Updated Atlanta Braves Payroll and Roster Needs

In what has been a stunning beginning to the 2019-20 offseason the Atlanta Braves have been the most active team on the market, signing:

This isn’t much different compared to last year for the Braves, at least the money involved, as the Braves committed 25MM to Brian McCann and Josh Donaldson on November 26th. However, unlike last year, I don’t think this is the end of most of the offseason spending. With needs at third base, catcher, outfield, and at least 2 pitching spots, the Braves have more shopping to do and if early spending is reflective of what’s to come, there’s significant cash that’s going to be dropped for the 2020 season. Let’s take a look at the current payroll once again to gauge what may, or may not, be available.

Guaranteed Contracts

Freddie Freeman– 22.5 MM
Mark Melancon– 14 MM
Ender Inciarte– 7.7 MM
Ozzie Albies– 1 MM
Ronald Acuna Jr– 1 MM
Nick Markakis– 4 MM
Tyler Flowers– 4 MM
Darren O’Day– 2.25 MM
Will Smith– 13 MM
Chris Martin– 7 MM

Total: 76.45MM for 10 players

Arb-eligible Estimates

Shane Greene– 6.5 MM
Mike Foltynewicz– 7.5 MM
Charlie Culberson– 1.8 MM
Adam Duvall– 3.8 MM
Dansby Swanson– 3.3 MM
Luke Jackson– 1.9 MM
Johan Camargo– 1.6 MM
Grant Dayton– .8 MM

Total for 8 players: 27.2MM
Cumulative Total for 18 players: 103.65 MM

Pre-Arb Locks

Mike Soroka– .57 MM
Sean Newcomb– .57 MM
Max Fried– .57 MM

Total: 1.71 MM
Cumulative Total for 21 players: 105.36 MM
Available Roster Spots: 5

Atlanta Braves Needs

Whether it be filled with someone currently on the 40-man Roster, or even in the organization, the Braves, with 5 roster spots available, are likely in the market for:

  • Pitcher (likely starter)
  • Pitcher (likely reliever)
  • Catcher
  • Third Baseman
  • Outfielder

Internal Candidates for Starting Pitcher

Sean Newcomb– While it opens up another roster spot for a reliever, there’s already been news dropped by Anthopoulos that Newcomb will be allowed to stretch out during Spring Training and will likely be given the hardest look to grab the 5th rotation spot. Needless to say, he’s going to have to find a changeup before he can be a successful starter again.

Bryse Wilson– Just had a bloody awful time keeping the ball in the park, largely due to a fastball that lost its life. For Bryse to be successful at the MLB level, he’s going to have to re-find the sink on his fastball and keep the ball on the ground.

Tucker Davidson– Very unlikely that Tucker would make the roster out of camp unless he really impressed, and I think that’s a possibility. Davidson is currently training at Driveline and already saw a big jump in his velo in 2019.

Kyle Wright– It took a while for Wright to rebound from a terrible start at the MLB level in 2019, but about halfway through the season, the switch switched. In 13 starts from mid-June to end of August, Wright carried very healthy numbers (76.1 IP, 3.30 ERA, 2.9BB/9, 10.5K.9) and he’s got the best stuff in the system behind Ian Anderson.

Ian Anderson– This might surprise you, but Ian Anderson will be 22 a month into the season and he’s the best pitching prospect in the system. His time at AAA in 2019 didn’t go well, so this seems very unlikely.

Internal Candidates for Relief Pitcher

A.J. Minter– The highest ceiling in the lot, but could have the lowest floor, too. He had a Jekyll and Hyde 2019 as his walks disappeared at AAA and he, once again, racked up the Ks. At the MLB level, he was a complete disaster. Still, there’s a lot to like in A.J. and let’s not forget the odd spring he had in 2019, and that can mess with a mind.

Philip Pfeifer– My dark horse candidate, especially if the Braves are looking for a multi-inning reliever. Pfeifer worked his tail off last offseason and his stuff showed out. He’s got a lively fastball, a good curve, and an average changeup. Unlike many lefties, he doesn’t have a platoon split as LHHs only carried a .616 OPS in 2019, while RHHs carried a .617. He could be really good for the Braves and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him work his way to the rotation.

