It’s crazy…madness, but unfortunately the 2020 MLB season is already wrapping up. Our Atlanta Braves are 29-20 with 11 games to go and look in good position to advance in the playoffs for the first time in way too long. Unfortunately, advancing in the first round just means that they get to where they’ve been for years, part of the final 8. Hopefully the offense can outduel the pitching and carry the team deep into the postseason. But today is Cole Hamels day and no one can extinguish that fire….well, except Hamels.

Cole Hamels: What to Expect?

Today is a long-awaited day for Braves fans as Cole Hamels is expected to debut after a long bout with himself. He’ll be available for 55-60 pitches, but it wouldn’t surprise me that if things go well, they stretch that number out to 70. It’s important for Braves fans to temper expectations for today and live in a world of reality and that is Cole Hamels is good…but he’s not what he used to be.

Hamels is a 5-pitch starter that features a low-90s fastball that makes up about 40% of his arsenal, a cutter and change about 20%, and a curve and sinker about 10%. The key for Hamels has always been the ability to tunnel all of pitches, yet all have varying velocities ranging from 74 to 93. His fastball has lost a lot of its luster over the years, but his cutter and change are still plenty good and are used as his out-pitches. His ground-ball rate comes in at a shade under 50% and, unlike most pitchers, his HR/FB ratio did not spike in 2019 which is a good sign going forward. He’s not the Hamels of old, so the Braves should look at his last 3-years as a predictor of what he could provide over the course of the rest of the season and the playoffs. If the Braves can get 5-6 innings of 3.50-4.00 ERA baseball out of Hamels, that should put them in good position to win every time he throws.

A WAY too Early Look at the 2021 Braves Payroll

players under contract for 2021

Approximately 70.5 MM for 8 players

Arb-Eligible Players for 2021

Arb-1: A.J. Minter, Mike Soroka, Max Fried, Sean Newcomb

Arb-2: Grant Dayton, Johan Camargo, Luke Jackson, Dansby Swanson

Arb-3: Adam Duvall (Add Mike Foltynewicz if you like…I’m not)

Sean Newcomb, Johan Camargo, Luke Jackson, and Mike Foltynewicz are all trade/non-tender candidates.

Let’s not get into specific salaries for each, but this group could run the team upwards of ~$30MM and I’d expect at least 2 from this list to not be with the team.

Pre Arb Players

There are a lot of guys that could be traded from this list, but 10 is a good round number of guys to be on the 28-man rosters that’s pre-arb eligible which would add ~$5.8 MM in salary.

Total: 106.3 MM for ~25 players

Hypothetical Offseason Outlook

The Braves will definitely be in the starting pitching market, rather it be via trade and/or free agency. My money is on a guy like Marcus Stroman or someone else that would be willing to take a 1-year ballon contract. Here’s a tweet I sent a week back on guys that could be in the market for that type of deal.

I know that most of Braves Country wants Marcell Ozuna to re-sign with the Braves, but I find that option to be less likely as the day goes by. The Braves likely won’t have a lot of $ to spend in 2021 and with Cristian Pache ready, Drew Waters in the queue, and Adam Duvall breaking out, Ozuna seems more like a luxury and less like a need. For my money, the Braves need 2 starters, a LH bench bat (Matt Joyce, you ready?), and maybe 1 reliever to join the core of Chris Martin, Tyler Matzek, Darren O’Day, Jacob Webb, A.J. Minter, and Will Smith.

I also feel like (yes, again) that the Braves will try to trade Ender Inciarte and could even add one or 2 of the failed pitching prospects in the deal so the team acquiring Ender would take on the full contract which would provide the Braves the ever sought after financial flexibility.

Braves Lineup

We’ve been waiting too long Hamels. Time to shine.