It is time to start the offseason posts, and money is the crux of most personnel decisions. The Braves are no longer the high-payroll Ted Turner organization, as Liberty Media Corporation has made the team a middle-of-the-pack spender. While many have labeled the new ownership as not caring, which may be true, the Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay Rays show that payroll is not all that has to do with team success.
The Braves only have one player who is locked into a contract next year, as Dan Uggla has three more seasons at $13.2M. There are three players with team options: Brian McCann for $12M, Tim Hudson for $9M, and Paul Maholm for $6.5M. There are also a large amount of arbitration cases for the Braves. Martin Prado, Eric O’Flaherty, and Jair Jurrjens are in their final year before free agency, while Paul Janish is in his second arbitration season. The first-year cases include Jason Heyward, Kris Medlen, Tommy Hanson, Jonny Venters, and Cristhian Martinez.
The Braves have been between $90-95M the past three seasons, and that would seem to be a good estimate for 2013. Uggla and the three options add up to $40.7M, while raises for Prado and O’Flaherty bring the Braves up to around $50M. The first-year arb. cases, along with Craig Kimbrel, Freddie Freeman, Brandon Beachy, Mike Minor, and Andrelton Simmons making the minimum, will probably bring the total up to near $65M. That’s 16 players signed and about $30M left over.
This is not meant to be a complete roster construction post, but it’s just an outline for the winter ahead. In this outline, there are holes in center field, left or third depending on Prado’s role, along with all bench positions. There are five possible starting pitchers, plus Beachy, and four relievers also included in the $65M. Many of the other fringe major leaguers, such as Randall Delgado, Tyler Pastornicky, and Juan Francisco, will also make the minimum and could fill some bench spots. There is a significant amount of money to spend for the first time since the pre-2009 winter, marked by the acquisition of Javier Vazquez and ill-fated signing of Derek Lowe.
I would not be surprised to see Prado, Heyward, and/or Kimbrel get extensions, giving the Braves more payroll certainty going past 2013. The minor league system is not in good shape, so the free agent market will be the likely source of talent. There will be quite a few names tossed around the next month before free agent signing unfolds, so be on the lookout for posts regarding these positions.