Ryan’s 50 Million Dollar Plan!

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!

Author: Ryan Cothran

Ryan is the site editor and manager of Braves Journal. Follow him on Twitter.

24 thoughts on “Ryan’s 50 Million Dollar Plan!”

  1. I caught that you’re working within the confines of what you believe the Braves will do with Donaldson; so this works, and isn’t a bad team. I’d prefer Donaldson be in the middle of the order though, even if it means an “affordable” veteran is signed to essentially just take Julio’s spot.

    Freeman and Moose as the two biggest power bats just sets up too easily for a dominant LHRP. I’m also not much on relying on Camargo to hit until I see him hit again. The biggest thing for me though, I want zero parts of Boyd at the price they’re surely going to ask.

    I’m doing whatever it takes to get Donaldson back. I’d go the 4th year because of the extra leadership and presence he brings to this team. I’ll offer 3/78 though, because I think that gets it done. I got…

    Donaldson @26m
    Grandal @16m (4/64)
    Brett Anderson @7m (1/7)

    I’m also trading Ender away. I haven’t thought about for what aside from clearing the $$, but Mallex Smith is good as a “get” for him. Working with that same 54 million dollar budget number, I’d wait out FA a bit and look for a LH reliever late. I’m also trying to talk Alex Wood into a minors deal, while being open to going with an incentive based deal up to 5m.

  2. @King

    That’s a good plan. I like the idea of Donaldson as the first chip that falls, but it really makes it difficult to maximize additions from there. I do think the Braves will utilize platoons in both the OF corners as it’s the cost efficient route to getting the best bang for your buck.

  3. I wish I liked Matthew Boyd, but I don’t. He’s the kind of trade you’ll forever wish you could take back, especially at the price you suggested.

    It wasn’t just a late season fade for him. First and second half splits were pretty even except for walks. The walks meant the home runs hurt more in the second half. The thing I find more alarming he carried a 7.10 K/BB with a 3.85 ERA in the first half.

    He’s 28 and never finished a season with an ERA under 4. There’s no realm where I would cough up a top pitching prospect for that.

  4. I’m not sold on Boyd either. I’d much prefer Jon Gray or Kluber if we are thinking of parting with top talent.

  5. I like trading Ender, I just feel like it won’t happen unfortunately.

    I’m not sold on Boyd, he struggles with the long ball and I’m having flashbacks to Julio’s Suntrust park horrors in the first year; I especially wouldn’t want to give up Waters or Anderson to get him which we surely would have to do.

    I like Pineda especially at that price, but I feel like I read he’s ineligible for the playoffs? that may have only been for 2019, however.

    Give me Alex Wood for LR/starter #5

    I really want zach wheeler, don’t see us outbidding other teams for him though. The good thing for us on that front though is Cole and Strasburg will garner most of the attention so wheeler may not get a corbin type contract (when he was the best starter available last year, even though not a true ace)

  6. @ 4

    I really like Kluber, but I don’t think the Indians would trade him until at least the deadline. They’ll want him to regain his value after a lost 2019 season.

  7. Nice plan, and likely something like what AA and Co. have in mind for the offseason. I do have a few quibbles

    I want no part of Boyd given the cost. His projected FIP is 4.38 thanks to all the homers and that is while playing in Comerica and the pathetic AL Central. Unless he has made a breakthrough with the change or something I’m not giving up any of our top-4 guys for him.

    Moose will give us decent D and low on base with good power but then we just described Austin Riley, didn’t we? Riley always seems to need a 3 month adjustment time before getting comfortable at a level. I believe he is primed for a 2020 breakout.

    Finally, I doubt we will get much salary relief in trading Ender, at least not before he shows up in games again. A bad contract swap seems more likely. I suggested Melancon last summer but that one is moot now. Ian Desmond would be an interesting buy low guy but the Rocks would need to throw in something of real value as his bat may be ded.

  8. Another thing to consider on Boyd is that it’s not just home runs. He did allow a lot more homers at home in Comerica (26 vs 13) but his home and away eras were virtually the same (4.59 vs 4.55). What didn’t go out of the park when pitching away went for extra base hits.

    Just say no to Boyd. :)

  9. I don’t worry about Boyd in Suntrust as most of his contact is pulled, and I feel like Suntrust plays as a pitcher’s park when pulled. He most definitely had a HR problem in the 2nd half of the season as he just couldn’t trust any pitch outside of his FB and slider. The kicker for me in Boyd is that he puts serious work in. He went do Driveline (yes, kinda obsessed with pitchers that train there in the offseason) last year to decrease his arm slot to allow for more movement from his slider. This caused his K’s to spike, but also made him a 2 pitch pitcher. He’s going to Driveline again this offseason and I fully expect him to work on his other secondaries to solve the problems that showed up when he solved his first problem.

  10. @7 Karl, that’s a fair point about Moose vs. Riley, but I do think there’s a caveat there- Riley has the potential to develop into that type of player, whereas Moose already has. So while they could become the same player long term, Moose is an immediate upgrade over Riley.

    I still like Donaldson more than both. If Donaldson ends up off the table, however, I’d sooner have Moose than Riley for this season. Atlanta just can’t weather his growing pains on a team trying to contend.

  11. @11 A very good read but really not surprising. Many fans have become quite fickle and if teams don’t give them a reason to watch, they won’t. I think AA understands this and will make enough moves to improve the team and keep us watching, although most of us here at Braves Journal were here long before and will be here long after the rebuild

  12. Put me down as another “no” on Boyd. Ender for Mallex makes no sense unless the Mariners throw something interesting in on the side. What Ender was doing before his last injury was season changing. What you have to do with Ender is be in the right frame of mind (i.e. see him as field-only until the second half). If Mallex were to come back with the bat then it’s more interesting. But I still want to see an Ender/Pache platoon in CF with Acuna in RF.

