In a piece a few weeks back, I laid out the payroll situation with the Braves. You can find that piece here . Since then, we’ve had the following developments:

  • Tyler Flowers was re-signed to a 4MM deal and buyout was added to the 2019 payroll.
  • Nick Markakis was re-signed to a 4MM deal and buyout was added to the 2019 payroll.
  • Julio Teheran’s 11MM option was declined and 1MM buyout was added to 2019 payroll.
  • Billy Hamilton’s 7.5MM option was declined and 1MM was added to the 2019 payroll.
  • Darren O’Day was re-signed for 2.25MM.

These are significant dollars that will help the Braves sign and/or trade for some key pieces for 2020, but the biggest thing might be what it could mean for the 2020 Payroll. After adding the 6MM in buyouts back to the 2019 payroll, the final tally for the season was 141MM.

Let that sink in for a moment. After beginning the season with a ~120MM payroll, Anthopoulos invested into improving his team over the course of the season by:

Trading for Jerry Blevins (April 28)
Trading for Anthony Swarzak (May 20)
Signing Dallas Keuchel (June 7)
Trading for Chris Martin (July 30)
Trading for Mark Melancon (July 31)
Trading for Shane Greene (July 31)
Trading for John Ryan Murphy (July 31)
Signing Adeiny Hechavarria (August 16)
Claiming Billy Hamilton off Waivers (August 19)
Signing Francisco Cervelli (August 26)

Now I do feel like Anthopoulos is going to hold a little back as it’s his philosophy as GM, but I’m going out on a limb, predicting that 2020’s Opening Day Payroll is 135MM. Recent reports from Mark Bowman suggest that the Braves are going to look for a lot of top-tier talent, and I think that the time is now to spend some change. An end-game prediction of mine? 150MM.

Let’s back up a bit, shall we? In looking at the older piece I linked to earlier, the Braves, factoring in players under contract (including O’Day’s recent signing), arb-estimates (via MLBTR), and pre-arb players, are sitting right around 87 million. Pushing the payroll up to 135MM gives me 48 million to work with in this exercise. Let’s get it.

My 56 Million Dollar Plan!

Move Number 1

Braves trade Ender Inciarte for Mallex Smith

Trading an Old Friend- Once upon a time, Ender Inciarte and I were close. And what I mean by close, I mean we were acquaintances on Twitter. And what I mean by acquaintances on Twitter, I mean I followed him and he didn’t block me… until I fake traded him in a post. No bad mouthing him. No @ing him. Merely put up a post that said he was a good player but a player the Braves didn’t really need anymore and in an hour, he blocked me. I’ve traded him everyday in my mind since then.

Mallex himself is just a name that makes sense in the role, but he can be subbed out for any fast backup, inexpensive CFer. I still think Mallex is capable of being a regular MLB player but for now, he comes as a well-equipped 4th OFer with late-inning game changing speed.

$ to Spend: 54MM

Move Number 2

Braves sign Mike Moustakas, 2/24MM

With the information given to me about Bryce Harper and the Braves willingness to go to 6 years, but no more, I’ve got to believe that they are not willing to go further than 3 years for Josh Donaldson. Unfortunately, I think there is a team out there that will give him that 4th year to secure his services. Moustakas is a step down, offensively and defensively, but don’t let that sway you into thinking he’s not good. He is good and will do great in the 4th or 5th spot in the lineup. It’s worth noting that this is MLBTR’s prediction for the team AND the contract, but the contract feels light. I’d go up to an AAV of 14MM, maybe 15 if it’s just 2 years.

$ to Spend: 42MM

Move Number 3

Braves sign Michael Pineda, 2/22MM (10MM in 2020, 12MM in 2021)
In this fake deal, Braves will only owe Pineda 7.5MM in 2020 due to 39 game suspension.

Y’all know I’ve been harping on Pineda and I’m sold that he’s going to have a HUGE 2020 season. He will be out the first 39 games of the regular season due to breaking MLB’s drug policy (I said this in a previous post, but the arbitrator knocked his suspension down to 60 games after concrete evidence was provided that what Pineda was taking was not a masking agent). Pineda came back from Tommy John unable to locate his slider, and it took him until mid-May to get it right, but from there until the end of the season, he was a frickin’ force: 19 GS, 112 IP, 3.38 ERA, 110 Ks, 19BB. Pineda will miss the first 7-8 rotations of the season, which will allow the Braves to cycle through some of their younger starters to see if any has developed enough to stick should someone go down with an injury.

$ to Spend: 34.5MM

Move Number 4

Braves trade for Matthew Boyd

I’m not going to get into the specifics of a deal for Boyd because that always leads to people yelling at each other, but Boyd is the kind of guy the Tigers need to trade this offseason and I think they’ll make good on that trade. He’s got HUGE stuff, but faded at the end of last year and got shelled by the homer. Strikes out a lot, walks are below 3 per 9, and his slider is deadly. He’s primed for a breakout. He’ll likely make 6MM in 2020. I’ll say that if the Braves want to make this deal, one of Ian Anderson, Kyle Wright, or Drew Waters will likely have to be included.

$ to Spend: 28.5MM

Move Number 5

Braves sign Drew Pomeranz: 2/14 MM (6 in 2020, 8 in 2021)

Pomeranz pumped 97 out of the bullpen and looked like one of the best relievers in the game. It’s a small sample, but one worth looking into: 28.2 IP, 1.88 ERA, 50K, 8BB. Oh my GAWD. I want that in the back end of my bullpen.

$ to Spend: 22.5.5MM

Move Number 6

Braves sign Yasmani Grandal, 4/68MM (14MM in 2020, 18MM in 2021-2023)

After doing my own research and giving way to the harsh reality that is Josh Donaldson’s cost, it seemed like the wiser move was to utilize the money given to Donaldson, 1 player, to 2 players in Moose and Grandal. Lengthening the lineup and finding the one catcher to call 120 quality games/year should make a big difference in the rotation.

$ to spend: 8.5MM

Move Number 7

Braves sign Kole Calhoun, 1/6MM

This isn’t sexy, but it gets the job done. The Braves need an OFer they can depend on and Kole can be that guy. He rates, at the least, as an average defender in RF and hits for power from the left side, which would be welcomed in the OF. Calhoun and Johan Camargo would create a platoon, of sorts, for the beginning of 2020.

$ to spend: 2.5MM

Move Number 8

Sign Long-Relief Veteran SP

There will be someone like Josh Tomlin available a month or 2 before the season, and the move will likely look like a “OMG, what is AA thinking?” When in all actuality, there will be a reason for the pickup. Tomlin trained at Driveline and picked up a ton of movement on his offspeed stuff, putting up a pretty good year in 79.2 innings of mostly mop-up baseball.

Final Breakdown

Ronald Acuna Jr
Ozzie Albies
Freddie Freeman
Adam Duvall/ Nick Markakis
Dansby Swanson

Bench: Tyler Flowers, Adam Duvall/ Nick Markakis, Charlie Culberson, Calhoun/Camargo, Mallex

Rotation: Mike Soroka, Max Fried, Michael Pineda, Matthew Boyd, Mike Foltynewicz

Bullpen: Mark Melancon, Shane Greene, Sean Newcomb, Drew Pomeranz, Darren O’Day

In this exercise, the one thing I wanted to focus hard on was to strengthen every aspect of the team without emptying the farm. The one trade will hurt, but there will still be more in the pipeline at the same positions ready to go at some point in 2020. So, even if you don’t agree with all, or any, of the moves, I think the bigger picture is that the Braves can build a real contender without sacrificing a ton of prospects, for 135MM.

Thanks for reading.

Long live, Braves Journal!