the Braves are making somewhat of a gamble with this extension.
But if Teheran remains healthy and lives up to his potential, this could prove to be a wise investment based on what starting pitchers are making in the current market. From the young pitcher's perspective, he has the potential to gain financial security through what would have been his second free-agent eligible season.
"I feel happy and I feel excited," Teheran said. "Now, that I know that my family is secure, I will just go out there and try to have fun."
Teheran will make an average of $5.4 million through the first six years of his contract and would gain an average salary of $6.34 million if the deal extends to a seventh season. Last month, the Braves gave a $3.85 million salary to Mike Minor, who is entering the first of what could be four arbitration-eligible seasons.
"I'll just go out there and try to be the same pitcher," Teheran said. "I don't think the contract is going to change the pitcher I am. I will just try to go out there, compete, and win some games. It's going to be relaxed now."
The Braves are hoping to see Teheran make the strides he made last year, when he distanced himself from a disappointing 2012 season with Triple-A Gwinnett by going 14-8 with a 3.20 ERA. This impressive 30-start stretch rekindled the promise he had created through the 2011 season, when he stood as one of baseball's top overall prospects.
While the Braves believe Teheran has the potential to one day establish himself as the ace of their rotation, Wren chose not to specifically tag the pitcher at this stage in his career.
"We think he has the potential to be a top-of-the-rotation [pitcher]," Wren said. "Throwing around numbers, I don't know if that is easy to quantify. But I do know he's got a chance to be a top part of the rotation guy for a long time."
Wren once again stated that the opportunity to make these long-term commitments is a product of the additional revenue the Braves are expected to gain courtesy of their new Cobb County stadium, which is set to open in 2017.
Now that the Braves have locked up Teheran and Freeman, whose eight-year, $135 million contract will keep him in Atlanta through at least the 2021 season, the club will continue to evaluate the possibility of extending similar long-term commitments to some of their other young talented players.
"It's not all going to be done this year," Wren said. "It could be done over the next couple of years. Guys are at different points in their careers and different stages. So it's not something that has to be done in 2014. We've identified what we think are core players. But that doesn't mean they're all going to be signed in the immediate term."
While Wren did not specify targets, Jason Heyward and Andrelton Simmons stand as two of the club's players who could eventually receive one of these extended commitments. Last week, Heyward received a two-year, $13.5 million contract that bought out his final two arbitration-eligible seasons. If the 24-year-old outfielder displays his tremendous potential over the next two years, there is a chance he could prove to be too expensive for the Braves.
If Heyward remains healthy during the next two years, he is quite capable of proving productive enough to receive a contract similar to the one Freeman signed.
It remains to be seen whether the Braves will have the financial flexibility necessary to make Heyward this kind of offer. But over the last week, the club has shown it is committed to entering its new stadium with at least a portion of its talented core still together.
"We have identified a number of guys we would like to have under long-term contracts," Wren said. "We'll keep working to that end."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com.