    I’m also a “no” on Pomeranz in the bullpen. Maybe if we dump Malancon’s salary so that signing Pomeranz is still a net savings to be used elsewhere on the team.

    I also don’t see Camargo as a platoon OF. If anything, that’s Culby’s job, but with Ender/Pache in CF then LF becomes Duvall/Markakis.

    I’d rather trade for Gray and leave Pineda off, too. Without Pineda, Pomeranz, and Moustakas, you have plenty for Donaldson.

    Why is everyone so negative on the chances of signing Donaldson? I don’t get it. Has Donaldson specifically said he wants four years? Every prediction on the market has him at 3 years and $70-$80M. Most have said that there is a negligible chance of Donaldson getting 9 figures. That’s what it would take for a 4 year contract. For those that think 3/78 is the figure to meet (as opposed to the lesser ones being predicted so far), why not give him 3/71 with an option for a 4th year and a $7M buyout? That means he can earn a 4th year if he has a great 3rd year and yet get a minimum of $78M on a three year deal. Then he could look for a one year deal at $18M and essentially have scored 4 years at $92M. Plus you have to consider that the Braves will be the only team not discounting their offer by $6M for the QO. What is the logic of all the pessimism???

    I am perfectly happy with signing Donaldson, Grandal, maybe Calhoun, and a Wood or Tomlin or both (or even Julio when he comes back with his tail tucked between his legs) and trading for Gray. That would be a hella-good offseason. It also means we could see if any QO FAs last until June.

    Speaking of which, Wright and a couple of prospects for Gray should work, right? Say Wright, Ynoa, and AJax? If it would take more then Wright, Contreras, and Clouse? Seems like the Rockies desperately need catching and they have none in their top 30. They’re also thin at pitching in their top 30.

  13. I feel like concentrating your WAR as much as possible without going to a stars and scrubs roster is the best way to be successful. Using BRef, the Braves had 5 4+WAR players last year and the Nats had 5 (further the Braves had 5 3+WAR players and the Nats had 6). We had a better overall roster – especially in the bullpen – but concentrating the star power is what’s needed in the playoffs.

    If Donaldson gets away and we sign Moustakas, who is a 2-3 WAR player, we’re going in the wrong direction. Moustakas is just not good enough to settle for. If he were a 4 WAR player where Donaldson is a 6 WAR player then I might settle but he’s not. You cannot let your best player go and expect to be a better team. Ever.

    We need to add 1-2 4+WAR players (even 3+ WAR). Signing Donaldson and Grandal and trading for Gray gets that done. I don’t think any single player on your list, Ryan, except for Grandal, will exceed 3 WAR. That means the team will no doubt be weaker next year under your plan. Of course, that assumes Fried and Folty will be 2.5-2.9 WAR players next year as they were this year, but they may be better regardless of who we sign.

  14. I think Donaldson remains a high injury risk. I’d like to have him back next year, but even 3 years makes me nervous.

  15. @17 I saw that too, and I had that exact same thought. I think the Nats will prioritize Strasburg, and if Rendon gets away, they could be trouble in the sweepstakes.

  16. @14 I’m with you on Donaldson, Roger. He should be priority 1, 2 and 3. Everything they do should center around retaining him. You fill out the rest from there.

  17. @13 Jon Gray makes me nervous, too. I read somewhere he was giving up some of the hardest contact in the league, and had one of the poorest spin rates. I can’t remember where that was. The spin rate could be a product of altitude, I guess. I’m not that versed in the science of that. Still, I’m a little uneasy with a trade there, unless the price is less than one of Anderson, Wright, Pache or Waters.

  18. @20
    Mike Fast would do a lot of good with Jon Gray, and he’d be 2nd on my list of SP trade targets behind Matthew Boyd.

  19. @11: From the article: “Colorado has averaged nearly 3 million fans a game over the last three years.”

    That’s a lot of fans!

  20. If we are gonna “go for it” its time to move some prospects to add to this team with some other FA signings. Payroll stands at 100m, feel like we’ll be in the 135m-145m range unless “go for it” for AA means 145m+. Also rather have paired Duvall with Dickerson for a few more million, but now we are saddling up with Kakes again. However this is how I would proceed:

    FA Signings:
    3B Moose 2/22m with option for 3rd yr
    C Castro 2/10m
    LRP Pomeranz 2yr/16m
    OF Joyce or IF Hechavarria 2yr/5m

    Total added to 2020: 26.5m


    Braves get Jon Gray
    Rockies get Contreras, Muller, Minter, Ynoa

    Braves get Matthew Boyd
    Detriot gets Wilson, Toussaint, T Davidson, and Jefry Ramos

    Braves get Trey Mancini
    Orioles get Kyle Wright, Jenista, Tarnok, Sobotka

    Braves get Mallex Smith
    Mariners get Ender Inciarte

    Adds roughly 11m to payroll
    Lots of prospect loss
    Solidifies Rotation
    Adds a bopper in Mancini
    Does not involve Anderson, Pache, Waters, or Langeliers

    Opening Day Payroll 137m



    CF RAJ
    2B Albies
    1B Freeman
    RF Mancini
    3B Moose
    LF Duvall/Kakes
    SS Swanson
    C Flowers/Castro

    C Flowers/Castro
    OF Duvall/Kakes
    UT Culberson
    UT Camargo
    OF Smith
    OF Joyce or IF Hechavarria

    I still rather send Kakes back to Baltimore and sign Dickerson… oh well


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