Where Do We Go From Here: Payroll

The Braves' newly acquired first baseman, Matt Olson, is all smiles as he is introduced by general manager Alex Anthopoulos during a press conference at CoolToday Park in Nort Port, Fla., on March 15. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

I’ve been dreaming about this tweet since August…

And the, new insight that’s actually recent…

I have reason to believe that both Mark and McGuirk aren’t blowing smoke and the proof has been in AA’s pudding all year.

Braves 2022 Extensions

  1. March 16th: Matt Olson extended, 8 years, $168MM
  2. August 1st: Austin Riley extended, 10 years, $212MM
  3. August 16th: Michael Harris extended, 8 years $72MM
  4. September 30th: Charlie Morton extended, 1 year $20MM
  5. October 10th: Spencer Strider extended, 6 years, $75MM

Breakdown: Between the extensions that occurred during the 2022 season, the already in place extensions of Ozzie Albies, Ronald Acuña Jr., Orlando Arcia, Travis d’Arnaud and the contracts of Marcell Ozuna, Raisel Iglesias, Eddie Rosario, Kirby Yates, Collin McHugh, and Manny Piña, the Braves have already committed to $160MM of guaranteed money to 15 players. That doesn’t take into account arbitration eligible players.

Arbitration Eligible Players

(only listing players I think they’ll consider keeping)

  1. Arb-2, Tyler Matzek
  2. Arb-3, Mike Soroka
  3. Arb-3, A.J. Minter
  4. Arb-3 Max Fried
  5. Arb-3, Guillermo Heredia

Arbitration is tricky, but look for Fried to make some serious cash in his 3rd year, likely in the $12-15MM range. Minter likely bumps up over $4MM and Matzek around $2.5MM. Heredia might see a small bump, upwards of $1.5MM. Soroka is really tricky as he hasn’t pitched in 2 years and made $2.8MM. If anyone gets let go from this list, Heredia would be first followed by Soroka, who might not be worth the $3MM risk.

If the Braves choose to keep all of the above arb-players, they’d likely add around $20-22MM in payroll.

Pre-Arbitration Players

This is where the Braves save some $, but not as much as the league used to as pre-arb players now get paid $700K/year, a raise of $129,500/year from 2021’s minimum. There’s a big list here:

  1. Kyle Wright (Arb-eligible in 2024)
  2. Ian Anderson (Arb-eligible in 2024)
  3. Huascar Ynoa (Arb-eligible in 2024)
  4. Jackson Stephens ((Arb-eligible in 2024)
  5. William Contreras (Arb-eligible in 2026)
  6. Dylan Lee (Unknown, for now)
  7. Vaughn Grissom (Unknown, for now)
  8. Bryce Elder (Unknown, for now).

There are many more, but I’m only listing guys that played a significant amount of time in the MLB. Look for a lot of this group to ride the ups and downs between AAA and MLB, but salary will likely equal out to 5ish minimum salaries, which total $3.5MM.

The Grand Total

Factoring in $160MM in guaranteed contracts, approximately $20MM in arbitration, and $3.5MM in pre-arb players, the Braves will have around $185.5MM committed to 25ish players. If the Braves are truly committing to a top-5 payroll, factoring in inflation, $250MM would get them in the top-5.

Some Things to Think About

If you’re not following along with the Braves MILB system with my dudes Andy Harris and Matt Chrietzberg, you’re missing out. They’re not flashy like some other dudes, but I think they’re the most knowledgeable duo when it comes to our prospects (outside of David Lee, who now has a job with the Braves!). Matt had this to say about what’s happening between AAA and MLB:

This leads me into my first train of thought for the offseason.

