The Atlanta Braves have until Friday, January 10 to come to an agreement with seven players on salary for the upcoming season, or proceed to the arbitration process. Friday is the day for teams to exchange offers with arbitration-eligible players.
Essentially, the process is one where players submit a salary figure that they believe fits their worth and the team counters with a number of their own. Both sides can continue to negotiate after filing salary figures, but more and more teams are adopting a “file-and-trial” approach where no further negotiation takes place. This strategy may put more pressure on players to agree to terms sooner and avoid the arbitration process all together.
The Braves were able to find common ground with all of their arbitration-eligible players last offseason and could look to do so again. Atlanta currently has seven players who are arbitration eligible. Note that the non-tender deadline has already passed, so all of these players will either agree to terms with the Braves ahead of an arbitration hearing, or have their salary determined by the hearing. However, arbitration-eligible contracts are not fully guaranteed, and the Braves could always cut one of the players below to save a substantial amount of their agreed-upon or awarded salary.
Mike Foltynewicz - $7.5 million
After going through the arbitration process in 2018, the Braves and Mike Foltynewicz avoided the situation prior to last season agreeing to a $5.475 million deal. After a breakout 2018 season, 2019 didn’t go quite as planned for Foltynewicz. He made just one appearance in Spring Training due to elbow soreness which delayed the start of his season. He was ineffective early on as he struggled with his slider and eventually found himself back at Gwinnett. He was able to right the ship somewhat in the second half but his season ended with a thud in a disastrous Game 5 of the NLDS. MLB Trade Rumors projects Foltynewicz for a $7.5 million salary in his third season (of four) of arbitration eligibility. The other estimates feature a similar range of around $7.25 million to $8.3 million.
Shane Greene - $6.5 million
Shane Greene is entering his final year of arbitration and there were some initial rumblings that he might be a non-tender candidate. There is still some speculation remaining that he could potentially be moved but for now he looks to be an important part of what should be a deep bullpen. MLB Trade Rumors projects a $6.5 million salary for the upcoming season, it seems pretty likely that Greene’s salary will end up being between $6 million and $7 million for the upcoming season. Greene appeared in 27 games after being acquired by the Braves posting a 4.01 ERA and a 3.94 FIP in 24 2/3 innings.
Adam Duvall - $3.8 million
Adam Duvall is remarkably heading into just his second season of arbitration eligibility (of four). Duvall struggled in Spring Training in 2019 and began the year at Gwinnett where he put up big numbers. Injuries in the outfield provided an opportunity and he delivered, slashing .267/.315/.567 with 10 home runs in 41 games. He also played postseason hero for the Braves before they ultimately fell to the Cardinals. At this point, it appears Duvall is penciled into the Braves current outfield picture as the right-handed portion of a platoon in left field with Nick Markakis. However, it is also important to remember that things could change as Atlanta rounds out its roster. MLB Trade Rumors projects Duvall for a $3.8 million salary in 2020 and he appears to be on more solid footing than at this time last year. The other estimates feature a range between $3.5 million and $4.7 million for his services in 2020.
Dansby Swanson - $3.3 million
Dansby Swanson is entering his first year as an arbitration-eligible player. He could eventually emerge as an extension candidate but the Braves may very well be waiting to see him put together a full season of production. Swanson put together a breakout first half in 2019, hitting .270/.330/.493 with a career-high 17 home runs. He was slowed by a heel injury in the second half and slumped to .204/.315/.254 line over his final 38 games. His final line was also weighed down by some poor luck on balls in play, as he was one of the bigger offensive underachievers relative to his contact quality in baseball. Swanson is in line for a significant raise which MLB Trade Rumors projects to be $3.3 million for 2020. Swanson had a fairly decent platform year (for him, anyway) on which to base his arbitration salaries, but he first go-through of the process could yield something lower, like $2.75 million as well.
Luke Jackson - $1.9 million
Luke Jackson came out of nowhere to solidify his spot in Atlanta’s bullpen in 2019, posting a 3.84 ERA and a 3.24 FIP in a career-high 72 2/3 innings. He averaged over 13 strikeouts per nine and was particularly effective against left-handed hitters whom he held to just a 3.34 FIP and 2.36 xFIP for the season. Jackson saw his ERA balloon to 5.65 in the second half but some of that was just bad luck as his more respectable 3.91 FIP and 2.51 xFIP suggest. Relievers are a volatile product and the Braves need look no further than guys like Sam Freeman, Shane Carle and Jesse Biddle in recent years as examples. Jackson will be looking to avoid being placed in that group and should open the season as a key piece of Atlanta’s bullpen. MLB Trade Rumors projects a $1.9 million salary for Jackson in 2020. Jackson had about as amazing a platform year as possible, but there’s a decent chance that given reliever volatility, the Braves are able to get him to agree to a deal that comes in slightly below this estimate, like $1.5 million or $1.6 million.
Johan Camargo - $1.6 million
Johan Camargo is also entering his first season as an arbitration-eligible player due to his Super Two status. He was unable to duplicate the success from 2018 as he struggled in a utility role. If Josh Donaldson returns, the Braves will again look to utilize Camargo off the bench likely at a variety of positions. Camargo slashed just .233/.279/.384 with seven home runs in 98 games in 2019. A .258 BABIP suggests there was some bad luck but Atlanta will need him to bounce back in 2020 or else he may look like a non-tender candidate next offseason. MLB Trade Rumors projects Camargo for a $1.6 million salary in 2020. However, his platform year was awful, and he doesn’t have much leverage. It’s hard to see him making less than $1 million or more than $2 million in 2020, though.
Grant Dayton - $800K
Grant Dayton finally made his Braves debut in 2019 after sitting out the previous season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. He made just 14 appearances in the majors posting a 3.00 ERA in 12 innings but also had a 6.21 FIP and a 4.70 xFIP. MLB Trade Rumors projects Dayton for an $800K salary in 2020. He appears slated to be part of the bullpen competition in Spring Training and could ride the shuttle between Atlanta and Gwinnett. If he does spend much of the season in the minors, the Braves will not be responsible for the full salary award, as arbitration-eligible contracts are compensated at different rates in the majors versus the minors. It’s hard to see Dayton somehow making notably above league minimum in the coming season.