March 5, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Atlanta Braves general manager Frank Wren prior to the game during spring training against the New York Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

First Look: Braves Budget for 2014 (update below)

Memo to self:  We really need to find somebody who can take a new pic of Frank Wren.

The MLB Trade Rumors site has developed a wonderful tool for fans:  they can project (with a high degree of accuracy) the kinds of arbitration figures that players might expect to receive in the next several months.  Yesterday, their projections for the Atlanta Braves were published.  This allows us to get a quick look as what might be in store – or in the wallet – for the roster come next season.

Note:  there are a boatload of arbitration-eligible guys on the roster this coming year:  thirteen of them.  That will certainly make life a little interesting for Frank Wren & Co.

Warning!  I’m about to show you a chart of a projected 25-man roster for 2014.  This chart is based on several assumptions – many of which will not come to pass.  Furthermore, you may very well not agree with the assumptions made:  that’s perfectly fine – your mileage may vary.  But I will at least tell you what the assumptions are so that you can still use this as a tool for thinking about what Frank Wren might want to do in putting together a team for next year.

Those assumptions are…

  • No drastic trades at this point.  That means, for instance, that Dan Uggla is shown on this chart.  He’s also there because he has a contract and the Braves will have to pay him as things stand today.
  • Tim Hudson will be re-signed.
  • Eric O’Flaherty will be allowed to walk away as a free agent.
  • Brian McCann will be allowed to walk away as a free agent.
  • Luis Ayala will be allowed to walk away as a free agent.
  • Jonny Venters will be tendered a contract, although I will be surprised if he’s pitching regularly before July.
  • Reed Johnson‘s 2014 Contract option will not be picked up.  He will be owed a $150K buyout.
  • Cristhian Martinez will be non-tendered.
  • Paul Janish will be non-tendered.
  • None of the myriad of pitchers we picked up after July 2013 will be retained.


That Chart


(click to see a bigger version for better readability)


Answering Questions/Pre-empting a Few Arguments

Yeah.  Let me explain a few things first:

  • I don’t frankly care how many pitchers are on this list or whether all of the positions are nicely covered for depth.  The last 8 lines in this chart (18-25) are just “slots” for the purposes of figuring a rough budget obligation.  So whether one of those slots is named “David Hale” or “Christian Bethancourt” or “Tommy La Stella“…. I don’t really care.  Whoever actually gets that slot will still make the major league minimum salary, set to be $500K for 2014.
  • Bold salary figures are known quantities.  All others are subject to change… though I didn’t bother to bold the minimum salary slots since we don’t really know how many of those there will be.
  • MLBTR’s arbitration figures were used where applicable.  Note, however, that they admit Craig Kimbrel “broke” their calculator.  They have no idea where his arbitration figure will end up… so they guessed $7.25m, but admitted that it could end up higher.
  • I made one exception to the list of player with renewable pre-arb contracts:  I kicked Andrelton Simmons up to $550,000 because I’m a really nice guy and because the Braves will often do something like that for their best youngsters.
  • Note that Freddie Freeman‘s figure is higher than Jason Heyward‘s.  That’s because of the production each player had in 2013, despite the fact that Jason is ahead of Freddie in service time.  It happens.  But blame MLBTR for the numbers.
  • If Wren is successful in persuing any longer term deals with any of these guys, then all bets are off for this chart.
  • Yeah, I know the Braves are a National League club.  What position does El Oso Blanco really play??


On the Record

  • According to Cot’s Contracts (via Baseball Prospectus), the Braves’ 2013 opening day roster had a total payroll of $90,039,583.
  • I have a different figure for that because I added B.J. Upton‘s $3 million signing bonus – paid before Jan 1, 2013 – onto his 2013 salary.  The Cot’s spreadsheet spreads out that money over the life of the contract.
  • pretty much left that bonus out when accounting B.J.’s deal.
  • As a result, I show the 2013 payroll as $92.4m.  As you can see, the above chart projects a slightly lower figure – for now.


