Obviously, the Braves have a great, young lineup. Many players are locked in for several years. Over the past year and a half, we have done some major depletion of our farm system in order to get this great young lineup.
Lets take a look at some ideas to restock our farm system, as well as some ways not to restock our farm system.
Players who have expiring contracts in 2013:
SP - Tim Hudson - I want Hudson to finish his career as a Brave. Our current rotation is young and thin enough that he should be able to hold down a rotation spot beyond this year. I think we give him a 2 yr $10 Million extension by the All Star Break. By the end of that contract, he will be 40, he should have ~230-240 career wins, over 3000 IP, over 2000 K, and will be a potential Hall of Fame inductee.
C - Brian McCann - This it the first gut-wrenching thought. Here are the possible scenarios involving McCann.
- We re-sign him for less than he is currently making. If we can sign him to a front-loaded 4-6 year deal averaging less than $7 Million a year, I hope we do that. His agent is not Boras, so I could see this happening.
- We let him test free-agency and he ends up signing with someone else.
- We trade him before the deadline this year for prospects. If we cannot achieve #1, I hope we do this.
- We sign him for one year and go through 1-3 again in 2014.
RP - Eric O'Flaherty - This is another tough one. I don't know what kind of prospects we can get for a good RP. However, if he wants any more money than he is making this year ($4.3 M), I don't think we can afford to keep him around. We may have to let him walk or package him with Uggla or McCann in a trade.
SP - Paul Maholm - He will be 31 by midseason. If he pitches as well during April - May as he did during March, I would like to trade him for a couple reasons. One reason is that Beachy will be back. The other reason is that I believe his value will be at a peak (pretend he has 8-9 wins at the All Star Break) and someone like the Tigers or Blue Jays/Orioles/Red Sox ould use one more pitcher to put them over the top. Let's take a look at possible trades.
That's it for players on the last year of their contract.
For this article, let's assume that Dan Uggla returns to his Marlins form. If he does, I would like to try and work out a deal with him. Beyond 2013, he's got 2 yrs, $26.4 Million on the hook. Let's give him a 1 yr, $1.6 M extension that pushes his 14 and 15 salary into 16. Instead of $13.2 M, 13.2 M, FA, we are on the hook for $10 M, $9 M, $9 M. I don't know if that would work with our new CBA, but I'd feel much better about having him on our team if it were for less money. $10/$9/$9 would mean he is being paid like a top-10 second baseman. If we are unable to reduce his cost, I would like to trade him when his value is at a peak. I would want to trade him for an MLB-quality second baseman with a lower salary.
So far in this article, we have lost a C, SP, and 2B from our starting lineup, and replaced them with a starting 2B and three to four good prospects. We can use Gattis/Laird as our stopgap C for the remainder of 2013. One of the potential prospects is a C who is no Bethancourt with the glove, but can actually hit. Cabrera should push Bethancourt for future C status. Our SP rotation would still be healthy with Hudson, Medlen, Minor, Beachy, and Teheran with several prospects ready to go (Gilmartin, Zach Lee, Graham, Martin).
Who else could become a casualty of their salary over the next few years?
Craig Kimbrel - Four CPs are making $10M or more in 2013. That's $10M for someone who pitches less than 70 innings. I think that we might be able to make a pre-arbitration deal with Kimbrel that will buy out his arbitration years in return for a slightly lower salary for a couple years post arbitration. Kimbrel is locked up with Arbitration years until after the 2016 season. Something along the lines of this (really rough numbers). Jacob Peterson did a much more detailed analysis HERE.
2014 = $5M - Arb. Year 1
2015 = $6M - Arb. Year 2
2016 = $7M - Arb. Year 3
2017 = $8M
2018 = $9M
That's a 5 year $35M contract to lock up the best closer in baseball for 2 years after Arbitration. If we are unable to make this deal, I would prefer to trade him between Dec. 2014 and Jan 2015. I think that we could get a heavy haul of prospects for two more years of the best closer in the world. That's more than a year away, so I won't even try to name any prospects. I wish we could make Kimbrel a Brave for life, but I don't know if that will be possible.
Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman - We need to keep Heyward and Freeman at almost ANY cost. If we need to pull off two Buster Posey deals then that's what we need to do. This year for Heyward and next year for Freeman.
Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy, and Mike Minor - I think that all three of these pitchers can be signed to relatively low cost deals. I kind of view these three as equals. They are all interchangeable with each other. We can offer them each a similar arbitration buyout contract extension... somewhere around 6 yr / $25M-$30M. If they are all willing to sign that contract, great. Otherwise, we can use their willingness as a gauge for which of those three to trade for more prospects. Checkout Jacob Peterson's other extension articles for more details analysis of Medlen and Minor.
I think that by this time next year, we should have at least two pitchers (out of Kimbrel, Medlen, Beachy, and Minor), two outfielders (BJ and Heyward), and one infielder (Freeman) signed to long term contracts ending after 2017 and beyond. At the same time, we will have had to make some tough decisions that will help to replenish our farm system.
Let me know what you think.