We will not be nattering nabobs of negativism about these Braves. They are for real, they are exciting (thank you, Frank Wren, who signed Albies and Acuna) but they are paper thin, with almost no MLB-ready depth and a shaky bullpen in desperate need of a stud. And the rotation remains iffy — as rapidly as Soroka has advanced, Luiz Gohara has taken a big step back, with an 8.03 ERA in four starts for Gwinnett.
These are fixable problems, but will AA be allowed to do his thing? There’s an ideal candidate for a trade who toils for a team with no hope, one signed to a very reasonable deal (just shy of $6 million per) through 2020: Raisel Iglesias of the Reds. Cincy desperately needs promising young arms, and the Braves have enough to get something done. But Liberty wouldn’t allow for the flexibility to sign Mike Moustakas to a reasonable, short-term deal (batting .299 with 8 HR and 19 RBI for the Royals), which is why we’re about to witness the Jose Bautista experiment.
But now that the Braves have the look of a contender, will Liberty free up the finances to get a pitcher like Iglesias (or Cole Hamels?) You’d like to think so, but they’re already tamping down expectations for next year‘s payroll (via Mark Bowman):
At this stage, it seems safe to say the Braves’ payroll for the 2019 season will still rest between $120 million-$130 million. The only players under contract beyond this season are Freeman, Teheran and Inciarte, who will combine to make $38 million.
Approximately $13 million more could go toward arbitration-eligible players (Arodys Vizcaino, Mike Foltynewicz, Sam Freeman and Dan Winkler). Then of course you have a number of players like Albies, Acuna and Swanson, who will all likely make less than $1 million as they wait to become arbitration-eligible.
When the Matt Kemp trade was made, I projected Atlanta could have up to $80 million to spend this offseason. A team official later indicated the figure might be closer to $30 million-$50 million. More recently, I’ve heard the team will likely have at least $50 million to use as they peruse the upcoming offseason’s talent-rich free-agent market and address multiple needs, which could include third base, catcher and right field.
This year’s payroll checks in at $119.6 K, 21st in the majors. Kansas City, just shy of $130 K, ranks 20th. The Twins, Diamondbacks and Indians all have higher payrolls despite playing in smaller markets.
Liberty won’t spend because they don’t care. And they won’t sell the team because it would hurt their bottom line. It’s a Catch-22 that grabs Braves fans by the short ones.
Fortunately, Frank Wren (our apologies, FW, for being part of the lynch mob that brought us GM turned mascot Coppy/Blooper) left the Braves with two of the most sublime talents in the game. He also locked up Freddie and Andrelton to team-friendly contracts. He made some big blunders but is more responsible for this team’s success than his successor.
Alex Anthopoulos was an inspired hire, but Liberty’s greed leaves little room for error.