As the 2020 season comes to a close, the Atlanta Braves will face several decisions with their current roster this offseason. While Atlanta will have some money coming off the books, they will also have to plan for some of that savings to go towards arbitration raises for several players.
The Braves currently have eight players who are arbitration eligible this winter. MLB Trade Rumors recently released their annual projections of arbitration salaries for the upcoming season. Below is a list of Braves’ players that are arbitration eligible along with a few thoughts on what the team will have to consider before bringing them back.
Also, you will notice that there are three figures for each player included in this arbitration projection. That is due to the uncertainty of the arbitration process for this offseason. At this time, it is unknown how arbitration will account for the 60-game season and there is no current resolution between MLB and the MLBPA on how to address it. Therefore, MLB Trade Rumors provided three different projections for each player.
Method 1: Applies model directly with actual statistics from this 60-game season
Method 2: Extrapolates all counting stats to would-be 162-game totals. One home run becomes 2.7 home runs.
Method 3: For non-first-time eligibles, finds the raise they’d get in a 162 game season, then gives them 37% of that raise
These numbers should be used simply as a projection and as a starting point for the discussion. Let’s get to it.
Johan Camargo - $1.9 million / $2.3 million / $1.9 million
Ivan’s model: $2.8 million
After a lackluster 2019 season, Johan Camargo came into 2020 hoping to retake the everyday third base job for the Braves. That job eventually went to Austin Riley and Camargo again struggled to make his mark. Camargo hit just .200/.244/.367 in 127 plate appearances. His defense was again solid but his lack of production at the plate saw him squeezed out for a roster spot. He spent most of the final month of the season working at the the team’s alternate site. Camargo was included on the team’s roster for the Wild Card round but was dropped for the Division Series and the LCS. He was added back as an injury replacement for Adam Duvall but saw limited action.
Grant Dayton - $900K / $1.0 million / $800K
Ivan’s model: $1.0 million
Dayton stuck with the big league roster all season and posted a 2.30 ERA and a 4.07 FIP in 27 1⁄3 innings across 18 appearances. He was effective against left-handed hitters holding them to a .121/.216/.182 line but the three batter minimum rule limits his overall effectiveness. It’s not clear if he will continue to be carried, especially given that he may not have made the roster without the expansion to 28 players.
Adam Duvall - $4.4 million / $7.1 million / $4.7 million
Ivan’s model: $4.9 million
Adam Duvall played a big part for the Braves down the stretch in 2019 and was even more valuable in 2020. When Spring Training opened, it appeared that he would at least be a right-handed platoon option for the outfield but he played himself into an everyday role. He finished the season hitting .237/.301/.532 with 16 home runs and was worth 0.5 fWAR. Eleven of those home runs came in September with eight coming in an eight-game stretch.
Duvall’s season ended in Game 1 of the NLCS against the Dodgers when he strained an oblique. His offensive contributions and defensive ability will figure him into the Braves outfield picture in 2021, though he would still really benefit from a platoon partner.
Max Fried - $2.4 million / $4.6 million / $2.4 million
Ivan’s model: $5.8 million
Max Fried took another step forward in 2020 and stepped into the void left by Mike Soroka’s injury. Fried was excellent throughout posting a 2.25 ERA and a 3.10 FIP in 56 innings across 11 starts. He will be due a considerable raise over the $583K base salary that he had for 2020.
Luke Jackson - $1.9 million / $2.1 million / $1.9 million
Ivan’s model: $2.9 million
After an overall excellent 2019 season, Luke Jackson struggled in 2020, though his FIP wasn’t that bad. Jackson’s slider was not nearly the weapon it was in 2019 and saw his strikeout rate from 33.7% all the way to 15.2%. He simply was unable to put hitters away at the same clip.
His 6.84 ERA is an ugly number and comes in 26 1/3 innings. His 4.37 FIP and 4.70 xFIP suggest that he was at least somewhat unfortunate. Given that the Braves chose not to roster him for the playoffs, it’s not clear how interested they’ll be in committing to a raise.
A.J. Minter - $1.1 million / $1.6 million / $1.1 million
Ivan’s model: $1.1 million
A.J. Minter was one of the best stories of the 2020 season for the Braves. After a lost 2019 season, Minter came to Spring Training and had to earn his way onto the Opening Day roster. He regained a lot of that promise from 2018 by posting a 0.83 ERA and a 2.82 FIP in 21 2/3 innings. Minter rediscovered his command and cut his walks per nine in half while maintaining a good strikeout rate.
Mike Soroka - $1.8 million / $1.9 million / $1.8 million
Ivan’s model: $7.9 million [if he wasn’t injured]
Mike Soroka’s 2020 season consisted of just three starts and 13 2/3 innings before a torn Achilles shelved him. The injury will likely cost him some money through arbitration but like Fried, will see a significant raise.
Dansby Swanson - $4.3 million / $8.3 million / $5.0 million
Ivan’s model: $5.0 million
Dansby Swanson will be entering his second year of arbitration and will likely be looking at another significant raise. Swanson put together a solid season at the plate hitting .274/.345/.464 with 10 home runs. More importantly, he was able to remain healthy, albeit in a 60-game season.
Defensive metrics were split on Swanson’s value in 2020. Swanson led all shortstops with 10 Defensive Runs Saved but was worth minus-2 Outs Above Average per Baseball Savant, with a UZR mark in the middle of those.
Culberson was added back to the 40-man roster after the regular season was completed but was not on the list for MLB Trade Rumors. By my count, he would be arbitration-eligible as well. Given that he was in the same situation in 2019 and non-tendered, the Braves may elect to go the same route again. Culberson appeared in just 10 games and had seven plate appearances during the regular season. He added three more during the postseason but it remains to be seen whether or not there will be room for him on the bench in 2021.