Today is the 13th of January. Tomorrow is the deadline for arbitration hearing filing. That’s important for two reasons:
- The team policy of the Atlanta Braves is that they are a “File and Trial” company. That is, once a player officially files for arbitration, then negotiations on their next contract amount cease, and the two parties then will present their cases at ‘trial’ (the Arbitration hearing). [Update: technically not until the salary figures are exchanged - deadline for that is Friday]
- There are still seven players that the Braves have yet to come to an agreement with: Craig Kimbrel, Kris Medlen, Freddie Freeman, Jayson Heyward, Chris Johnson, Mike Minor, and Jordan Schafer. With the exception of Schafer, these are the players with the highest estimated ‘values’ of the 11 Arbitration eligibles for this year.
The Braves haven’t actually had to go through an arbitration hearing in a while. The last one was going to be Jeff Francoeur‘s back in 2009. But contrary to the ‘policy’, the two sides actually came to an agreement just before Jeff got on plane to fly to that hearing. So there is a precedent for continued negotiations… and given some of the numbers that are at stake, it would probably be worth Frank Wren’s while to keep that door ajar just a bit. However, in early 2013, the Braves were seemingly prepared to go to a hearing with Martin Prado over a matter of “just” a $40,000 separation. But then we all know how that one ended.
Nonetheless, we can expect quite a bit of news on these guys today and tomorrow.
Here are the MLB Trade Rumors’ estimates for each of the players involved:
- Kimbrel* – $7.25 million (1st arbitration year)
- Medlen: $5.9 million (2nd year)
- Freeman: $4.9 million (1st year)
- Heyward: $4.5 million (2nd year
- Johnson: $4.2 million (2nd year; Super-2 [gets 4 arb years])
- Minor: $3.5 million (1st year of 4; Super-2)
- Schafer: $1.0 million (1st year)
* In the case of Craig Kimbrel, his is the exception: never has a closer gotten to this, his 1st arbitration year, with stats like his. MLBTR says that he “broke” their estimations model. That will make it difficult for anyone to determine exactly what he will earn: agents, the team, or the arbitrator. This one could swing over $1 million in either direction… and in turn impact the Braves’ decision on keeping him beyond another year (having $11-12 million closers aren’t exactly this team’s style).
Jordan Schafer could make that case that he’s the best 4th outfielder out there – and therefore worth more than $1 million. Indeed, if B.J. continues to slump into 2014, Schafer could be called upon a lot more often. But that’s about the future – not the present, and it’s past performance that sets the bar for these numbers above.
The Braves have already settled with 4 of their arbitration guys:
- Jonny Venters: $1.625 million
- Jordan Walden: $1.49 million
- Brandon Beachy: $1.45 million
- Ramiro Pena: $600K
So About Those Contract Extensions…
It was opined by David O’Brien over the weekend, and repeated here, that fans might never see Jason Heyward take an extension now that he is now two seasons from free agency. It was reported around this time last year (I cannot locate my source on this) that Wren had tried – and was declined at that time – to extend the contracts of both Heyward and Freeman. If there’s any point in the off-season in which such deals are “in season”, it is this week.
But will it happen? Difficult to say. Certainly, Atlanta has a lot of candidates – but with salaries exploding (again) this year, it’s truly difficult for players to see that and then ‘settle’ for something that appears to be less in the long term. Simmons would be a good candidate, given that he’s still way early in the process. I have no delusions that the Braves will be able to extend everybody – more likely 3 or 4 at best from this current group. But that’s up to the temperament of each individual involved.
Don’t forget, though: not all contract extensions are good ones. The Braves made a stout offer to the aforementioned Jeff Francoeur – who declined the invitation. Guess that one worked out okay for Atlanta.
For players filing for arbitration tomorrow, salary figures are exchanged on Friday. Hearings are then scheduled between February 1st and 21st.
Oh, and after Tuesday’s deadline? Team President John Schuerholz told XM/MLB Radio last week that Frank “isn’t done” tweaking the roster. We’ll see how that teaser plays out.