Chad Sobotka– You could pretty much copy/paste what was said about Minter. Sobotka had good peripherals in AAA but absolutely stunk in the bigs with a big dinger problem. Unless Sobotka figures something out, this might be his last chance.

Touki Toussaint– Touki had a lost 2019, and I think it’s time for him to develop into a max effort reliever, but I don’t suggest that to happen at the MLB level. I’ve always thought Touki would end up in the back end of an MLB bullpen, but for now I’d just take MLB bullpen.

Jacob Webb– I liked watching Webb last year, but I also felt like I was watching a Jorge Sosa magic show. Webb is a good pitcher, but it’s reckless to say that he earned his 1.39 ERA. Still, Webb has, if healthy, a good track record, and the Braves could do worse than Webb as their 8th bullpen arm.

Jeremy Walker– Seemingly always overlooked, Walker could be that early bullpen ROOGY brought in when the Braves are in need of a GiDP as he carries a great GB rate and rarely walks anyone.

Patrick Weigel– If Weigel is healthy, there’d be nothing that I’d like more than to see him work his way to the back end of a bullpen. Prior to Tommy John, Weigel was pushing 100. His return was unspectacular and I hope that year 2 will work out better for him.

Internal Candidates for Catcher

Alex Jackson– It’s very odd to me that so many look over Alex Jackson. He’s improved his catching defense every year since returning to the position and still hits the ball extremely hard. He threw out 50% of would be base thieves last year and we could use some of that at the MLB level. For me, I’d totally take a .650ish OPS from a catcher that’ll run into 20-25 HRs a year and play good defense and I think AJax could do just that.

Internal Candidates for Third Baseman

Austin Riley– Riley feels like the elephant in the room across Braves outlets. Through his first 18 games as a big leaguer, Riley had 9 HRs and was carrying a 1.101 OPS. Then…the inevitable happened: the league adjusted. From there on, the Ks came in bunches, striking out in 83 of 203 at-bats. He just couldn’t lay off the MLB slider. However, if Riley’s track record holds true, he will adjust and needs to be given time to adjust, but can the Braves take that chance?

Johan Camargo– After a stellar 2018, where Camargo carried an .806 OPS with 19 HRs, he was demoted to super-utility to make way for Josh Donaldson, and the experiment didn’t go well at all. On August 15th of 2019, he received another demotion, one to AAA, after putting up a measly .612 OPS in 236 PAs. But holy smokes, did he destroy the ball at AAA: 1.221 OPS in 64 PAs. On September 1st, he got the call back to the bigs and carried that same hot bat. In a small sample of ABs, Camargo put up a 1.682 OPS until a fractured shin put him on the IL for the rest of the season and the playoffs.

Funds left, Staying Internal or Going External?

If early indications hold true, the Braves are going for it and I cannot fathom that the team would spend so much on the bullpen with other obvious holes on the team if there wasn’t a big bump in payroll. I’m now 100% convinced that there’s going to be a big bump, with floor being 140MM on Opening Day. That means, at the least, there’s 34.64 MM.

Even with an expanded payroll, it’ll be hard to fill all those needs externally, and at top dollar. One big trade, maybe 1-2 more free agent signings, and going internal from there will likely mean 1 (or 2) of these spots being filled in-house.

What needs are you picking to stay internal? External?

Thanks for reading.

Long live Braves Journal!

Author: Ryan Cothran

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

51 thoughts on “Updated Atlanta Braves Payroll and Roster Needs”

  1. @ 1,

    Can we start a boycott “if you let morons speak, we will drive traffic off of your site”?

    1. Fried for 5 more years is probably worth 2 years of Bryant.
    2. If the Braves trade Fried, then they have to get another starter. No contender trades off one essential cog to fill another place they have a hole UNLESS they have an obvious way to fill the new hole and don’t have a way to fill the old hole. Braves have a better way to fill 3B than replace a 2 to 3 WAR 160 inning or more starter. You have Camargo and Riley. Out of the 2 of them, I feel more confident that one can be a 2 to 3 WAR player than that any pitcher now on staff not already “penciled in” can replace Fried as a 2 to 3 WAR pitcher (with upside).
    3. Right now, anybody “buying” has to assume it is 1 year of Bryant. And Fried alone is way too much for that.
    4. Good reporting would show consensus Top 100 numbers on anybody in the Top 100, not team ranking numbers.

