I hate to write about money two articles in a row but I feel as if there’s a point or two that I really need to address. Yesterday’s article featured a story about big market teams in baseball and how they are stacking up against the smaller market clubs. We went over the fact that money alone was not enough to bring a championship to a particular franchise. Today I’d like to build on that article a little bit and address the Braves financial situation in a little more detail.
Yesterday I pointed out that the Brave are 15th in the league for payroll. Right smack dab in the middle. However we also realized when looking at the numbers that the Braves are a lot closer to the Kansas City Royals then they are to being the New York Yankees. So if we were to side with one or the other I say the Braves are closer to being a small market team that needs to watch it’s finances. So how are the Braves spending their money and are they spending it in the best ways to help the team win a championship. Let’s take a look.
As we discussed yesterday the Braves are sitting on an 87 million dollar payroll. Enough to attract possible free agents and lock some guys up to long term deals like we saw them do with Uggla over the winter. We know we have a 2nd baseman for the next 5 seasons costing us just over 60 million. If Uggla continues to produce like he has been the past 4 weeks then I’d say the money will be worth it. He’s a game changer.
Chipper announced just 2 days ago that he will be back in 2012. So how does this affect the Atlanta Braves bank account? Well Chipper is slatted to make 14 million dollars next season. I’m glad Chipper still loves the game of baseball and I’m glad that he is so determined to win another championship here in Atlanta. My only objection to his return next season is that 14 million dollars is the salary of a full time player, not a guy who needs several days off a week. To earn that kind of money I’d like to see Chipper on the field for 140 games. That would still give him 22 games off throughout the season but even that I think is doubtful. That’s a large chunk of the Braves pay roll going to an aging veteran.
However Chipper is not the only veteran who will be cashing big checks come next season. The other is our good friend Derek Lowe who is slated to make 15 million dollars next season. That’s a ton of money fora 38 year old pitcher that will turn 39 by the time next season roles around. I thought Lowe’s contract was a bad deal for us from the beginning. You always have to take age into consideration when signing these long term deals and I think 35 is a point of concern. Once you get past your 35th birthday as a professional athlete you can’t be treated as if you are 25 anymore. You might need more time off or your skills might slowly start to get away from you. Lowe can’t even get past the 6th inning these days and I don’t see him being a whole lot better next season. The Braves can try to trade him but how many suitors will there be? I know the Tigers showed some interest in him but Lowe has an old arm and a big contract, not exactly great selling points.
McCann is signed through the 2013 season. He will earn 8.5 million dollars next season, which compared to Lowe and Chipper, this is the steal of the century. McCann could arguably be the best over all catcher in Major League Baseball and some how he is earning 5.5 million dollars less next season then Chipper Jones. Alex Gonzalez will be a free agent next season which could allow us to get a younger more talented Short Stop. Weather we get that player from the minors, a trade or look for free agents to fill the void, I just can’t see them resigning Gonzalez who will turn 35 next season. His production is decent but will not warrant the money he will be looking for. Take Tyler Pastornicky and promote him to the majors. The Braves will be able to pay him a couple of million tops to be their starting shortstop. That’s a great bargain and could help free up payroll for other improvements.
Hudson is going to earn 9 million next year which again compared to Derek Lowe is a bargain. Hudson is throwing the ball well and Braves fans will welcome him back next year with open arms. He has a club option for 2013 so we could easily have him in the starting rotation for the next 2 seasons.
Freddie Freeman who only earned 414,500 dollars this year will be a free agent come October. This is an obvious “must sign” for the Braves as he is certainly the franchise first baseman in my opinion. He plays great defense, has an outstanding bat and a good attitude towards the game. We want to have Freeman in the lineup for a very long time. I don’t think resigning him will be too much of an issue, although I have no idea who else will try to pursue him. Freeman deserves a solid 5 year contract in my opinion, possibly even longer with him being so young. The Braves can take a large burden off their shoulders if they can get a long term deal done with Freeman.
Jason Heyward is also a free agent as of next year. Like Freeman he will unrestricted and will probably want a decent size contract. This is where is gets tricky for the Braves. Obviously they will want to resign him but how much is he worth? Is he still the franchise player we all originally thought he was? I don’t think Heyward has proven to anyone that he is worth a monster contract. The Braves need to be extremely careful here, as they don not want to put themselves in a bad situation down the road. Signing players who end up being flops to long term deals can have damaging affects on the long term growth of your franchise. You don’t want to be handcuffed to a ton of bad contracts or you’ll end up like the Mets and Cubs, which is the last thing we want as Braves fans.
Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel will be among the other free agents come October. This is a critical time for the Braves because it’s a chance to lock up a lot of their young talent for long term deals. These two guys are the two biggest pieces to our league’s best bullpen. No way we can let these guys go. However how much money will they ask for? Will we be able to sign all of these guys to long term contracts? This is a situation where I wish the Braves weren’t tied down by the Lowe contract. We could really use that 15 million dollars to serve a much better and more productive purpose, like signing Venters and Kimbrel.
Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens are among the players in the starting rotation who will be up for free agency as well. The list just continues to grow as I examine the Braves contract list with a fine tooth comb. I’d like to see this guys stand up and say that they want to remain a team and try to build a dynasty that will rival the Braves teams of the 90’s.
Fran Wren will have a lot of work to do this off season. It’s a critical time for our franchise and I hope we can lock up as many of the above players as we possibly can. Frank Wren might not be able to offer these guys the money that other clubs can but what he can offer them is a chance to win a World Series and to be competitive year in and year out. A lot of these guys are extremely young and if they know the others are signing long term deals then this is a team that will be good for a long time. Lets get all this over with so we can avoid free agent drama for years to come. Yes, were getting hit with it all at once but as soon as the contracts are done were going to have a team full of long term guys which will be a huge relief.
By: Bob McVinua