As the Atlanta Braves prepared for a Monday workout prior to Tuesday’s Game 1 of the NLDS against the Phillies, they surprised everyone by announcing a six-year, $75 million contract extension for rookie pitcher Spencer Strider. Strider has been a revelation for the club and likely would have pushed teammate Michael Harris right to the end for Rookie of the Year honors in the National League if not for an oblique injury that sidelined him over the final few weeks of the regular season.
Strider is the latest core player that the Braves front office has locked up joining Matt Olson, Austin Riley and Michael Harris. Braves president Alex Anthopoulos said that the process with Strider began in September.
“It could have been done a week ago or two weeks ago,” Alex Anthopoulos said. “The process started in September, I guess, I don’t remember the exact time, but I think September, beginning of September. So sometimes these things just take a little time and they go back and forth. But we’re grateful that it got done.”
“Today was going to be the day just because of the way the MLB works with announcements. And after this morning, the focus is absolutely on the team,” Anthopoulos added. “It is on the team regardless. If it wasn’t getting done by last night/this morning at the latest, we would have just maybe talked about it some other time.”
Brian Snitker said earlier this season that the original plan was for Strider to start the season in the rotation at Gwinnett. However, his performance during the spring and an expanded roster allowed him the opportunity to earn his way on the Opening Day roster.
He was lights out of the bullpen in the early going and the team took off when he was added to the rotation at the end of May.
“Means everything in the world,” Strider said when asked about signing his new deal. “That’s the motivation in trying to get something like this done is to be here and stay with the people that I come to work with every day. I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. It’s the people that really make this a great place.”
“It’s great. I think Alex has done a great job and I think he’s done a great job in identifying these because they’re all really good people,” Brian Snitker said when asked about Strider joining the Braves core group going forward. “They’re quality young men. They’re dedicated to what they’re doing. They’re consistent in what they’re doing.”
“I mean, when you identify the talent that these guys have and to get them, it’s good for the room, I think, in there, in that clubhouse, to know these guys are going to be all together for a while,” Snitker added.
Strider appeared in 31 games and made 20 starts for Atlanta while posting a 2.67 ERA and a 1.83 FIP. He logged 202 strikeouts in just 131 2⁄3 innings. As a fourth round pick out of Clemson in the 2020 MLB Draft, Strider was asked if signing an extension now adds pressure.
“I mean, not at all, really,” Strider said. “My goal is always to outperform any expectations. There’s nobody that has higher aspirations or expectations for performance than myself. So in that way, I don’t feel any pressure. The expectation is that I outperform any contract I ever sign. I’m just excited that there’s some security in knowing I’ll be here with these guys in this clubhouse.”
The big question for Strider heading into the NLDS is his health. The Braves were very cautious with his oblique strain and didn’t want to rush him back for fear of losing him for a longer length of time. He recently started throwing again and threw off the mound Sunday. He was slated to take part in Monday’s on-field workout at Truist Park.
“I feel great. Threw off the mound yesterday,” Strider said. “I haven’t done anything today. So we’re still waiting to get out there and do our work for today and see how that goes. Those decisions and everything will be up to the team, of course, and how we want to plan for the series and stuff. I feel good, and hopefully it keeps trending in that direction.”
Snitker was expectedly non-committal in regards to Strider’s availability or his potential role for the NLCS.
“We’re still working that out. He threw yesterday,” Snitker said. “I watched him, he was really good, but he hadn’t been out there yet to throw again, to run around. I know he feels good.
We’re still kind of mulling that over the next couple of days,” Snitker added. “We’ll see how he is when we get out there and talk about it today and then we’re kind of leaving a lot of options open.”