Atlanta Braves payroll to increase for 2022

Atlanta Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos talks in the dugout during workouts before Game 1 of the World Series. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos talks in the dugout during workouts before Game 1 of the World Series. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /

A World Series victory is not without benefits, as the Atlanta Braves are letting it be known that they intend to spend more on the team in 2022.

It could be a little.  It could be a lot.  But the promise of a higher Atlanta Braves payroll is now on the public record.

What does an “increase” represent?

Figures from the Cot’s website suggest that the number could be relatively significant.

2017 had been the high-water mark for the franchise, with $122.6 million spent by opening day that year.  Since then, the Braves had been flirting around that figure until the pandemic knocked things backward for the 60-day season.

On a pro-rated basis, that 2020 payroll would easily have been the highest to start a season in team history, coming in around $155.7 million.

Since reality brought that number back to $57.7 million, that left 2021 as the new record year:  $131.4 million.

In season, the Braves added quite a bit more in the process of completely revamping their outfield.  There was also a carousel of catchers, bench bats, and the occasional pitcher.

Overall, Atlanta seems to have augmented the in-season spending by at least $10 million above that initial $131.4 million figure.  So let’s start with a guess of $142 to $145 million in total.

Atlanta Braves and their checkbook

A payroll increase isn’t so much about what you have to spend… it’s much more about how you spend it.  Consider these points:

  • Drew Smyly‘s $11 million in 2021 is off the books for 2022.
  • Marcell Ozuna was set to make $16 million in 2022… it’s almost certain that this will be reduced or eliminated altogether by the Commissioner.
    • There’s still the looming question about how to handle his 2023-2024 years ($36 million); that will wait for another day.
  • If Freddie Freeman is re-signed, he will undoubtedly get a raise above his $22 million figure from 2021.  If he’s not re-signed… well, there’s a pile of cash available for others.
  • Charlie Morton is getting a $5 million bump for 2022.
  • Ronald Acuna jumps from $5 million to $15 million for 2022.
  • If all projected arbitration-eligible players are signed to deals matching their MLB Trade Rumors-projected salaries, then the Braves will be on the hook for $46.9 million.
    • Those players:  Duvall/Swanson/Jackson/Arcia/Rodriguez/Minter/Fried/Soroka/Newcomb/Matzek/Riley.

For this exercise, let’s project $30 million for Freeman:  in that case, we’re already looking at roughly $130.5 million for the first 17 members of the 26-man roster.

That omits a couple of outfield positions, 2 or 3 relievers, and 2 or 3 starting pitchers… depending on how you count the injured Soroka and Acuña.  It also doesn’t include a backup catcher or any bench bats.

The most-oft stated off-season goal for Alex Anthopoulos was the addition of a “true center-fielder”, so while many of these additional positions could be filled by pre-arbitration players (at roughly $600K apiece), that CF position could be fairly expensive… barring a huge trade.

If a veteran starting pitcher is also desired… now we’re talking about something in the $150+ million range.

So even just thinking about these numbers in hypothetical scenarios, it seems that $150 million just doesn’t go as far as it used to.

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We’ll have to watch from here to see how Alex Anthopoulos navigates his way along with the kinds of numbers most of us can only dream about.