Marcell Ozuna…More Like Marcell Nomozuna

The Braves will, once again, look to trade Ozuna this offseason and with a 2nd mark on his record, it’ll be harder than ever. However, it looks as though there could be a solution unfolding. For the foreseeable future, there’s not a whole lots that’s needed from the farm system (*this is very hard for me to admit). If one were to make their way around the horn, through the dugout, and venture out to the bullpen, you’ll essentially find am almost fully built team for at least 3-4 years. As a fan, that’s such a comfort. As a player in the minors looking to get a shot in the bigs? Forget about it. You’re looking to get traded and get a shot. As Matt shows via tweet, the Braves have a HUGE logjam at AAA in the pitching department and that logjam could pave the way to Ozuna’s departure. Even if the Braves were to attach 2-3 of the above guys in a deal, it doesn’t really affect the MLB team and opens an alleyway for the others to build innings at AAA, prepping for the show. For this year and at least next year, available funds is more important than AAA pitching depth. Teams like the Diamondbacks and the Rockies, who have a hard time luring free agent pitchers, would be my target. I don’t think AA could get out of the whole contract, but $10MM each year sure would be nice and would give the Braves nearly $80MM to reach the $250MM

Rollin’ in it

If there’s $80MM to spend, there’s money to buy 2 superstars. Jacob DeGrom? Dansby Swanson? Carlos Correa? Trea Turner? Carlos Rodon? Kenley Jansen? Edwin Diaz? Adam Ottovino? David Robertson? The possibilities are there and the Braves should have the resources to spend big on 2.

A reunion after a reunion after a reunion

Yes, the Braves are rolling in it, but will still have to budget shop should they want to fill out the entire team above average production. As of now, the starting left fielder is Eddie Rosario, and while I think he’ll be fine next year after a regular offseason recovering from eye surgery, I’d still rather not have him in the field in late and close games or hitting against LHP. For my money, a reunion with Adam Duvall makes a whole lot of sense. He’s a stud defensively and hits well against LHP. And while I wouldn’t just look at him a the right side of a platoon, I think it’s important that he get rest considering his age and that he’s a Type-1 Diabetic. He should be fairly cheap, too.

Remember when?

A few years back, Anthopoulos and the analytical team got together to present to Snitker the idea of changing the batting order to allow Acuna to lead off. After about a month of Acuna leading off, Snitker called himself a “dumbass” because he hadn’t done it sooner.

At this point, surely the analytical team has sufficient evidence that players need rest. On June 25th, after starting his 72nd straight game of the season, Dansby Swanson’s OPS sat at a season high of .882. From June 26th through the end of the season, his OPS was .697.

On the last day of July, Austin Riley had spent a month pulverizing the ball and raising his OPS by .120 points. In the last 2 months of the season, Riley’s OPS was .723. He played in 161 total games.

Most notable, Matt Olson started his Braves tenure on fire, with an .874 OPS at the end of April. The OPS dropped a bit, but stayed strong, sitting at .847 on August 27th. From 8/28 through 9/24, when Snitker finally decided to give him an off day, his OPS was .338. After the off day, he was really good, OPS’ing 1.311 through season’s end. That OPS increase was aided heavily by a power surge of 6 HRs.

Players are going to struggle. 162 is a LONG season. However, the Braves had the only 2 players in MLB to play all 162 and another (Riley) to finish 9th in games played with 159. If Ozzie Albies were healthy, I’d have wagered he’d also be in the top-10. While I don’t mind a regular lineup and positions, the need to rest is crucial to a season and most juggernaut franchises seem to have caught on. One way that the analytical team could convince Snitker to rest players would be by rotating the DH around the horn. If on the team, Vaughn Grissom’s versatility could come into play to give field rest to all positions in the infield and corner OF positions. If Michael Harris needs a break, Ronald Acuna Jr. can move to CF, moving Grissom to RF.

Author: Ryan Cothran

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

24 thoughts on “Where Do We Go From Here: Payroll”

  1. There’s been some speculation that $22MM AAV seems to be the sweet spot for AA — none of the contracts he’s dished out exceed this threshold. If that’s the case for Dansby, it seems like 5/$110 or 6/$132 would be the top offers for Swanson.

  2. I have a sinking feeling about Dansby. I know the dude is a gamer but he was really emotional after game 4. He’s been through playoff losses before, some more gut wrenching than this.

