Braves Add Players, Subtract Financial Flexibility

After signing Marcell Ozuna, the Braves have made transactions that back up the fact that the team is running low on “financial flexibility”. In today’s piece “Braves Add Players, Subtract Financial Flexibility”, we’ll discuss the moves made and their potential impact on the roster.

Braves Sign Catcher Hendrik Clementina

Clementina was originally signed by the Dodgers, then traded to the Reds, then signed by the Braves in 2021 after his release. At 23, he’s still young enough to recover and have a career in the bigs, but for now it seems like he’s destined for the lower minors. His carrying tool has been his bat and it sounds as though most of his catching skills need upgrading. The Braves are definitely top heavy when it comes to catching talent and this signing likely helps provide depth in the lower minors. My guess is Clementina will go to High-A with the ability to move fast should the unknown of 2020’s “work” show his catching skills have improved.

Braves Sign Jason Kipnis to MILB Deal

If you wanted a replacement for Nick Markakis with a bit more positional flexibilty, Jason Kipnis is your man. Kipnis is a solid hitter, eerily similar to Markakis, but younger. Like many LHHs, his career OPS vs. RHPs is good (.789), while his OPS vs LHPs is not (.671). With the ability to backup 2nd, maybe 3B, and the corners in the OF, Kipnis could be a good addition to a weak bench.

Braves Claim Travis Demeritte, DFA Demeritte, Outright Demeritte

In a move I thoroughly enjoyed, the Braves brought Travis Demeritte back to the ATL by claiming him after the Tigers DFA’d him. This move placed Demeritte on the 40-man roster for a short while, until the Braves DFA’d him. Since none of the other teams wanted Demeritte, he was outrighted off of the 40-man roster. I didn’t know this transaction rule, but a player must accept being outrighted off the 40-man if it’s a first occurrence.

We know Demeritte. The young man has serious raw power that comes with a lot of swing and miss. It seems like the last time Demeritte was “right” was when he was in Atlanta’s org under the tutelage of his AAA hitting coach when he carried a .944 OPS with 20 HRs in 96 games. It just so happens that said AAA hitting coach is now the assistant hitting coach on the MLB squad.

I don’t think being outrighted hurts Demeritte’s chances on the roster, rather it was just a move to add more competition to spring. If Demeritte can find his bat path under Seitzer and co., his value is heightened with his ability to play 4 positions. With both Cristian Pache and Ronald Acuna Jr. having the ability to play CF, a corner OF backup is completely acceptable.

Braves Sign Jake Lamb

The Braves added Jake Lamb on a $1MM non-guaranteed MLB deal. Lamb, when healthy, is a slightly below average defensive 3B with big power. His bat has extreme splits as he carries a career .599 OPS vs. LHP and and .805 OPS vs. RHP. This move feels like Austin Riley insurance in case he struggles against RHP, and that greatly affects Johan Camargo‘s chances of making the roster.

Braves Claim Phil Ervin from Chicago Cubs

When I first saw this move, I was meh. After reading up on Ervin, I’d say I was slightly above meh. After finding out he was a former 1st round draft pick, the “pedigree first” in me has now come around to “cautiously excited”. Ervin is a true backup OFer with ability to play all 3 OF positions. While he hasn’t graded out as above average, his career is hardly a big enough sample to warrant an opinion one way or another. Unlike other bench options, Ervin is a RHH and has had very good results against LHP (.811 career OPS). This is the key point, especially if the Braves keep both Kipnis and Lamb who excel against RHP.

Final Thoughts

The latest news on the payroll does not look good as it’s been reported the Braves have less than $5MM to spend (but they were willing to stretch that for Trevor Rosenthal, so I don’t really understand, but oh well), but I’m not sure if that’s with the MLB salaries of Lamb and Kipnis included, or without. Time will tell, but it’s worth noting that the Braves couldn’t go big on $ last trade deadline because of a maximized budget and had to settle for Tommy Milone. Luckily for the team, both Kyle Wright and Ian Anderson stepped up down the stretch to provide what Tommy Milone could not.

