FanPost

Braves Should Diversify, Not Overspend

While all Braves' fans would love our team to have the luxury of spending whatever amount it takes to have the Matt Hollidays and Jason Bays of the baseball world lead us in the "Tomahawk Chop," we are faced with a harsh reality. 

Life is not fair, and all markets are not created equal.  The Braves are not the bully of the market--that position is occupied by a team-that-shall-not-be-named.  They are a mid-market team, and with that position comes certain limitations.  Mid-market teams cannot afford to "put all of their eggs into one basket," paying a player lots of Ben Franklins for lots of years and merely hoping that he puts up the kind of numbers that make their gamble worth it.  What if he gets injured? What if he struggles? What if he's a pain in the a**?! 

No, mid-market teams like the Braves can't afford this.  We need only to look at their 2010 payroll for the 25-man roster that has been assembled thus far for evidence:

Name

Pos.

2010

2011

2012

▪ Derek Lowe

SP

$15M

$15M

$15M

▪ Javier Vasquez

SP

$11.5M

---FA

---FA

▪ Tim Hudson

SP

$9M

$9M

$9M

▪ Jair Jurrjens

SP

$0.45M

---ARB

---ARB

▪ Tommy Hanson

SP

$0.45M

$0.45M

---ARB

▪ Kenshin Kawakami

SP

$6.67M

$6.67M

---FA

▪ Billy Wagner

CL

$6.75M

opt. ($6.25M)

---FA

▪ Takashi Saito

SE

$3.2M

---FA

---FA

▪ Peter Moylan

RP

pending (~$3M)

---ARB

---ARB

▪ Eric O’Flaherty

RP

$0.45M

---ARB

---ARB

▪ Jesse Chavez

RP

$0.45M

$0.45M

---ARB

▪ Kris Medlen

RP

$0.45M

$0.45M

---ARB

▪ Boone Logan

RP

pending (~$1M)

---ARB

---ARB

▪ Brian McCann

C

$5.5M

$6.5M

$8.5M

▪ Martin Prado

2B

$0.45M

---ARB

---ARB

▪ Yunel Escobar

SS

$0.45M

---ARB

---ARB

▪ Chipper Jones

3B

$13M

$13M

$13M

▪ Matt Diaz

LF

$2.55M

---ARB

---ARB

▪ Nate McClouth

CF

$4.5M

$6.5M

opt. ($10.65M)

▪ David Ross

C (BE)

$1.6M

---FA

---FA

▪ Omar Infante

IF (BE)

$2.225M

opt. ($2.5)

---FA

This brings the total to $88.6 million with four spots left to fill on the roster--presumably a first baseman, a starting outfielder, a utility man, and a fourth outfielder.  Since the Braves spent $96.7 million on their 25-man roster for 2009 and are unlikely to increase this number, they currently have about $8.1 million left before trading one of their pitchers.  If they unload Derek Lowe's entire contract, they will have $23.1 million to spend, and if they trade Vasquez, they will have $19.6 million to spend (NOTE: both numbers before taking into account the salary of the person(s) they receive in return).

Most people would agree that the Braves main area of need is power. So what is best? Bring in one big bopper for near $20 million (Bay/Holliday) and fill the other positions with as much minor league talent as possible? 

It would be better for the Braves to do what many teams have done in recent years and split that money between 3-4 players that could all benefit the club immediately.  There are some pretty decent talents left on the free agent market that the Braves could likely pick up for short-term contracts of around $5 million each. Some examples:

- Russell Branyan (1B) – 2009: $1.4M; .251/.347/.520 31 homers 431 AB (1 per 13.9 AB)

- Marlon Byrd (CF) – 2009: $3.06M; .283/.329/.479 20 homers 547 AB (1 per 27.4 AB)

- Ronnie Belliard (2B) – 2009: $1.9M; .277/.325/.451 10 homers 264 AB (1 per 26.4 AB)

- Joe Crede (3B) – 2009: $2.5M; 225/.289/.414 15 homers 333 AB (1 per 22.2 AB)

- Ryan Garko (1B) – 2009: $0.45M; .268/.344/.421 13 homers 354 AB (1 per 27.2 AB)

- Jonny Gomes (LF) – 2009: $0.6M; .267/.338/.541 20 homers 281 AB (1 per 14.1 AB)

- Xavier Nady (OF/1B)– 2009: $6.5M (injured in 2009)

- Juan Uribe (3B) – 2009: $1M; .289/.329/.495 16 homers 398 AB (1 per 24.9 AB)

What's interesting is that many of these names have HR per AB ratios similar to Matt Holliday (1/24.2), and two of them have a ratio better than Jason Bay (1/14.5).  If I were Frank Wren--and how many of us have said that over the past two years--I would trade Lowe to whichever team will eat the most of his salary for a decent prospect or two and sign Branyan to play first, Gomes to play the outfield, Nady as insurance for both the outfield and 1B positions, and either Uribe or Crede as a viable backup for Chipper at 3B when he inevitably sits out quite a few games.  Then, I infuse several right-handed players (except for Branyan) with power potential into my power-starved team, and I have options in case someone gets injured or simply performs poorly.  

If the Braves can land someone magnificent through trading Vasquez or some prospects that the Braves can afford to part with, or if Laroche or Derosa sit on the free agent market long enough that their asking prices become more reasonable, then I might rethink this strategy.  

What do you guys think?

This FanPost does not express the views or opinions of Talking Chop.

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