  3. I wouldn’t classify Dansby as a “superstar”. He’s a really good player who just had a career year. Some people were ready to DFA him until this year.

    Totally agree about the rest issue. A lot of that stems from Freddie, who insisted that players play through small injuries and try to play every day. Austin and Dansby still want to follow that example. If a player wants to be fresh for the playoffs they need regular rest. Snit needs to insist on it.

    I will do a happy dance if they can dump Ozuna somewhere. One of AA’s few mistakes.

    I wouldn’t sign DeGrom. He’s getting older and is very injury prone. I would much prefer they extend Max. I also didn’t care much for the Charlie extension. I think his time has passed as a great pitcher.

  4. @4 Agreed about DeGrom. This team doesn’t need an expensive, aging, and brittle starter when the only hole that needs filling is the #5 spot. It should be Soroka’s to lose, with Tarnok/Muller in the wings.

    Packaging Ozuna with a few AAA arms along with a meh prospect like Shewmake is pretty much the only way AA can go without eating the whole contract. Targeting the Diamondbacks or Rockies is pretty smart.

    The glut of top shortstops on the market doesn’t necessarily help Swanson, I think.

  5. DeGrom would be high-risk/high-reward. I still think we need one more great pitcher. Doesn’t have to be him, but I think that’s where we’ll spend whatever extra money is slated for 2023.

  6. Salivate, though: deGrom, Fried, Strider, Wright.

    As much as I love Mike Soroka, he can’t really be in your plans for 2023. If you keep him around, you have to make him force his way into the rotation.

  7. Here’s my offseason recommendation:

    Sign Dansby and Max
    Trade Ozuna for Bumgarner (maybe include an extra pitcher). Use Bumgarner as the new Tomlin.
    Sign a high OBP LF (e.g. Nimmo, Benintendi).
    Sign Duvall and have Duvall/Rosario/Contreras platoon at DH. Duvall can play RF if Acuna needs to DH.
    Bumgarner/Odorizzi/AAA can rotate as 5th SP. Try to let Soroka or Anderson win the role.

    Roster

    Pitchers
    Fried
    Wright
    Strider
    Morton
    Soroka/Anderson/AAA
    Odorizzi
    McHugh
    Bumgarner
    Lee
    Stephens
    Minter
    Yates
    Iglesias

    Hitters/Fielders
    Acuna
    Harris
    Nimmo/Benintendi
    Riley
    Swanson
    Albies
    Olson
    D’Arnaud
    Contreras
    Rosario
    Duvall
    Arcia
    Pina? Heredia? Or another utility

    Grissom in AAA until needed. Adrianza, Chavez, Heredia, Jansen can go. Try to trade Odorizzi. Trade minors pitching for hitting/fielding depth. If trade Odorizzi, then sign Jansen.

    The only real question mark is if you really want to trade Ozuna for Bumgarner, but the money is the same and I think Bumgarner will at least provide more value than Ozuna. We could use another lefty with Matzek going down.

  8. Intuitively it seems like some periodic rest would benefit people, but I wonder how much data would be needed for an analytics team to make decisions based on it. When I look at Dansby’s, Riley’s, and Olson’s full season numbers they don’t really look out of line with their career numbers. Are we sure it’s not random variability?

  9. Yeah everyone is looking for anything that might explain why we didn’t hit at all in the NLDS. If more rest makes a difference does it have to be time off in August and September? Because the time off right before our playoff fail sure didn’t help, lol. My coping narrative is that it’s much harder to win as a favorite than as a low-expectation underdog.

    Agree with @9, for some of our guys, the ridiculously good summer production might be the outlier rather than the baseline.

  10. I genuinely can’t see any way of getting another team to eat part of Ozuna’s contract that wouldn’t be more expensive than money — like when Arizona sold us Touki Toussaint, a first-round draft pick and top prospect, for the courtesy of assuming Bronson Arroyo’s bad contract. Touki would have been worth way more to them in trade for valuable major league talent than the payroll relief they received.

