A good tidbit from Mark Bowman's mailbag the other day included some statements that Martin Prado had become too expensive for the Atlanta Braves to sign to a long term deal. Here is the snippet from the article:
By the time the Braves met the D-backs' demand to include Prado in the Justin Upton trade, they had gained a strong sense this would have been the versatile Venezuelan's final season in Atlanta. When they attempted to negotiate a multiyear deal with Prado in December, they quickly learned that he was looking for an average annual salary of close to $12 million. That is certainly much higher than Atlanta would have been willing to spend.
The Braves were again bothered over the past couple of weeks when they were unable to reach an arbitration agreement with Prado, who was seeking $7.05 million this year. Atlanta offered to go as high as $6.9 million to avoid a hearing, but Prado's side was unwilling to come below $7 million. That might have served as a preview of what could have been tough free-agent negotiations next winter.
In the extension analysis that Talking Chop did last month, we estimated that Prado easily has a value just North of $13 million a year. In the poll we conducted of readers, over half thought the highest average annual value they would offer Prado in a multi-year contract was between $11 and $13 million.
The issue is that Prado's value is maximized when he plays a traditionally offensive-starved position, like second base. But of course we all know that the Braves already have Dan Uggla signed at $13 million a year for the next three years.
The gist of the problem is that the Braves can only afford so many eight digit salaries, and they already have plenty committed this year, and presumably next year, so they just didn't seem willing to pony up to pay Prado, regardless of the value he provides across the diamond.
But in doing so, while they are getting a much better value (younger, more talented, signed longer) in Justin Upton, the Braves are possibly trading one area of need -- left field -- for another -- third base. Prado was penciled in at third, but now we'll have to wonder about Johnciscovisch's ability to hold down the position.
It also seems like the Braves didn't want to pay Prado what he was worth -- assuming that he would accept some sort of discount. When it became clear that he would not take less than market value, or even low market value, the Braves looked for a creative way to get the most value out of him that they could. (I'd say Justin Upton is pretty good value.)
The Braves are going to have to loosen up the purse strings in the coming years lest they repeat this same pattern with other good young players on the team. I'd hate to see Atlanta have to part ways with Jason Heyward or Freddie Freeman or Craig Kimbrel in this manner. Of course, we can hope that part of letting Prado go and not having to pay him was to free up resources to pay these guys.