Braves Free Agent and Arbitration Followup


photo credit Daniel Shirley USA Today Sports

Back in October I posted the free agent and arbitration list review with my projections. With the arbitration season in full flow and the Braves avoiding it with most, Lets see how I did.

The Story So Far

I’ve been fairly close so far anyway. I consider anything within a half million close :) The player’s name will be followed by this year’s salary or disposition and my thoughts.

Tommy Hanson – Traded to the Angels for Jordan Walden.  I predicted at trade but I expected Wren to get more than Jordan Walden. Walden is a bullpen arm with potential but questionable control. Most bullpen arms aren’t worth a fourth starter so unless there’s more to the story we undersold on Hanson.

Jair Jurrjens Peter Moylan, Lyle Overbay Eric Hinske, Jeff Baker  – Nontendered as predicted.

Tim Hudson, Paul Maholm and Brian McCann options picked up. I predicted Hudson and Maholm but waffled on BMac. Two hits and a miss for me.

Chad Durbin was offered a contract but as of yet hasn’t signed with the  Braves or anybody else. Barring a trade and considering Walden’s arrival that isn’t likely. They did what I asked so I call it a hit, I can’t make them sign the offer.

David Ross – Signed with Boston for twice the money. Miss for me. Laird is probably a better backup in any event ( don’t throw things at me just look at his numbers.) He lacks the charisma of Ross but he’s as good behind the plate  and while he has less power he doesn’t strike out as often and gets on base at a better rate than Ross.

Reed Johnson signed for 2013 at  $1.7M

Michael Bourn turned down the qualifying offer as expected. Hasn’t found home yet. To Be Continued . . .

Jason Heyward $3.65MM deal I suggested that they buy out Heyward’s five years for an AAV of $12M starting with $4M this year.  That’s close enough to my estimate to call it a hit.  If as I expect Heyward continues to grow and mature a five year buy out next off season will cost them at least 68-75M and an AAV around  $14-15M.  For reference Hunter Pence accepted a third arbitration year for $13.8M today.

Cristhian Martinez agreed to a contract today but the numbers haven’t yet been released.  We now know it was just under $749,750  (where do we get these screwy numbers? Couldn’t they at least fess up another $250 to make it an even $750K? I mean really??) which is less than I expected and I think a bargain. (Updated 1:05 AM EST)

Paul Janish accepted a n offer around $1M in December. I  can’t find an exact amount. I suggested $750K; close enough. Hit

Kris Medlen $2.6MM I suggested a four year deal with $3M this year. The Braves continue to underestimate Medlen and be short sighted in managing long term payroll. If Medlen has the year I expect  – 15-10 around a 3.2 ERA – they’ll pay more than the $4M I projected for 2014

Jonny Venters $1.625MM  I predicted $1.5M that’s almost a bullseye hit

Eric O’Flaherty $4.32MM plus awards bonuses. That’s close to my $4M projection and I’ll call it a match.  EOF earned $2.49M last year and I suggested they either try to extend him for three years at $12MM or trade him. They did neither, as a result he’ll likely walk for nothing after this year is if he remains healthy.  Unless he’s part of a late bid for Justin Upton he’s unlikely to be traded midyear. With a reasonable multi-year offer we could have at least traded him for value because lefty relievers with his pedigree aren’t plentiful or cheap.

Martin Prado  filed for $7.05MM while the Braves countered with $6.65MM according to John Heyman.  I suggested they try to rap MVPrado up for five years at $57.5M; $7.5 M for 2013 while MLBTR’s model had a $7.7M projection. I hope we continue to negotiate, and get a nice long extension for a man all Braves fans love to watch and know is right now the beating heart of the lineup. Sadly it looks like the Braves tried to cheap out on their offer and that worries me a bit.  Undervaluing him or trying to low ball him now is an insult the Braves may suffer for in the long run.  Prado is the best, most consistent hitter we have. If he’s not extended he will walk after this season and the Braves will get nothing in return.  There’s no one in our system to replace his bat or his versatility in the field and nothing on the market to compare to him this year or next. If the 6.65 bid isn’t just a number while they negotiate an extension in the 55m range, it’s a huge mistake.

UPDATE 1:05 AM EST:

Tim Dierks at MLB Trade Rumor reports an MLB source the Braves are one of five teams treat today’s arbitration deadline as a firm one, meaning they won’t negotiate but will instead go to an arbitration  hearing; this is called  “file and trial.”  If that does happen I call it plain stupid.  The Braves and Prado are $400K apart. While that’s a lot of money to most of us, it’s an insult to a man like Prado who leaves it all on the field every game.  If this ill advised hearing happens the Braves will lose in more than one way. First of all, the MLBTR arbitration model is very accurate and has him higher than $7.05M. Secondly arbitration hearings are nasty little events where a team points out all of a player’s flaws. I’m not sure what the Braves can say, he’s done everything the Braves have ever asked him to do professionally, quietly and with superior results. Not negotiating further or extending him like everyone I’ve read suggests will serve to alienate Prado and encourage him to try out the free agent market. A hearing is a bad idea that Frank Wren will regret.

That’s a Wrap

The most important things a GM does in today’s game is build a good minor league system that develops talent then lock up young talent as the core of an ongoing program of success. The Braves minor league system is extremely short of quality everyday players and even the much vaunted pitching development is thin.  Fangraphs list of  the Braves top 15 prospects out today shows no hitters save Evan Gattis and no top of the rotation starters save Julio Teheran – and I’m not confident he fits there. It is essential that the Braves  lock up Prado, Medlen, Freeman and Heyward so that  they have time to rebuild the pipeline. Failure to do so will mean losing them and our chances of winning to teams with deeper pockets. Rebuilding the minors starts this summer in the draft.  After paying B.J. Upton $4M a year more than anyone else offered him there is no  excuse for failing to extend a man who has proven himself integral to the Braves success. Extend Martin Prado now Mr. Wren.  No excuses,  just get it done.

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  • Lee Trocinski

    I agree with everything you say except that you need to explain how Laird is a better hitter than Ross. Laird does strike out a lot less, but Ross walks more, has more power, and posts a higher BABIP. Over the last four years, Ross’s worst season offensively was better than Laird’s best. I am interested and open to your reasoning.

    • fireboss

      I’ve reworded it to clarify a bit. Laird’s power numbers are certainly worse than Ross’ but when Ross plays for extended periods his numbers drop off sharply. Laird has shown a more consistent set of numbers. He had one bad month at the plate last year or his final slash would have been better. The downside is that he doesn’t hit lefties as well as he does righties. I’d rather have Ross because he’s Ross but Laird won’t hurt us.

      I’m more concerned about the Prado news that generated the update, If Wren blows this he might get run out of town on a rail, Prado is well worth an extension.