Hello everyone! It's been a while since I posted anything beyond the odd comment here or there, so I thought I'd get back into the habit of extending my two cents into FanPosts all of their own. I know that "rosterbating" is now expressly forbidden here, but I don't believe this particular piece falls exactly into that category. While there may be some editorializing on my part about impending roster moves, the weight of this post will be the simple consolidation of information regarding our payroll in 2010 as it may pertain to potential trades, signings and promotions. I've done my best to cull the "Internets" for the correct contract information (a special thanks Cot's Baseball Contracts!) but I'm fully prepared to be wrong, so feel free to point out any mistakes of that nature in the comments. And so, without further ado, please follow me below the fold.
Is our highest paid player hiding his cash in his jersey on the mound?
The Braves currently have eight players already under contract for the 2010 season. They are: catcher Brian McCann ($5.5M), third baseman Chipper Jones ($13M), outfielder Nate McLouth ($4.5M), back-up catcher David Ross ($1.6M), utility man Omar Infante ($2.225M), plus starting pitchers Derek Lowe ($15M) , Javier Vazquez ($11.5M) and Kenshin Kawakami ($6.667M). These guys are slated to receive nearly $60M for their efforts next year, an increase of nearly $6.1M over what they'll make in 2009. At very least, each of them is worth the salaries they'll get.
Wouldn't it be nice to see this again all season long in 2010... but can we afford it?
Atlanta has but one contract option decision to make, but it's a huge one. Starting pitcher Tim Hudson - coming off of greaet work in 2007-08, "Tommy John" surgery this past offseason and presumably a little action later this season - could remain a Brave for an additional year at the fair price of $12M or be sent on his way at the cost of his $1M buyout. In other words, for the mere net cost of $11M for a single season's commitment, the Braves could have their previous ace back in their uniform for 2010. On the other hand, there is a bit of a logjam in the rotation already, glaring voids elsewhere in the roster and times are tough economically. Nevertheless, the old adage is that you can never have too much [good] pitching and he can definitely add to the stable in Atlanta if he's healthy and right. Just for context, he was under contract for $13M in 2009, an undisclosed (?) percentage of which has been presumably picked up by insurance.
Check out that bat's uncanny impression of Frenchy's status as a prospect!
This is by far the most difficult part of projecting payroll. This nebulous process leaves many of us fans so far in the dark as to shock us with its results sometimes. That said, it's a key component of this discussion, so I'll do my best here. I estimate arbitration figures as increasing salary 50% from year one to year two and 25% from year two to year three. I am admittedly utterly useless at guesstimating players upcoming salaries for the first time in the system, but I try my best by searching for similar guys and their awards in recent years. The Braves have as many as six guys up for this in 2010 and they are: first baseman Casey Kotchman, second baseman Kelly Johnson, right fielder Jeff Francoeur, outfielder Matt Diaz, plus relief pitchers Peter Moylan and Jeff Bennett. There are a few guys on that list that are less than likely to remain in Atlanta past this season (if for that long, even) and while I'd be more than happy to let most of them go, I have to estimate them all here to be fair and complete. I have Kotchman at $3.6M, Johnson at $4.2M, Francouer at $5M, Diaz at $1.5M, Moylan at $1.5M and Bennett at $1M. Such salaries would represent an increase of about $5.7M over what these same players make this year. If you can improve on these guesses, then by all means, be my guest; just remember that this is the same system that essentially and inexplicably rewarded Frenchy's failure thus far in the majors to the tune of $3.375M just last year.
The future is now!
Prior to arbitration, which comes only after two or three years of MLB service time depending on production and the timing of their promotions, players must play for whatever amount their respective teams desire to pay them. That number is usually insignificantly greater than the league minimum, which is $400,000 in 2009 and likely to increase only marginally. For this exercise, I will consider $450,000 the average salary for Atlanta's pre-arbitration players. The guys that fit that bill and are almost certainly assured of roster spots next year barring anything exceptional occurring between now and then are: shortstop Yunel Escobar, infielder Martin Prado, plus pitchers Jair Jurrjens, Tommy Hanson, Kris Medlen, Eric O'Flaherty and Manny Acosta. More could be brought up to replace departing free agents or players likely to be dropped via other means, but such guesswork could be tricky. The final number could be as high as ten or as low as zero, but I'll use three (so as to refuse to speculate on incoming free agents or trading for veteran players making more money to fills gaps in the roster). That leaves our total for this portion of the payroll at ten earning $450K for nearly $4.5M altogether.
The good news is that 25 players are accounted for above. The bad news is that they aren't all as good as we'd hope for. The pricetag of around $93M seems to be right about what Liberty Media is willing to spend on these Atlanta Braves, but they could surely do better than what's been detailed here. The bullpen would be decimated by the departures of superb relievers Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez; the team could also benefit from addition by subtraction with the departures of Francoeur, Johnson and Bennett. Moreover, guys like Diaz and perhaps even Kotchman and/or Moylan (not my prefence, but it could perhaps be argued for and I'm open to anything) could have their respective salaries put to better use. Our rotation is already quite solid and could be incredible with at least six enviable options in Vazquez, Lowe, Kawakami, Jurrjens, Hanson and Hudson. One of those could obviously be flipped in a trade or reassigned into the bullpen, both of which should be considered.
I have to say, I like this team, but it needs some work. The posibilities are infinite and intriguing. That is why I present this to you, so we can debate the merits of our options and consider all of this when looking at decisions to be made this year and next offseason. I hope the powers that be here at Talking Chop allow this post to stand and join in on the fun of discussing it. Thanks for taking the time to read this admittedly long post and I hope you also do so to comment on it. Go Braves!
P.S.: This is my first try at inserting images and I'm quite obviously not very good at it. If you find them annoying or otherwise bothersome, I'd be happy to remove them. If you have any advice on how I may make better use of them (how do you get the writing to go beside a pic to fill out the empty spaces in the article, resize them, reorient them within the article, etc.) then please include that in a seperate post from that of your comment on content. Thanks again!