Okay, contracts, budgets, and the numbers involved are boring subjects: generally we wanna skip over all this stuff and get to the business of playing baseball. I get that… but Friday’s events will impact just how well the Braves can do that this year – but we’ve yet to see just how significant an impact that will be.
On Thursday, I gave you my pre-arbitration estimate on the Braves’ payroll situation. This is the promised update to that, based on all events from Friday’s filing deadlines.
First of all, here is a chart to explain the details on what happened (click on it to bask in the largess of these numbers):
I’ll summarize with a few bullet points:
- Frank Wren said (as Julien quoted him yesterday) “we went well above the recommended salary arbitration numbers for all of our players.“ By and large, that seems to have been true. You could argue otherwise for Craig Kimbrel and Freddie Freeman, though… at least based on the MLBTR Estimates.
- Nonetheless, the signed players (Mike Minor, Chris Johnson, Kris Medlen, Jordan Schafer) all pushed the payroll estimate upwards by $890,000.
- At this point, arbitration ceases to be a negotiation and becomes an “either/or” proposition. Each side will have to defend “their” number as filed yesterday, and the arbitrator will select one: either the team’s number or the player’s number. So Kimbrel, for instance, will either end up with $6.55 million or $9 million. Nothing else.
- So the minimum that Atlanta will end up with in payroll now is $92,213,000. The maximum (if they lose all three cases) is exactly $4 million higher.
- They aren’t likely to win or lose all three cases, but that $4 million gap is significant. Especially at the trade deadline in July.
There is no issue here with “affordability”: total team payroll for the year was reported to be right at $100 million. The team can “afford” all of these contracts – no matter how the arbitrators rule.
Of the three arbitration cases, I have these opinions:
- Heyward’s case is meh: “only” $300,000 difference. Given the prior estimate, I think he probably loses, but it’s not a big deal either way.
- Freeman’s case is more interesting, and I do think he wins due to his RBI production and clutch hitting.
- Kimbrel’s case is truly precedent setting. Nobody has ever had the numbers he’s posted; and it while it will be difficult to argue against him, it is also difficult to argue for a dollar figure that is so far above the previous record for a closer. If the Braves had chosen something around $7-7.5 million to defend, then I would think they’d win easily. But the $6.55 million figure may allow Kimbrel’s agent to have a chance. It could simply come down to something stupid like presentation style and the personalities involved, but I will guess that he loses in a close one.
This math shows that after arbitration, the committed dollars will be allow somewhere between $7.8 million and $3.8 million in remaining payroll space. That money will then be used for….
- Contract incentives (if Gavin Floyd actually pitches a lot this year)
- Obtaining replacements for injured players
- Possible trade deadline acquisitions
It’s that last bullet point that is the wild card. If Atlanta were to win all arbitration cases, then they’d have up to $4 million “extra” dollars to use for “buying” a better player at the trade deadline. If they lose all three? Well, it’s the difference between perhaps a Justin Morneau and Elliot Johnson – when you’re only paying for 40% of a player’s season, dollars buy more. More dollars can buy a lot.
We’ll see how it goes: arbitration trials are scheduled between February 1st and 21st.