The Atlanta Braves announced today that they have agreed to terms with outfielder Ender Inciarte on a five-year contract, thus avoiding salary arbitration. The contract runs through the 2021 season and includes a club option for the 2022 campaign. Financial terms of the deal were not announced.
"We are thrilled to announce an extension for Ender," Braves general manager John Coppolella said. "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."
Inciarte, who turned 26 in October, was acquired by the Braves in a December 2015 trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He owns a .292 career batting average in 381 games, with 212 runs scored and 56 stolen bases.
In his first season with the Braves in 2016, Inciarte captured the National League Gold Glove Award as the top defensive center fielder in the league. Despite missing 26 games early in the season due to a left hamstring strain, he scored a career-high 85 runs and compiled 34 extra-base hits.
He batted .227 (52-for-229) in 59 games prior to the 2016 All-Star break before producing one of the top performances in the second half of a season in Atlanta history (since 1966). Inciarte ranked among Major League leaders in several offensive categories after the break. He tied for second in runs scored (59), ranked third in hits (100) and ranked sixth in batting average (.341, 100-for-293) and at-bats (293). His .396 on-base percentage ranked ninth in MLB.
Inciarte hit safely in 57 of the final 66 games in which he had at least one at-bat (dating to 7/19) and posted a .341 (95-for-279) batting average in those 66 contests. He returned to the lead-off spot in the lineup on August 5 and hit .329 (73-for-222) with 45 runs scored in 53 games, sparking a Braves offense that boasted a .277 team batting average with 67 home runs, 149 doubles and 342 runs scored after the All-Star break. Inciarte became the first player in Atlanta history to have two hitting streaks of at least 17 games in a single season (both streaks came after the All-Star break).
A native of Maracaibo, Venezuela, Inciarte was signed by Arizona as a non-drafted free agent in 2008. He made his Major League debut with the D-backs in 2014 and hit .278 in 118 games, finishing fifth in NL Rookie of the Year voting.