Thanks for reading “Braves Add Players, Subtract Financial Flexibility”. If you missed it, check out our first “Spring Training Roster Talk” here.

Author: Ryan Cothran

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

60 thoughts on “Braves Add Players, Subtract Financial Flexibility”

  1. Thanks for the insight on Ervin, Kipnis & Co, Ryan. Enjoyed the read. Let’s hope one or two of those guys will stick. Very low risk moves.

  2. Site was a bit screwy but I think it’s fixed itself. Let me know if any of you are having issues.

  3. I like the Demerritte and Lamb acquisitions–perhaps one will have a good year. Nice that they have some upside. Still, it seems like the bench could be a weak spot (as noted by many for some time). What type of CIF/COF players are typically available at the end of spring training? I seem to recall getting Matt Joyce and Preston Tucker at that time. Is that type of player a reasonable expectation for this year, if we were to prefer available players to in-house options?

  4. JC’ed from last thread:

    List of guys that signed for similar money that Smyly signed for (1YR/$11M):

    Pedro Baez – 2YR/$12.5M
    Archie Bradley – 1YR/$6M
    Michael Brantley – 2YR/$32M
    Alex Colome – 1YR/$6.25M
    Nelson Cruz – 1YR/$13M
    Adam Eaton – 1YR/$7M
    Didi Gregorious- 2YR/$28M
    Yuli Gurriel – 1YR/$7M
    Brad Hand – 1YR/$10.5M
    Corey Kluber – 1YR/$111M
    Tommy La Stellaaaaaa – 3YR/$18.75M
    James McCann – 4YR/40.6M
    Mike Minor – 2YR/$18M
    Yady Molina – 1YR/$9M
    Charlie Morton – So, we actually signed him.
    Marcell Ozuna – Get this, we actually signed him too.
    James Paxton – 1YR/$8.5M
    Joc Pederson – 1YR/$7M
    Jurickson Profar – 3YR/$21M
    Garrett Richards – 1YR/$10M
    Trevor Rosenthal – 1YR/$11M
    Carlos Santana – 2YR/$17.5M
    Kyle Schwarber – 1YR/$10M
    Andrelton Simmons – 1YR/$10.5M
    Blake Treinan – 2YR/$17.5M
    Taijuan Walker – 3YR/$23M

    I’m trying to take my fan-colored glasses off to see who we should have signed. Maybe a $5M reliever and Joc Pederson? We could still get the $5M reliever anyway, so I guess I’d be saying two $5M relievers and Joc Pederson. Jurickson Profar since he can play the infield and outfield? I wouldn’t have wanted to give Profar three years. Nelson Cruz would have been great if we added the DH, but he’s out.

    Really, the one that probably makes the most sense is Brad Hand, especially based on length of commitment, but that’s largely contingent on whether you think you have a fifth starter in-house. If you don’t feel like you do, then what does another reliever get you? And Hand is a lefty, and we need righties.

    Don’t get me wrong, it’s an odd signing. I’ve been beating the drum for a couple years now that it makes absolutely no sense to consolidate a ton of resources during a rebuild in starting pitchers to turn around and not use them when you need them, but I’m also on record thinking Kyle Wright is probably a dud, and past that, who else do you want to hand a spot to? And if Smyly is healthy and can give you 25+ starts, Atlanta has the best rotation in the East. I don’t care what the projections say.

  5. I look at Smiley this way: when you have as much impact talent as the Hammers do your choice is to make incremental signings that will increase your odds on making the playoffs or try for a homerun that can — should it payoff — markedly increase your chances of winning it all. He may, like Cole Hamels, be a bust, but he is the correct philosophical choice for me.

  6. A few days ago Mark Schultz on the Athletic posted his state of Georgia all sports power listing. I think he had “Financial Flexibility” ranked 4th after ranking it 2nd last year. And that was just before this post came up. Quite funny.