  2. Does Fried have 5 more years of control? All the same, I agree. There’s 20 years of team control with all of these players for the last 2 years of Kris Bryant. It’s an incredibly absurd trade proposal, and it didn’t stay on the screen long. They’re trying to get Cubs fans excited about the offseason so they tune into Hot Stove. There’s no way they considered that trade from the Braves’ vantage point.

  3. If a spot is not going to be given to Riley or Camargo out of Spring Training, and an unmovable player is acquired (like Donaldson), then I think you have to look at making a trade with one of them. I understand that AA is a little less hesitant to give spots to young players, but right now, Wright, Touki, Wilson, Anderson, Riley, Camargo, and Newcomb either don’t have starting spots or, in the case of Newcomb and Camargo, probably aren’t going to be used to their full potential. I would think that up to 2 of those names get traded this offseason.

    I’d love to see some of the free agents start coming off the board (hopefully with at least Donaldson landing in Atlanta) so that the trade season can pick up. I think Atlanta has a lot of pieces they could deal that would move the needle more than some of the non-Donaldson/Grandal FA options.

  4. @ 7,

    I am o.k. with Donaldson / Castro. I am o.k. with Moustakas / Grandal. However, I don’t want to be stuck with Mousatkas / Castro.

    Agreed that the roster crunch needs to move a trade. And maybe I am just too much of a “prospect homer”, but I don’t think they can get what they ought to be able to get out of your list. Yes, Anderson could bring a powerful somebody back, but not the ones you list.

    If Donaldson is signed for 3 or more, then moving one of Riley or Camargo becomes more important. Riley does provide some FF insurance as well, maybe.

    Also, something not being mentioned. We really need to see if we can snag a shortstop with upside at A+ or AA. Our system is long on outfielders, catchers, 3B’s and live arms. The old Braves way of going “up the middle” seems to be working at catcher and centerfield, but not so much at shortstop.

  5. Not a bad AAV, but 4 years for a 31-year old catcher is something I’m glad the Braves didn’t do. I wasn’t particularly enamored with Grandal, so I’m glad he’s off the board.

    Also pretty happy the FA market is moving. AA’s a trend setter.

  6. Braden Shewmake had a tough showing at AA, but he’s a pretty solid SS prospect considering his age and how well he did at A-.

  7. I am too, so the fact that the rumors are that Statue Nick Markakis and 2 Good At Bats in an Atlanta Uniform Adam Duvall are going to split time in LF over Riley tells me that they don’t think as highly of Riley as we do.

  8. Here’s a trade I think is more realistic and was accepted on the tradevaues website.

    Braves get Bryant, Contreras, and Descalso.
    Cubs get Wright, Touissant, Camargo, CJ Alexander, Logan Brown

    You could sub out Camargo for Inciarte and get to the same place. Descalso is a roster match and salary dump.

    That trade is considered a slight overpay with Camargo and an even match with Inciarte.

    Much better than the one posted @1. That is a huge overpay by the Braves even for Bryant and Contreras.

  9. @15 I’m pretty sure I passed this along a few months ago from my scout connection. Basically, yeah, they don’t.

  10. @15 – I don’t mind Riley going back to AAA and getting some at bats, and I don’t suggest that Riley and/or Camargo are replacements for Donaldson for 2020. But I like 2022 Riley better than I like 2022 Donaldson, and I like either over Markakis right now.

  11. @15 I disagree. I think it means that they think Riley needs to work out the kinks at AAA and come back smoking hot.

    I am still liking the idea of starting the season with Pache and bringing Riley up if and when Pache goes back to AAA.

  12. @19 Yeah, he needs to show some signs of development, for sure, before they will pencil him into a starter role. He doesn’t have the sort of “can’t miss’ label that Acuna or Albies had, or that Pache has.

  13. I want Donaldson at 3B. I’m not sold on Camargo as a regular, and never will be. I just don’t see it. Riley has potential, but he’s the prospect I’d be most willing to trade. The bust potential is very real, I think.

