Brian McCann is just one of many roster decisions facing the Braves this post season. Photo Credit: Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

Braves Free Agent and Arbitration List Review

Braves Lineup Will Get a Minor Shake up in 2013

Here’s a quick list of the Braves who became free agents today courtesy MLBTR. Following that is a listing or arbitration eligible players and quick comments. Age noted is for the start of next season.Some players have options and those are noted beside the name along with my comments.

Free Agents

Brian McCann (29) – $12MM club option with a $500K buyout – Braves might try to turn the option down and negotiate a new contract with BMac like they did with Hudson. It really depends on how the GM wants to play it. BMac certainly wasn’t a $12M player last year and we could use the money to expand offers to other key players so time will tell.

David Ross (36) – Braves will sign Rossi again probably a year plus option year at least and $2m. If you check the HUB you’ll see that the Braves have already started talks with his agent.

Eric Hinske (35) – Moving on

Lyle Overbay (36) – Moving on

Jeff Baker (32) – Moving on

Reed Johnson (36) – Braves should try to sign the versatile Johnson again.

Michael Bourn (30) – Will get at least a one year 13.3M qualifying offer but is likely moving on to Phillies, Nationals (whom he openly said he admired while still wearing a Braves uniform) or whoever Scott Boras convinces to overpay. Since Boras seems to have the Nationals by the short curls  I’d say they are first in line but you might seen the Rangers in there if they don’t sign Hamilton or trade for Justin Upton.

Tim Hudson (37) – $9MM club option with a $1MM buyout – Braves will exercise this option

Chad Durbin (35) – Might be offered a new contract. Durbin made me eat my words this season after adjusting his delivery with the help of Roger McDowell. I wouldn’t mind seeing him back and he says he’d like to come back. A $2M deal would be a fair reward for the work he did this year but others may offer more.

Paul Maholm (30) – $6.5MM Club Option – Braves will exercise the option if only to trade him later.

Arbitration Eligibles

The list of arbitration eligible players has some important names on it and some extension candidates that I feel should be locked up now. There are also a couple of non-tender folks, one of whom is a fan favorite. The number in [brackets] is MLBTR’s estimate on the arbitration offers based on their detailed model. Some I agree with others I don’t but they have a good record of getting really close to final numbers so I include them. They offer a number even if they believe a player will be nontendered and for the record they and I agree on the nontender players.

Martin Prado (29) – Arb 3 [$7.7M] – Extension candidate – Please lock up Prado for at least 5 years. Earlier this summer I suggested a four year $36M contract – perhaps 7.5, 8.5, 9.5, 10.5 – with incentives would be a good option. MLBTR compared him to Alex Gordon and estimated a four year 40-45M contract would be about right.   Prado continues to show versatility and batting skills that exceed anything a utility player could be expected to demonstrate and I’ve happily upped my estimate to five years and $57.5M – a progressive 7.5 , 9.5 , 11.5 ,13.5 ,15.5 rate.

Jair Jurrjens (27) – Arb 3 [$5.5M]- Nontender candidate simply because of the arbitration rules that mean he could only get a 20% reduction in his salary from 2012 and since he made $5.5M to pitch at Gwinnett. . .well. . .bye-bye

Tommy Hanson (26) Arb 1 [$4M] – Contrary to my compatriot here at the Take, I look for them to trade Hanson to acquire a bat. Tommy still has trade value and a move would be best for him and the Braves. His arbitration value according to MLBTR is way above his actual performance this season.  I’d offer him no more than $3M and hope he’s an inexpensive option that a team needing pitching is willing to take and give him a new home. The Padres make most sense because of their manager and ballpark. The Twins too might have interest as could the Royals.

Eric O’Flaherty (28) – Arb 3 [$3.5m] – Extension and/or trade candidate EOF was nails this year in the eighth inning and continues to shine. I’d like to see the Braves offer him a three year deal at about $12M with an option year. He might get more elsewhere but  he’s not a closer so his ceiling is lower and his back issues limit my willingness to pay. If he turns that kind of offer down he would bring a nice return in any trade.

Jason Heyward (23) Arb 1 [$3.5M] – I look for an extension to buy out his arbitration years and a bit more. This would give salary certainty and make fans feel good too. Five years at $50M (4, 7, 10, 13, 16) would be a fair offer at this point.

Kris Medlen (27) – Arb 1 [$2M] – Meds has done it all and done it better than many of the Braves leadership  believed he would. He solidified himself as a starting pitcher ahead of Randall Delgado and Julio Teheran  and should be rewarded by buying out his arbitration years.  A four year $18M ( 3, 4, 5, 6) contract is not an overpay in spite of the low estimate by MLBTR’s model. The model doesn’t show him as a starting pitcher but simply as a pitcher with no specific role. That’s been over come by events like the Hanson estimate above.

Paul Janish (30) – Arb 1[$900K] – Let’s give Janish $750K and keep him around

Peter Moylan (34) [$800k] –  Peter is getting older and Cory Gearrin fills his roll less expensively. The $800K MLBTR model is the maximum cut a team can give a player from his previous year salary. I suspect he’s nontendered and will find a home because he throws ground balls and relievers who do that usually pitch somewhere.

Jonny Venters (28) – Arb 1 [$1.4M] – JV’s history as a seventh/eighth inning guy and nasty stuff will earn him $1.5M or so in arbitration this year. With Luis Avilan emerging as a solid, more than one out lefty, Venters inconsistency might lead the Braves to use him as a trade chip who could return big value from the right team; the Angels for instance.

Cristhian Martinez (31) Arb 1 [$700K] – At 31 Martinez is a Super two and the Braves will give him a $1M or so contract to continue being our pitch anytime guy.