Funds for 2014?

  • Last year, public statements were made (from levels above Frank Wren’s pay grade) that the Braves’ payroll could rise to around $98 million for 2013.
  • For 2014, approximately $23 million of new ESPN money (finally) kicks in… for all teams.  I do not expect the team to suddenly have a $121 million payroll by bumping it up exactly $23m. More likely, I would expect something around $112-115m max.  Either way, there should be plenty available, given the current makeup of the roster.  A new budget figure for 2014 will probably be bandied about in another ~5 weeks around the winter meetings.


>>> NEW INFO 10/31:  Beat reporters have heard that the budget figure may be around $100 million (Mark Bowman/Dave O’Brien sources).  That’s frankly underwhelming, and means that unless something fairly substantial is being planned, there’s truly not a lot available beyond the projection of $92.4 million shown above.


  • There are few big-money free agents out there worth going after; and the Braves have even fewer obvious holes to fill.  We’ve discussed getting an ‘Ace’ pitcher, and if that becomes possible, then that’s likely what any additional monies would be spent on.
  • I have speculated the Tim Hudson will be re-signed.  If not, then take an immediate $8 million off of the projected $91.8m figure from above.
  • I have speculated that Jonny Venters will be tendered a deal.  That one is probably a bit more “iffy” (in my mind) than Tim Hudson’s return, given that he will not be ready to go for a while.  But there’s $2.3m that could be saved otherwise.
  • There is lots of speculation about dumping Dan Uggla’s salary.  My gut feel on this topic is that the team really doesn’t want to go there… certainly not for the projected $20m cost to do so.  I could see a Very Good prospect going with him (somewhere) to lower that cost to something more manageable.  Even so, saving as much as $10m on the $26.4m still owed Dan is likely not to happen… $6-8m max, I expect.  But if the Braves keep him, you see the cost of doing so indicated above.


So there’s the first guess:  big changes in personnel are possible, but not a lot of overall budget/spending changes are likely.  Arbitration raises will dominate the spreadsheet activity.  We’ll see how it all plays out.


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  • Brandon_Woodworth

    Great article, and accurate numbers by you and MLB Trade Rumors. I get the feeling that we should be using this new money as a time to lock up SOMEBODY. Kimbrel, Freeman, Heyward, Simmons, doesn’t matter; Wren needs to lock someone up ala McCann, so we aren’t worried about every arbitration case year in and year out. Cost certainty is never a bad thing.

  • fireboss

    I recommend we hide the checkbook from Wren Every time he’s told go forth and spend the Braves get screwed.
    The reason COTS includes the signing bonus over the life of of the contract is that’s the way MLB calculates it for luxury tax purposes. No one actually knows exactly except MLB. ESPN for example shows our 25 man at just over 79 but the total at just over 89 which includes DL folks of course. The thing to recognize is that there is money to changes things around with and fill the holes. Whether Wren does that or not will largely determine how successful the Braves are next year.

    • Sealift67

      Agree, yet my thoughts about another lefty set-up guy
      remain, as well as a 4th outfielder who can make contact,
      play center, and steal a base. This assumes Gattis shifting
      over to C first string, very likely. Team is in an odd situation
      re few holes up and down the roster yet falling short.
      I am seeing the need for contact hitters and LaStella
      may help with this and one can see, optimally, Simmons
      getting the ball through more frequently. The pipe dream
      is BJ showing regression to the mean which would push his
      BA up to .240+ and OBS up and SB. One can hope.

      • carpengui

        “4th OF who can make contact, play center, and steal a base”…like Schafer?

    • carpengui

      I get that, though I have to think that the team has to account for this differently – as in “when they write the check”, so that’s why I put it in that way.

      Likewise, let’s suppose that Atlanta dumps Uggla’s contract. We might think of it as “Okay, they send $9m-$10m to a trading partner in 2014, and then again in 2015.” However, I *think* that money has to be sent within 6 months of the deal [I tweeted Jim Bowden this question - hoping for an answer]. Thus, dumping $18-20m is very expensive for 1 year… if my recollection is right.

