The Atlanta Braves have spent more in 2014. That’s what this writer had been hoping for… but to be sure, it’s happened in ways that aren’t maybe as productive as we might have hoped. Let’s take a look.
Off-season Payroll Highlights
- Contract extensions: Freddie Freeman, Craig Kimbrel, Andrelton Simmons, Julio Teheran, and Jason Heyward (kinda)
- Took a flyer on Gavin Floyd, who might be pitching by May
- Substantial arbitration-driven increases for Kris Medlen, Mike Minor. Lesser ones for Brandon Beachy, Jordan Schafer, Jordan Walden
- Emergency signing: Ervin Santana
- Extra hand/arm signing:
Freddy GarciaAaron Harang
- even as I’m writing this, I’m watching the wires to find out if/when another free agent signing will be made to bolster the bullpen
There’s also an interesting expenditure that really hadn’t gotten much notice: the trade which sent Sean Gilmartin to the Twins in exchange for Ryan Doumit. Realize that Atlanta is now paying more ($3,500,000) for its third catcher than for all other catchers combined. Gerald Laird is getting $1.5 million. Gattis is going to be getting $520,250. Every other catcher in the organization is getting minor league money. Interesting.
When I bring up ‘non-productive’ uses of money, here’s what I’m referring to:
That’s $12,875,000 for players who can’t play. Yes, we expect that Floyd and Venters will be back at some point. Floyd has incentive clauses built in that can double that $4m depending on the number of starts he can make. But if he never throws a competitive pitch… he still gets that base salary of $4 million.
But of course, the biggest expenditure comes for the man now 2nd-highest-paid on the team: Ervin Santana ($14.1 million; Justin Upton gets $358K more this year). That’s money for a guy who is going to play, but money that also wasn’t going to be spent had the other guys been healthy.
Charts and Stuff
|1. LA Dodgers||$235,295,219|
|2. NY Yankees||$203,812,506|
|3. Philadelphia Phillies||$180,052,723|
|4. Boston Red Sox||$162,817,411|
|5. Detroit Tigers||$162,228,527|
|6. LA Angels||$155,692,000|
|7. San Francisco Giants||$154,185,878|
|8. Texas Rangers||$136,036,172|
|9. Washington Nationals||$134,704,437|
|10. Toronto Blue Jays||$132,628,700|
|11. Arizona Diamondbacks||$112,688,666|
|12. Cincinnati Reds||$112,390,772|
|13. St. Louis Cardinals||$111,020,360|
|14. Atlanta Braves||$110,897,341|
|15. Baltimore Orioles||$107,406,623|
|16. Milwaukee Brewers||$103,844,806|
|17. Colorado Rockies||$95,832,071|
|18. Seattle Mariners||$92,081,943|
|19. Kansas City Royals||$92,034,345|
|20. Chicago White Sox||$91,159,254|
|21. San Diego Padres||$90,094,196|
|22. NY Mets||$89,051,758|
|23. Chicago Cubs||$89,007,857|
|24. Minnesota Twins||$85,776,500|
|25. Oakland A’s||$83,401,400|
|26. Cleveland Indians||$82,534,800|
|27. Pittsburgh Pirates||$78,111,667|
|28. Tampa Bay Rays||$77,062,891|
|29. Miami Marlins||$47,565,400|
|30. Houston Astros||$44,544,174|
These numbers are good to compare one team against another, but there are several gotchas… which I need to explain (below). In short, Atlanta had been slipping in recent years: down to 16th in 2013 in a virtual dead heat with 3 other clubs ranked 15th-18th. Some notable changes since 2013:
- The Yankees are no longer #1 – the Dodgers have out-spent them! The Yankees are spending close to $30 million less than in 2013.
- Nationals: spending $20 million less
- Rangers: $22 million more
- Arizona: $22 million more
- Tampa: $33 million more… a bunch of that being David Price
- Baltimore: $19 million more
- Detroit: $16 million less
- Cubs: $15 million less
- Brewers: $14 million more
- Marlins: $12 million more
- Astros: still on the bottom… but spending $27 million more
And Atlanta? $21 million more… though as I’m about to say: I think it’s even more than that.
The Devilish Details
These sources helped confirm some of the ‘fringe’ figures I had been using, and by so doing, I now show that the Braves are spending $116,047,000 on their opening day payroll. Yes, that number is just over $5 million higher than the one in the Deadspin-sourced chart. There’s darn good reasons for this:
- Contract bonuses. Traditionally, these are pro-rated across the years of the contract. This is done for salary cap – oops, make that ‘luxury tax calculation’ – purposes. I do not believe that’s the appropriate way to view the payroll. Basically, if you spend the money in 2014, you put it onto the spreadsheet for 2014. That’s what I have done for every multi-year contract that Atlanta was able to complete during this off-season.
- Likewise, B.J. Upton had a signing bonus for 2013, but I do not count that for 2014, whereas the chart above will have some pro-rated accounting for it.
- The chart above includes $500,000 for Ernesto Mejia. I don’t know why, since he’s not on the major league roster. But frankly, it doesn’t matter, because it’s the slot and the amount that do matter – regardless of whose name ends up there. Right now, the name I have for that slot is “Gus Schlosser“.
- If the Braves do sign another reliever in the next hour or two, then they’ll likely replace Cory Gearrin. Not sure yet how to account for that new player: Gearrin could be DL’d from the Major League club, or he could be Optioned to Gwinnett and DL’d as a minor leaguer… which would be cheaper for the team and would not technically count against this payroll chart.
Oh, and with that explanation, here is that new payroll chart (which seems to change daily) – click it to embiggen:
One more note: that $116 million could be as high as $120 million if Floyd maxes out his incentives… but if he does that, I think we’ll all pretty happy.
So yes, the Braves have done the necessary things: they have locked up their young talent. They have filled gaps. They have responded to needs. The ownership group deserves praise for making all of that happen.
Still just left wondering “what could have been” with a healthy set of pitchers. The money part is good – but ultimately it’s all about what works on the field.
Additionally, you have to wonder just how long this spending spree lasts: Santana, Floyd, Laird, Harang, and Doumit are all on their free agent years. The one-time bonuses will be done. Dan Uggla? We’ll see about that later. While you could argue that there will be more to spend after 2014, I doubt that the team will be using $116 million (or $110 million) as a budget baseline … at least not yet: that number was supposed to be $100 million for this year.