A lot was made about the payroll at the beginning of the 2019 season, and many fans felt shorted by the lack of big moves outside of Josh Donaldson. While I cannot argue with that train of thought too much as it was promised by the heads that payroll would increase, Anthopoulos wasn’t reactionary and took a good team into the season and, with numerous additions along the way that added to the payroll, built a team that won the division once again.

However, the goal wasn’t to win the division, rather to advance in the playoffs. This didn’t happen, and whether he will fill the numerous needs this offseason or during the season, Anthopoulos has got to be feeling some pressure to right the wrong of a lost opportunity.

Projecting the Payroll

As my good friend, Tommy Poe, discussed in his latest piece on Julio Teheran’s option, the Braves have carried roughly a 120 million dollar payroll into each of the past 2 seasons and have made additions to that number along the way in both years. While 120 million seems discouraging and I hope that the starting line is more than that, that’s where I’m going to lay the foundation to this piece.

120 million for Opening Day. Let’s get started.

Atlanta Braves Players Under Contractual Control

Freddie Freeman– 22.5MM
Mark Melancon– 14MM
Ender Inciarte– 7.7MM
Ozzie Albies– 1MM
Ronald Acuna Jr.– 1MM

Total for 5 Players: 46.2MM

Atlanta Braves Arbitration Eligible Players (Projections via MLBTradeRumors)

Shane Greene – $6.5MM
Mike Foltynewicz – $7.5MM
Charlie Culberson – $1.8MM
Adam Duvall – $3.8MM
Dansby Swanson – $3.3MM
Luke Jackson – $1.9MM
Grant Dayton – $800K
Johan Camargo – $1.6MM

Total: 27.2MM for 8 Players
Cumulative Total: 73.4MM for 13 players

Atlanta Braves Players w/ Options

Nick Markakis– 6MM option, 2MM buyout
Tyler Flowers– 6MM option, 2MM buyout
Julio Teheran– 11MM option, 1MM buyout
*Billy Hamilton– 7.5MM option, 1MM buyout
*It is assumed that Billy Hamilton will be bought out, therefore his 7.5 isn’t in this discussion, but his 1MM will be part of the total.

Total: 24MM for 3 players
Cumulative Total: 97.4MM for 16 players

Atlanta Braves Pre-Arb Players

Roughly 10 players at ~600K/player.

Total: 6MM
Cumulative Total: 103.4MM for 26 players

Breakdown: As you can see, it’s fairly easy to get discouraged when putting the money together as 120 million disappears faster than my children at cleanup time.

Assumed needs for the 2020 Atlanta Braves

  1. Catcher- Brian McCann has retired and Tyler Flowers is getting old. The Braves will need a catcher that can swing the bat and catch at least 100 games/season.
  2. 3rd Base- This is assuming that the Braves aren’t comfortable with letting Austin Riley and/or Johan Camargo take over at the beginning of 2020.
  3. Starting Pitcher: The Braves might not need a frontline starting pitcher, but they’re going to need someone that can slot in somewhere 1-3 and that’s going to cost.
  4. Relief Pitcher(s): There’s always a need for relief pitchers and I cannot fathom that all of Braves 2020 relievers are in-house right now.
  5. Outfielder/Bench player: Depending on the fate of Markakis and Ender, the Braves are either going to need bench help or a starting outfielder and my money is on a starting outfielder.

While I cannot imagine that all of these needs will be filled via free agency, we can assume that there are at least 3-4 players that aren’t currently in the organization will be when Opening Day comes along. That’s a lot of holes to fill with only 17MM assumed space. Let’s get to work.

Creating Funds by Cutting Money

  1. Trading Ender Inciarte– This makes the 3rd season in a row that I’ve traded Ender and I think I’ll finally get it right this year. As Rusty showed us in his piece on Acuna, he has been an above average CF but is likely only a placeholder for Cristian Pache (who will have to be added to the 40-man by 11/20), and that feels good enough to finally deal Ender. I think the problem in this thought is that Ender ended the season injured and if Anthopoulos decides to deal him this offseason, it’ll likely bring back minimal return.
  2. Pass on Julio Teheran– This may not seem wise, but Julio’s 11MM seems to be more valuable pooled together to grab a substantial piece rather than a mere solid, yet unspectacular one.
  3. Let Markakis walk- I get it. People like Markakis. They see him as a clubhouse leader. But let’s not paint over the fact that he’s 35 years old, been worth 7.4 bWAR/6.2 fWAR total in his 5 Braves seasons, and that is unacceptable from an everyday starter.

Total Money Saved: 22.7 MM

Money Available for 2020: 39.3MM

Now…about those holes.

Thanks for reading!

Long live Braves Journal!