Future Payroll Outlook (2014-2017)

[Before I start, I need help projecting a few players' salaries during their 3 Arb years - Simmons, Avilan, Gattis, Varvaro, Carpenter, Pastornicky, Wood. This would help make this more complete for 2016 and on, thank you.]

Following up with my 2014 Payroll Outlook, I am going to provide an overview of the payroll situation for years to come. I was not planning on doing this anytime soon. However, the recent flurry of extensions given out gives the Atlanta Braves a lot more cost certainty for the future. [Again, I will be looking at what the Braves will actually paying each year, not the cap hit, which counts signing bonuses as pro-rated and spreads them throughout all years of contract]

2014 Payroll Info

Justin Upton - $14,250,000
B.J. Upton - $13,450,000
Dan Uggla - $13,000,000
Craig Kimbrel - $8,000,000 ($7M salary plus $1M bonus)
Kris Medlen - $5,800,000
Jason Heyward - $5,500,000 ($4.5M salary plus $1M bonus)
Freddie Freeman - $5,125,000 (plus unkown amount of $2.875M bonus)
Chris Johnson $4,750,000
Gavin Floyd - $4,000,000
Mike Minor - $3,850,000
Ryan Doumit - $3,500,000
Julio Teheran - $1,800,000 ($800K salary plus $1M bonus)
Jonny Venters - $1,625,000
Gerald Laird - $1,500,000
Jordan Walden - $1,490,000
Brandon Beachy - $1,450,000
Jordan Schafer - $1,090,000
Ramiro Pena - $550,000

This is a total of $90,730,000, but after adding in Reed Johnson's buyout and all of the Pre-Arb player contracts, we come to a sum of $94,893,000. There is also Freddy Garcia's potential contract, so the Opening Day payroll will be about $95-96 million.

If you read my last post you already know all that information, so let's get to the real purpose of this post - the future. There are only 3 players currently guaranteed contracts who will reach free agency after this year. Those players are Floyd, Laird, and Doumit. This takes $9 million off the books, assuming we don't resign any of these players. However, that money will go towards giving the remaining players raises.

[Note - Arbitration-eligible and Pre-Arb contracts are speculative, but based on historic trends of these types of raises. These will be marked like so - Player - $salary (spec.)]

2015 Payroll Info

Justin Upton - $14,500,000
B.J. Upton - $14,250,000
Dan Uggla - $13,000,000
Craig Kimbrel - $9,000,000
Freddie Freeman - $8,500,000
Jason Heyward - $7,800,000 (plus potential award bonuses)
Kris Medlen - $7,500,000 (spec.)
Chris Johnson - $7,000,000 (spec.)
Mike Minor - $5,500,000 (spec.)
Jordan Walden - $2,250,000 (spec.)
Brandon Beachy - $2,175,000 (spec.)
Jonny Venters - $2,000,000 (spec.)
Jordan Schafer - $1,600,000 (spec.)
Julio Teheran - $1,000,000
Ramiro Pena - $800,000 (spec.)

Andrelton Simmons, Luis Avilan, Evan Gattis, Anthony Varvaro, David Carpenter, and Tyler Pastornicky should all make about $700K in their last year before Arbitration. Alex Wood will make about $600K in his 2nd Pre-Arb year. Plus, there will be 3 more roster spots which will total about $2M if given to players currently in our farm system. Adding up all of these salaries brings us to a grand total of $103,675,000 (give or take a couple million). However, we might end up non-tendering players, signing free agents, or making trades. So, this is a purely speculative number, but should be a good estimate if the roster stays relatively the same. It's worth noting however that the total guaranteed money for 2015 is about $69 million, so there is a lot of wiggle room. [This payroll looks high compared to the current budget, but that is expected. With the 2014 number set around $100M and 2017 jumping to maybe $135M, the 2 years in between should be somewhere between $105-115.]

Now, let's delve deeper into the future and get into the expected last year in Turner Field. As of now, there is a big drop in guaranteed money between 2015 and 2016. This could change if more players are given extensions in the near future, but let's not worry about that now. After 2015, there are 5 current players whose contracts/years of team control will come to an and. Those players are Heyward, Medlen, Uggla, Venters, and Justin Upton. That is a lot of money coming off the books. (However, I expect one of Heyward or Upton to come back. And maybe Medlen or Venters).

2016 Payroll Info

B.J. Upton - $15,450,000
Freddie Freeman - $12,000,000
Craig Kimbrel - $11,000,000
Chris Johnson - $9,000,000
Mike Minor - $8,000,000 (spec.)
Julio Teheran - $3,300,000
Jordan Walden - $3,000,000 (spec.)
Brandon Beachy - $2,900,000 (spec.)
Jordan Schafer - $2,000,000 (spec.)
Ramiro Pena - $1,000,000 (spec.)
Alex Wood - $700,000 (spec.)

Plus about $15M for the 6 first-year Arb guys I don't have projections for yet - Simmons, Avilan, Gattis, Varvaro, Carpenter, and Pastornicky

This brings us to an estimate of about $83 million for 17 roster spots, which leaves 8 openings. This gives us at least $22M (maybe $32M) in financial flexibility that can be used to sign free agents, promote minor leaguers, or extend current players. Also, the guaranteed salaries for 2016 are about $42M, so there is actually a lot of financial flexibility.

Going another year into the future brings us to the grand opening of the new stadium in Cobb County, along with the entertainment complex going up nearby. This will cause an increase in total revenue for the Braves, which will result in an increase in payroll. It's hard to say how large this increase will be, but early estimates put the 2017 budget as high as $135 million (a 35% increase from 2014's expected payroll, and a 50% increase from 2013's Opening Day number).

The end of the 2016 season will see 5 current players' contract/team control end. These include Chris Johnson, 2 bench pieces in Schafer and Pena, but also the possible departure of 2 pitchers, Walden and Beachy. This leaves us with only 12 out of the current 25 players projected to be apart of the 2014 Opening Day roster. This presents a lot of open roster place to either promote from within, acquire players via signings/trades, or extend players like Heyward, J. Upton, or Medlen.

2017 Payroll Info

Freddie Freeman - $20,500,000
B.J. Upton - $16,450,000
Craig Kimbrel - $13,000,000
Mike Minor - $10,750,000 (spec.)
Julio Teheran - $6,300,000

Plus about $25M for 6 second-year Arb players (Simmons, Avilan, Gattis, Varvaro, Carpenter, and Pastornicky) and 1 first-year Arb guy (Wood)

This would give us a total of $92 million for 12 players. This is significant because it is about two-thirds of our estimated budget for 2017. So even if players like Simmons and Gattis get higher-than-expected raises, there is a ton of financial flexibility as of now. And only $56.25M of that is already guaranteed.

So there is definitely money available to pay someone like Heyward or J. Upton from 2017 on. The problem is that they are only signed through 2015. This means it will be tough to sign either one of them because they might not be able to fit into the 2016 budget. There are 2 scenarios in which we can extend or re-sign at least one of the above players. Either Liberty Media Corp. realizes this problem, and bumps our payroll up a year early. Or the player(s) take less money in the first year of their new contract, and accept a backloaded contract. The first option would be optimal as backloaded contracts tend to tie the team up later, but maybe that's worth bringing JHey and/or JUp back.

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

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