      • fireboss

        Not sure the money goes like that. The money is allocated against a team’s payroll each year as if he’s still there and if a player with more than a year left like Uggla retires retires after playing for the other team they would get a windfall profit. That probably wouldn’t be allowed. I’ll see if I can get a definitive answer

  • Matthew Jones

    Couple of things: first, Gerald Laird’s a CFer?! That man can do everything! :)

    Ok for real, one of the things that I notice for this offseason is that, on paper, it looks like most of the holes are filled with players. This is not to say that we don’t have holes, I’m quite aware of it. But it seems to me that the Braves are not necessarily poised to make a big, splashy move as they have done in the last few seasons. As Boss put it, this might not be a bad thing. Wren’s free agent signings (or extensions, which you could say that Uggla’s was) have not been stellar.

    Obviously we have a hole or two in the rotation, depending on who gets traded or not. I do see that Braves making a two year deal for Hudson (no option year, straight up 2) around that $8m mark. I don’t think that we go any lower than that because he could end up elsewhere and we’d end up with someone like John Thompson as our #3 guy.

    Second, I know there’s been some chatter about Reed Johnson staying with the team around the internet. I don’t understand this at all. Realistically, we have a younger, better version of him in Terdo (not to mention he can play a passable 3B in a pinch, 1B, and the corner OF, plus bats switch). I’m hoping the Braves see Terdo’s value and keep him instead of trading him. I think that he’s the kind of guy who’ll end up being extremely valuable to us in the near future.

    Finally, I’m really hoping that the numbers on Kimbrel are right, especially following this year. It’s a little scary thinking about a bullpen without a shutdown closer (although the Red Sox did alright this season without one, apparently!). I just remember all those years before and after Wholers when the bullpen closer was about as good as trying to nail jello to the wall.

    • fireboss

      JT’s 3rd base is less than passable and he hasn’t shown the ability top hit off the bench. He was 4 -30 with 2 RBI and only one XBH, a double. Young players aren’t typically good pinch hitters. Now I think Reed will be let go simply because he’s older and didn’t have a good season himself likely due to injury. OTOH they did sign Greg Norton again so who knows.

      Without Huddy the rotation is still full as of today. Medlen, Minor, Teheran, Wood, Beachy/Hale. Huddy would provide innings of course and I don’t see him actually signing anywhere else unless he gets Galvine’d.

      • Matthew Jones

        Well, I guess that I should have said that I think Terdo gets better this coming year, but perhaps he ends up being like Gattis where he’s not a great hitter without being used on a regular basis. But I think he could do it for a season. As for him being at 3B, he’d be at best the 3rd option. Realistically, he’s probably the 4th or 5th option (for instance, Johnson, Pena, Simmons, Uggla [honestly], then Terdo). But that said, he can still do it for a few innings if needed.

        Per Hudson, man I hope we don’t Glavine him. That’d just be awful. What I’m more afraid of is that they’ll Smoltz him, where they won’t budge at all on signing him.

        • fireboss

          Uggla would be awful at third. First of all he said he would never move there period. Second his arm can’t play second it surely doesn’t play third. Above all however a third baseman needs fast reflexes if he’s to live. Uggla would be on the DL the first time a hot shot got to him in under 1/2 second.
          We should never get to the 4th level 3B. If that happens Wren and Fredi should just pack and leave. Uggla would be horrible , he has neither the arm or the reflexes. First hot shot would likely hit him in the chops and he’d be gone…say what about. . . nah never mind he’s said on numerous occasions that he would never consider a move there even for a day so obviously he tried it at some point. Johnson Pena Laird and likely Medlen.

    • carpengui

      Laird is AWESOME.

      • fireboss

        And actually took grounders at third this year in case he was needed. He was a good sign

        • Matthew Jones

          Darn right he was a good sign. Truthfully, I think pretty much any player in the majors could play CF in a pinch. Like, only for an inning, but they could! :D

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