    I think the Smyly thing was “we have to get a pitcher” and at the time they signed him, they didn’t think they had a shot at anybody else they wanted for what they could pay. Then, when Morton was available, they leaped. Also, I think there is more money there than what Rosenthal said.

  7. Tyler is an interesting example of what happens when the Braves’ draft strategy works perfectly. He was one of the draft-and-follow success stories, a Roswell boy taken in the 33rd round out of a junior college in Florida. (He was taken in the 2005 draft, but via draft-and-follow, he came into the system in 2006.) After coming back from a PED suspension in the minors, he continued to hit and became a consensus top-100 prospect by the end of 2008. That was enough to make him the centerpiece of the Javier Vazquez trade, along with Brent Lillibridge.

    Vazquez, of course, had a career year, finishing fourth in the Cy Young voting; with one year left on his contract, the Braves flipped him to the Yankees and got back Arodys Vizcaino and Melky Cabrera. Smelky sucked for us, but he was an All-Star two years later; he was a legit prospect and it was a good return on the trade.

    Meanwhile, Flowers played decently in part-time work for a few years, but struggled to get much playing time. He didn’t play 80 games until 2013, his age-2013 season, and he finished the year below the Mendoza line. But the Sox saw something they liked, as they made him the starting catcher the next year, and he rebounded with his first two-win season, and played just as well the following year. He also developed a reputation as one of the strongest framers in baseball. The Braves nabbed him as a
    free agent, and in his first year in Atlanta, moved back to part-time work, he immediately had his best-hitting season. He was basically the second coming of David Ross: a high-power, low-OBP, pitch-framing specialist who was worth two wins every year, in exactly half a year of play.

    It’s interesting to compare his career to that of Jarrod Saltalamacchia, whom the Braves chose with the 36th overall pick in the supplemental round of the 2003 draft as compensation for losing Mike Remlinger in free agency. Salty actually did pretty well, all things considered: he became a top-50 prospect and a centerpiece in the Mark Teixeira deal, which was a very good outcome for a player taken at the end of the first round, and while he never became a star, he played in the league for more than a decade and was worth about six WAR, fourth-best among 36th-overall picks since 1990, behind only Stephen Piscotty (7.9 WAR), Bobby J. Jones (7.5), and Mike Montgomery (6.1), and significantly ahead of all of the other replacement-level and sub-replacement-level players taken in that spot, like Chris Coghlan and Aaron Blair.

    Salty had a fine career for his draft slot. But Flowers had a better career with the bat, and depending on how you weight framing stats, a significantly better career with the glove — Fangraphs says he was worth 20 WAR over his career!

    No matter how you look at it, Flowers has had a really successful career as one of the best backup catchers in baseball. Especially given that David Ross is already a successful major league manager, I think there’s every reason to try to bring back Flowers as a coach.

    Not bad for a 33rd-rounder.

  8. Nice write-up! I either never knew or forgot that Tyler Flowers got busted for PEDs. The fWAR total is interesting depending on the pitch framing part, but definitely agreed that Flowers had a heck of a career for a 33rd round investment.

  9. I’ll go on record that Fangraphs WAY overvalues framing, especially when looking at catching tandems (IMO, CERA is much more valuable than what most think, especially when catchers are true tandems and not assigned to one pitcher). Sure, Flowers steals strikes, but he also costs some due to his setup. Flashing the glove then pulling it back mid wind-up is distracting and it’s blatantly obvious to some pitchers that it’s hard to find the zone.

  10. @13 I am inclined to agree, if only because of the well-established pattern of a new tool being greeted as a breakthrough and used to explain too much, only for subsequent scrutiny serving to chip away at it. Pitch framing is a little BABIP-y, I guess is what I’m saying….

