Braves Could Have A Higher Payroll In 2012

As fans of the Atlanta Braves we know that Frank Wren is doing all he can to make next year's team stronger than the one that collapsed down the stretch this year. He got creative and moved quickly to rid himself of as much of Derek Lowe's contract as possible. Initial off-season reports after that seemed to indicate the Braves would make very few moves, but that's not what Ken Rosenthal is hearing:

The Braves are up to something. How can they not be after their historic collapse in September?

No one should be immune from trade discussions. And, apparently, no one is.

Yes, the Braves would move right-hander Jair Jurrjens and left fielder Martin Prado, the two players whose names surfaced in trade discussions with the Royals, according to Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star.

Heck, the Braves would trade just about anyone for the right price - and moving Jurrjens, in particular, could make sense.

In addition to making trades to secure better pieces, and create openings in the rotation for their talented young starting pitchers, the Braves ownership may also be (finally) giving the team (and their fans) some relief by increasing the self-imposed salary cap. Once again, here is Rosenthal:

The Braves operate at a different financial level and, sources say, intend to increase their payroll from $87 million, their Opening Day figure last season.

That is EXCELLENT news! Liberty Media, the team's "owner," has mainly been hands off, which has allowed the baseball people to make mostly good baseball decisions without meddling owners getting involved. But that hands off approach has also meant that the owners don't really seem to be personally invested in whether the team has the resources to compete in a division where more teams are spending more money.

Creating salary space by trading Lowe, and possibly Jurrjens, while also being allowed to raise their overall salary total could give the Braves significantly more money to spend this off-season than what was previously thought. The beat writers and bloggers presumed that the Braves had about $10 million of additional money to spend after trading Lowe, and after all estimated arbitration raises were accounted for.

Now consider that if they are able to trade Jurrjens, that's another $5 million. We won't know how much Liberty will allow the team to expand their salary total, but I'll venture a guess that it's somewhere between $5 and $10 million. Add all that together and the Braves could possibly have somewhere between $20 to $30 million to spend this off-season. That's enough money to make a significant splash in the free agent market if they choose, but more likely it's enough money to greatly expand the possibility of players that the team could trade for this winter.

If all of this is accurate, then we could be in for a much more active off-season than previously thought, and we could see the Atlanta roster change much more than previously thought. I'm excited at this prospect of more cash to spend. It should be pretty apparent that the Braves will have to increase their salary total, stagnant for the past several years, to stay competitive with Philly, New York, and now Washington -- all of whom could spend more than the Braves next year.

Of course, the last time this front office had money to spend, they spent it on Derek Lowe and Kenshin Kawakami. Hopefully they make better choices this time.

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