    With Grandal off the board, I’d be fine giving AJax a shot. If they brought back Cervelli, and did the 3 catcher thing, I wouldn’t be mad at it.

    Last RP, absolutely fill internally. The pen is more than deep enough now.

    As for SP, I’d love to have Cole or Strasburg. I feel the Braves could do it, but know they won’t. If the price is right on Wheeler, I’d do it. If not, I’d just fill it internal.

    I’d look at Marte now, with Grandal off the board. As it stands, the Braves need 2 bats. If they re-up Josh, seems they could still use one.

  14. @1 – Regarding the Cubs trade, I also agree that the proposed deal from MLB Network is absurd and ignorant of what those trades actually tend to look like.

    But beyond that, I’m not really buying that moving Bryant makes sense for the Cubs. This is an MVP caliber guy and with an unremarkable farm system, their window is obviously more open now than it is likely to be in 5 years. It’s important to trade these guys when there’s no upside to keeping them. For Chicago, the upside of keeping him is another championship run or two. I can’t imagine a soft reset would be more valuable than that.

  15. Riley’s got more than kinks to work out – though most of his minor league career he’s faced consistent concerns that his slider-speed bat will prevent him from hitting enough to start. 2019 did not answer that question in either direction. He’s still got potential, but every argument against him is still alive.

  16. Destroy them.

  17. @1 Feinsand must be a Cubs fan. Dude needs to realize this ain’t “MLB the Show”, and there ain’t a force trade button like there is on video games- because that’s the only way THAT deal would ever happen.

    I do however think, even with Bryant’s limited control, Freid alone wouldn’t be enough. I think it takes two legit prospects. Not top level guys, but guys that realistically have a shot at being ML players.

  18. @22 I think that’s a solid point about the Cubs. I’ve read they have a reported desire to maybe shake things up a bit, just to change the culture or whatever a bit, I guess. Their window isn’t shut though. So I would imagine if they trade Bryant, the return would need to be something that helps them now. Otherwise it probably benefits them to keep him.

  19. I’m just not sure that are as many players as you might think that I would trade Max Fried for. I don’t care how weird Atlanta has been with him in not letting him start a playoff game or not starting him last year in the rotation (innings limit, no doubt), the guy is Cole Hamels. I would not trade Cole Hamels in 2007 for 2 years of 2007 Ryan Zimmeran. To me, that’s what that trade is.

    Hey Mark:

    Maybe he thinks it was a trade for Mike Trout?

  20. I know we are probably not shopping in “that aisle” but say we were. Would you prefer:

    Cole 8/256
    Rendon 7/235
    Strasburg 6/180

    I think I’d go


  21. The early offseason moves coupled with this from twitter:

    “Braves executive tells investors today: ‘We’re set up to win, and we’re going to go after it’”

  22. It’s a pipe dream, but wouldn’t it be hilarious to steal Rendon and Strasburg from the Gnats? One can dream…

  23. @Rob
    Also an exec said something along the lines of: “when the time comes that we need the one piece to put us over the top, we won’t hesitate to pursue it.”

  24. I think it may be a bit low, but the number I’ve seen being tossed around on Rendon is 7/210. That’s very reasonable and similar to the AAV JD will get (probably around 3/80 maybe a 4th year option) and the Braves could afford it if they’re willing to go long term.

    @16 I like that trade but not sure the Cubs would take it, Contreras has 3 years of control left and is probably a top 5 catcher in the game. I feel like Waters, Pache or Anderson would have to be the starting point to get Contreras and Bryant.

    I’m also concerned about Bryant’s grievance, he could very well win his case and become a FA after the 2020 season. I wouldn’t give up nearly as much for 1 year as I would for 2.

  25. I definitely think better days are ahead financially. I never bought that they were going to just going to short the Braves and make them this bottom third payroll team to, I guess, build some artificial equity in the franchise that some billionaire is not going to see through and value the team higher. Or something. I dunno. No one ever really articulated why Liberty wanted to do that, to be honest. There’s a point where not feeding your assets is also bad for business.