  11. I simply cannot comprehend why the Braves would pay Heredia $1MM guaranteed when they’re penny pinching so much.

  12. Either their scouts think they saw something nobody else saw and he’s Jose Bautista 2.0, or he’s got the Pictures.

  13. I got nothing on Heredia. I was going to say it’s a small sample size but he’s had 5 major league seasons and is 29 years old. He played 125 games with Seattle at age 27 and had a .660 OPS. I guess to look on the bright side you could say he had and .866 OPS last year with the Mets. Of course the sample size was miniscule, but that’s all I’ve got.

  14. Guys, he’s another guy that can play CF. One can only hope this is a prelude to trading Ender. They are stacking up dubious CF options, I hope, in the anticipation of Ender not being available and the possibility that Pache might crash and burn (or at least be delayed until May).

  15. I’m squinting pretty hard at Heredia’s baseball card, and I still don’t see the part where he’s able to play better than Ender Inciarte, the stiff we’re already stuck with.

  16. As a departed friend used to say at the beginning of every single fantasy draft: I think Zach Duke’s still available!

  17. @18, according to the DOB tweet on the side of the page, Heredia’s contract is not guaranteed.

  18. Forgive me if this has been discussed here, but it really looks like the only way to stream FSS and get the Braves games (I’m in Chattanooga) is through ATT TV, right? I keep switching (Dish forever, then Youtube, then Hulu) just to find a place with the RSNs. It’s getting ridiculous. I suppose I could try a VPN but I been hesitant to go that route, though I already pay for Any other answers out there?

  19. @28 This issue is simply ridiculous in 2021, and I can’t believe that there isn’t a reasonable way to stream regional sports apart from a full TV subscription. This is basically why I didn’t watch Braves baseball in 2020, because I’m not going to pay $40-60/month to gain access to a channel that airs most of the games.

    You are literally better off to sign up for a high speed reliable VPN and stack the price of it + MLB.TV against the cost of the TV package.

    A more interesting alternative could be to find someone you know who actually wants a TV subscription and offer to go in on it with them if they will let you use the online streaming feature. Spectrum, for instance, has an excellent TV streaming service. I used it to watch the Braves from the office on my phone on many occasions. It was awesome.

  20. Braves just signed their “26th man on the playoff roster” guy, Terrance Gore, to a MiLB deal.

  21. Yeah, I guess Gore can pinch run which could be needed in the playoffs. He sure can’t hit. I doubt he makes it on the roster that long.

  22. 32-Thanks for posting that link. Would be nice if RSNs could be bought a la carte as suggested for 2022.

  23. @28, 29: I don’t understand the issue. I get an entire Braves season on for $110, or under $20/month. Then, using either a Roku or Nvidia Shield or Amazon Fire or whatever (or even direct casting from my computer) I see it on my TV. It’s true I don’t get the RSN, so the pregame and postgame shows are unavailable, but is there any real value there? When the Braves play the Mets I get the Mets RSN on my YouTubeTV account. I do lose Braves-Yankees games because the YES RSN isn’t on YouTubeTV, but I can always watch those at a bar…

    Is your problem that all the Braves games are blacked out on because of your proximity to Atlanta?

  24. 36 – That is correct, I am blacked out in Chattanooga, so won’t get me the Braves without a VPN workaround.

  25. Ok… Then a VPN is definitely the answer. I’ve heard good things about Express VPN being pretty good and reasonably priced, but I have no experience.

  26. Yeah, I would just go VPN. MLB.TV seems to be the best way to make the Braves work.

    So, are there going to be fans in the stands? I guess it’s a dumb statement, but is there a definitive statements that we indeed are moving forward? Are there restrictions?

  27. There was a ton of Braves content on just about every show on MLB Network yesterday. I think they’ve just been picking teams and talking about different angles with them. Throughout the day being in and out of the house with MLB Network on, I heard two different AA interviews.