    If we dump Marcell on someone, they’re going to want real prospects back, just like we did, and our system is thinner than it was a few years ago. We already traded a lot of good guys to get Olson, and a lot of the rest of our blue chips have graduated. Raiding a depleted farm system just strikes me as the wrong move.

  11. The other counterpoint to the rest narrative is that the same people had none of it last year either, and that sure didn’t seem to be a problem. I’m sure the folks who were going around in September saying we should concede the division to the Mets are thinking they were right, but I see no real evidence of that. And if you do that, then you don’t have the week of rest leading into the NLDS, so that give you less rest.

    If there’s anything to the rest thing IMO, it’s that these guys had a shorter offseason because of last season’s run. Not that they’re not taking one day a week off. I can’t prove that either, admittedly, but having less of an offseason seems to me like it would be more of an issue than not taking seven innings off a week.

  12. I think the rest thing is logical, I just think it would take a LOT of data points to prove it and then to figure out the optimum way to act on it.

  13. Snitker admitted that they got worn down from basically spending the last few months of the year in an absolute playoff grind trying to catch the Mets for the division. Then when they got a week off, it was really hard to recapture.

    I still think that there’s a lot to be said for something like Bobby’s old Sunday white flag lineups — just give some of the veterans a day off every couple of weeks during the summer. Hank Aaron used to tell guys like Dusty Baker that it was okay to take a couple of days off here and there: the most important thing was giving the team something like 150 or 155 good games a year (I can’t remember the exact number he wrote in his autobiography), every single year. It’s just a hell of a grind.

  14. Loved the post, Ryan. Thank you.

    Cindy J is right. I would have given up on Dansby long before this season, but his defense impressed me this year. I still wouldn’t pay him Turner or Correa money and would prefer either, but Swanson did a lot to win me over with his good work in 2022.

    Verlander’s not a bad top of the rotation choice, but I think DeGrom would look good in Braves garb. Also, it would really fry my Mets fan friends’ cabbage were he to sign with Atlanta.

    What’s Soto’s status with the Padres?

  15. I’m not even really asking for full off days rather just to rotate the DH. That seems like a plausible solution to allow everyone to get what they want.

  16. I tend to think days off are overrated. There are of course off days built into the schedule. Depending on the player and the position they play, I could see how an occasional additional off day might save a little wear and tear. Does it really make a difference for Olsen, a young-ish dude playing 1B? Hard to see how.

    That’s separate and apart from giving off days to dudes with nagging injuries, like Acuna this past year. Of course that is helpful and we should do it.

  17. I think the off days are more important for the mental rest as opposed to the physical. The season is as much or more of a mental grind. Think of that last month division push vs. Mets as a months long playoffs run. Every pitch matters. That really wears on a competitor. The evidence is in every game after the Mets sweep.

  18. Braves could really use another high OBP guy. Their pitching in the playoffs was bad but fried was getting over illness, Morton got hit again, strider hadn’t pitched in a month and Wright won his start. There was some bad luck involved for sure. The hitting was pretty bad though so more rest and some more OBP would be good. Bullpen looked a bit tired as well. If Braves opened the wallet to a top 5 payroll I would like to see:
    Acuna
    Nimmo
    Riley
    Olson
    Darnaud/Contreras
    Swanson
    Ozzie
    Harris
    Grissom/Rosario
    Bench-jace Peterson, Orlando arcia, Herredia, Rosario
    Starting Pitchers
    Fried
    Strider
    Morton
    Wright
    Elder/Anderson/soroka/muller (1 of them)
    Relief pitchers
    Edwin Diaz
    Iglesias
    Minter
    Kimbrel
    McHugh
    Lee
    Yates
    Luke Jackson/stephens/ Chavez (one of them)

    This would mean the Braves would have to re sign Swanson and sign Edwin Diaz, kimbrel and Petersen. Petersen and kimbrel won’t cost much but Diaz and Swanson would command close to 20 million each…
    And Braves would have to dump Ozuna and pina…..

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