Pre-Arbitration Players of Interest

Juan Francisco (25)  – Pre-Arb  Francisco was a guy we were told the GM had been trying to sign for a long time. I expect they will keep him around at a nominal increase in salary, maybe just the amount mandated in the CBA. The problem with Francisco isn’t that he can’t hit. Rather it’s that he hasn’t been able to hit unless he gets to play regularly. Think of Francisco as a left handed Pablo Sandoval with a ton more raw power. I can’t see him starting at third next year and as a bench player he’s boom or bust. He might make a good addition to a trade package but at some point he’s very replaceable.

Jose Constanza (29) – Pre-Arb – This will be Jose’s final option year if he sticks around as I expect him to. He’ll get the major league minimum.

Freddie Freeman (23) – Pre-Arb – Freeman will get a bump simply because he earned it. I expect $750K at least particularly if he ears a Gold Glove.

The 2013 Budget

Unlike Congress who have ignored their Constitutional requirement to pass a budget every year the Braves have to live within one .Though there’s been no official word on this however  the Braves’ payroll for 2013 will likely hover around the $94M dollar mark again. Liberty Media have made it clear they are to operate solely on their own cash flow with no injections of money by the parent conglomerate. To be fair the purchase agreement specified that LM were to stay clear of daily baseball operations and payroll does fall into that area. OTOH it’s hard to imagine the Commissioner for life would be upset if the Braves were given more money annually to improve the brand.  That said money does not win championships. What it does is allow you to cover you bad personnel decisions by swallowing the sunken cost and having money to replace the bad deals.  This year the Braves had enough money in payroll to get the players needed if they weren’t paying for that kind of bad deal(s).


That’s a Wrap

After picking up McCann and Hudson’s options, paying my estimates from above, paying Uggla, giving Mike Minor a raise and paying the rest of a 25 man roster at major league minimum for next year  there’s about $74M committed. Assuming last year’s payroll as the target, that leaves the GM around $20 to sign a free agent or two for CF and LF or third.  If Bourn were to accept the qualifying offer that would cut that to about $6.5M for a left fielder which is in the Ryan Ludwick range. As I indicated in Sunday’s post I believe that trades seem a more viable option for improving the roster long term. If a player like Justin Upton could be brought over he would add the RH bat we’ve been missing at a nice enough price ($9.5M next year) while leaving room for a less expensive CF like Denard Span ($4.75M). That outfield makes the eyes water but of course the trade price would be high. I don’t really believe Upton is going anywhere but the Giants are notoriously stingy and estimates are that Hunter Pence will earn about the qualifying offer level ($13.3M) in arbitration next year. He would fit nicely in left field. I’m not as convinced as many that  Angel Pagan is a great CFoption however. He’ll want three years at around $10M average annual salary and he’s older than Bourn.  We should be trying to get younger with a trade for a Span or Brett Gardiner type of player.  In most trades for high value assets pitchers like Hanson, Venters Julio Teheran, Delgado and even Paul Maholm might be required. If the trade sets up a defensively superior squad like the Upton-Span combo with power and OBP from both sides as well as salary stability for the next few years it would be worth it.  Of course we aren’t the only team looking for that mix and our GM hasn’t shown a willingness to do trades of the kind required. He’s said that he’s seeking to bring in certain types of players that fit the team rather a big name signing. In general I agree with that but also want players that are younger and have a future with the Braves rather than those needing a clinic and a retirement condo. We’ll get a feel of how he’s going to proceed over the next 114 days or so beginning with the GM meeting in Nashville the first week in December. As always we’ll keep you informed and give you or perspective on the news here at the Tomahawk Take.

Upcoming Events

Below is a calendar of sorts for upcoming baseball deadlines and events to feed your addiction until spring.

Nov 3 : First day that Major League and Minor League free agents may sign contracts with teams other than their former clubs
Nov 9 @ Midnight EST: Last date for a player to accept arbitration from former club

Nov 30 @ Midnight EST: Last date to tender contracts
Dec 3-6 :Baseball Winter Meetings in Nashville
Dec 6 : Rule 5 Draft in Nashville
Feb 19 Braves Pitchers and Catchers Report
Feb 20 First pitchers and catchers workouts
Feb 24 Remainder of players report
Feb 25 First workouts

For those so inclined here are the WBC dates.

Nov 15-19: World Baseball Classic Qualifier 3 in Panama City, Panama (Brazil, Colombia, Nicaragua, Panama)
Nov 15-18: World Baseball Classic Qualifier 4 in New Taipei City, Taiwan (Chinese Taipei, New Zealand, Philippines, Thailand)
Mar 2-6 First Round Pool A Fukuoka, Japan (Fukuoka Dome):
Pool A – Japan, Cuba, China, Qualifier TBD
Mar 2-5 Pool B Taichung, Taiwan (Intercontinental Stadium):
Pool B – Korea, Netherlands, Australia, Qualifier TBD
Mar 7-10 Pool C San Juan, Puerto Rico (Hiram Bithorn Stadium)
Pool C – : Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Qualifier TBD
Mar 7-13 Pool D Phoenix, Ariz. (Chase Field & Salt River at Indian Fields):
Pool D – United States, Mexico, Italy, Qualifier TBD
Mar 8-10 Second Round Pool 1- Tokyo, Japan (Tokyo Dome)
Mar 12-16 Second Round Pool 2 – Miami, Fla. (Marlins Park)
Mar 17-19 Championship Round Finals – San Francisco, Calif. (AT&T Park)

Tags: Arbitration Atlanta Braves Free Agents

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