  28. Hey remember when we all thought throwing $11 million at Drew Smyly must mean the team planned to spend big?

  29. Remember when the Braves signed Josh Donaldson and Brian McCann and went on to spend big in 2019?

    Remember when the Braves signed a bunch of quality relievers and Cole Hamels and then went on to spend big in 2020?

    Remember when the Braves signed Smyly and Morton and then went on to spend big for 2021?

    Me neither, and it is a kind of predictable pattern for this GM to strike early and then be extremely patient.

  30. The Braves would’ve had the biggest payroll in franchise history last year if it would’ve been a 162-game season. They gave multi-year contracts to:
    Will Smith: 3/$40MM guaranteed
    Chris Martin: 2/$16MM
    Travis d’Arnaud: 2/$16MM

    In 2021, the Braves have spent:
    $15MM on Charlie Morton
    $12MM on Marcell Ozuna
    $11MM on Drew Smyly
    $1MM on Jake Lamb
    $1MM on Josh Tomlin

    That’s $68MM in 2021 on guys signed this year or last and The Battery was non-existent last year.

  31. Whatever. The Braves are a mid-market team and people don’t think they should be. This is an argument that’s been raging since I got my first hair on my chin. What makes the conversation silly this offseason is that we are in the midst of an economic recession that’s hard to predict because of a raging virus that has killed a bunch of people and that’s made everybody scared to even go outside, let alone a ballgame. So, sorry, if they decided to recoil a little because of that, that’s kind of defensible in my book.

    Plus, we have no idea how things will go. Our economy might roar back in 2021, and the Braves decide to spend so much that they climb 4 or 5 spots on the end of year payroll rankings with that money being consolidated in postseason help.

  32. I didn’t mean to come across as being down on the team for its approach to spending. I am actually poking fun at most of us who see the early signings and begin to think the team is going to do something unexpected and grand. The reality is we usually do something early and then wait until February before getting it squared away.

    As far as things like “largest payroll in franchise history” and being a mid-market team go, isn’t it basically irrelevant? One, talking about franchise history, this team was a top spender during the ’90s. If you adjusted those payrolls wouldn’t they be greater than what the team was poised to spend last season? Being squarely 12th through 15th in payroll just doesn’t seem like anything to tout. This brings us to the team being of a certain market size. It has rarely ever been about size of market for the teams with owners who really want to win it all. Yeah, I can see that the days of owners ruthlessly throwing money into their teams to beat the other rich owners and rub it in their faces is clearly long gone. What we have is a professional sports business that is worried over revenue and not making enough money for the owners. It’s much less fun like this.

  33. On this matter of twins
    who’s last and who wins
    six weeks should confirm that our casanova
    productive as ever, heeds not, it’s done, it’s ova.

  34. I’m not happy with “midmarket” spending — Atlanta is a massive metro area and the Braves radio network never tires of pointing out that it’s the largest in the country. Our fanbase is huge.

    But in Alex I trust. Giving about $90 million to Morton, Smyly, and Ozuna is about as good a usage of eight figures’ worth of simoleons as I can figure. I just wish the suits would allow our slender per diem to rise from 1500 calories to 2000 calories a day.

  35. An anchor of last decade’s bullpen, Darren O’Day, made a significant donation to his alma mater Florida’s new baseball stadium, and wouldn’t you know it, they named the bullpen after him.

  36. No more McKethan Stadium. Florida had a bit of a real estate quagmire where they wanted a football-only facility, but the best place for it to go was where McKethan Stadium was. So they essentially had to wait until it made some semblance of sense to tear down McKethan Stadium. So if I understand it right, they had to build the new baseball stadium because you couldn’t be without one, of course, then tear down McKethan Stadium so they could build the football-only facility. So McKethan might have gotten a bit of an early exit in order to make all the real estate make sense.

  37. Did anyone play any Spring Training games today? Can’t find any record of games having been played.

  38. Well, just figured I was a day early in looking for scores…. LOL….. Whoops. Just ready for games to start.

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