    Right or wrong, I see the highest the Liberty-led Braves ever getting is a bottom-of-the-top-third payroll. That would be around $160M based on last year’s payrolls. We’d have to add about $20M onto last year’s payroll to get there. I don’t hate Liberty Media as much as some, but I don’t see that happening in 2020, but I’d really love to be wrong. If they did indeed do that, then literally every single player short of Mike Trout would be available, whether by being willing to gut the farm to get a cheap, elite player or signing the best FAs.

  26. @39 I imagine it depends on how they can monetize winning. Frankly, $160M/year is a drop in the bucket compared to the production and development costs for a lot of other things that may not even double their costs in revenue. I’m thinking about big budget box office movies, video games, and high tech gadget production. Companies invest hundreds of millions of dollars into single productions every year often with the modest hope of doubling their cost in revenue.

    If they went big on the Braves this off-season, say with Gerrit Cole + Josh Donaldson signings, it might be enough to set the south on fire for the Braves. Could they stand to earn a lot more money on revenue and merchandise, not to mention all the traffic it would drive to the Battery?

    I say there’s little way for us to know. Like you, I don’t see it going much higher without a major shift in revenue or change in ownership, and I’ll believe that they’re swinging for a big FA when he signs with the team. Until then, I’m just tickled that they continue to surprise me with spending more than I thought they said they would. :-)

  27. If Liberty ran a 160 million dollar payroll, I’d have zero gripes. That’s enough where you can keep 2 or 3 high dollar salaries and still run out a solid team. I’m another who doesn’t believe it’ll get there this year, though. I could see 145ish on the high end.

  28. I don’t know a ton about Evan White as a prospect, but he just signed a 6YR/$24M deal as a 23-year old 1B in AA and a FV 50 according to Fangraphs. A college pick, he had a 132 wRC+ last year at AA. There doesn’t seem to be any question as to whether or not he’ll hit enough to be a productive 1B at the big league level, so the obviously interesting thing is why he would sign away all of his club control for “only” $24M.

    But I don’t know why it’s interesting other than maybe that it’s rare. People work for companies and governments, taking guaranteed money vs. the risk of having to be self-employed or a business owner. Why do we expect baseball players to not do the same? If he went year-to-year, would he make more money? Sure, but why are we so surprised professional athletes like White and Albies and Jon Singleton who sign these seemingly absurd team-friendly deals? I can’t say that I wouldn’t be extremely tempted to do the same. The first million is the hardest to make in life. Even more hard is the first 10 million. These guys, before they ever expose themselves to the biggest risk imaginable — competing against the top competition in the world for a sustained period — they set themselves, their families, and their family’s families up financially for the rest of their lives. That’s pretty cool.

  29. Some thoughts on White:

    He is expected to be a fast mover to MLB. This contract removes the incentive for the team to negatively change that schedule due to service time. Presumably he gets the call as soon as they think he is ready.

    That said, the Mariners have a terrible record turning position prospects into MLB players.

    If he really is a 50fv prospect, why are they giving him this much? a 50 should only get about $13M in his team control years, with most of these players being released before that final, most expensive Arb year (which accounts for 1/2 the earnings)

    Singleton signed his deal only after the Astros extorted him with the threat that they wouldn’t call him up at all if he didn’t sign. The fact that they had to eat the contract was satisfying. Seriously, F*** the Astros.

  30. @46 Ray could be a great add, depending on the ask. I don’t see him as an elite arm though. He’s more of like a polished version of what Newk could be. If they want ace prices, I hope Atlanta is out. If the price starts around Bryse Wilson though, I’d be intrigued.

  31. @47 I would not trade Wilson. My gut tells me he has more upside that Wright. He’s younger. He made an Acuna-like rise through the system. If any one of the prospects is going to turn into a solid starter, short of Anderson, it’ll be Wilson.

  32. One year of Ray is not worth all that much. The D’Backs will likely not get a huge return and not trade. Same thing goes for the Marcus Semien rumors. I’d be very skeptical of any rumors about stars with a year left of control. Seems like teams always command more then they are worth.

  33. Oh, right, you know, Freddie Freeman has only one guaranteed year left after next year. With two years of control maybe it’s time to start shopping him. Right? Right??

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