The Atlanta Braves and outfielder Ender Inciarte agreed to a five-year, $30.5 million extension Friday that carries a club option for a sixth year.

“We are thrilled to announce an extension for Ender,” Braves general manager John Coppolella said in a statement. “We feel that he’s the best defensive center fielder in baseball and one of the best leadoff hitters in the game. Ender brings so much to our club, on and off the field, and we are happy to have him under club control for at least the next six years.”

Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball reported the financial terms of the deal. Inciarte and the Braves were scheduled to head to salary arbitration if a deal was not completed.

Inciarte, 26, hit .291/.351/.381 with three home runs and 29 runs batted in last season. He came to Atlanta last winter with shortstop Dansby Swanson as part of the package the Arizona Diamondbacks sent back for right-hander Shelby Miller.

While his offensive numbers are middling, Inciarte has developed a reputation as one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball. He won his first Gold Glove in 2016 on the back of a series of spectacular catches that drew him comparisons to former Braves great Andruw Jones.

“It seemed like before, he had trouble getting jumps on balls and always made up for it with his speed,” former Diamondbacks teammate Brad Ziegler told Mark Simon of “But now he’s gotten really good at reading the ball off the bat, and it’s put him on another level. He’s become a star player. He’s a lot better at deciding when to go for the risky play. He’s really special to watch.”

FanGraphs’ defensive metrics ranked Inciarte third among qualifying center fielders last season. Kevin Pillar and Adam Eaton both played more games than Inciarte’s 131, so the Braves star might have been able to challenge both if it weren’t for an early stint on the disabled list.

Inciarte also began showing signs of developing into a reliable hitter toward the top of the order. He hit for a solid average over his two years in Arizona (.292), but 2016 was the first sign he was beginning to learn patience at the plate. After drawing just 51 walks during his first two MLB seasons, Inciarte set a career high with 45 in 2016.

Even if he never develops much pop—13 home runs in 381 games indicates it’s unlikely—Inciarte is a gem in what could become one of the best trades in Braves history.


Follow Tyler Conway (@jtylerconway) on Twitter.

Read more MLB news on