Atlanta Braves locked out payroll status

Freddie Freeman holds the Commissioner's Trophy as members of the Atlanta Braves celebrate during their World Series Parade. (Photo by Megan Varner/Getty Images)
Freddie Freeman holds the Commissioner's Trophy as members of the Atlanta Braves celebrate during their World Series Parade. (Photo by Megan Varner/Getty Images) /

If and when the MLB lockout shackles are removed, the Atlanta Braves will still have a lot of work to get done.  Will they have the funds?

The Atlanta Braves have already signed a few free agents since last season.  In truth, much of their “heavy lifting” was completed with the re-signings of Charlie Morton and Travis d’Arnaud.

Add to that backup catcher Manny Pina who will join the World Champs … at some point… and reliever Kirby Yates, though he may not contribute much in 2022 while recovering from elbow surgery (performed in March 2021).

The obvious concern is about Freddie Freeman, but there’s little more to say here at this point, so let’s see where the overall payroll stands at this moment.

Under Contract

  • Charlie Morton:  $20 million
  • Marcell Ozuna:  $16 million
  • Ronald Acuna:  $15 million
  • Will Smith:  $13 million
  • Travis d’Arnaud:  $8 million
  • Ozzie Albies:  $5 million
  • Manny Pina:  $3.5 million
  • Orlando Arcia:  $1.6 million
  • Guillermo Heredia:  $1 million
  • Kirby Yates:  $1 million

This group sums to $84.1 million for 10 players.

The Braves Arbitration Team

This is going to be an interesting group to watch.  We never ever got to the date of exchanging preferred arbitration figures, so once the lockout ends, a process that normally takes roughly a month will have to be done in a matter of days… certainly less than a week.

Usually, some negotiations take place between player reps and their teams between December and January.  In mid-January, if no agreement is in place, each side submits the number that they’re prepared to defend in front of an arbiter.

If the matter goes to court, those trials (with the arbiter presiding) take place just before the start of Spring Training… but each side has a few weeks to get ready for that event to happen.

This year, the emphasis may be on getting each side to compromise — perhaps at the figures suggested by the MLBTR arbitration tool — simply because there’s not going to be any time to do anything else, unless some player feels fundamentally at odds with the amount of money MLBTR’s algorithm coughed out.

So with all that said, here are the arbitration-eligible Atlanta Braves along with the estimated monies that they are in line for.  Even if the numbers are slightly off for a particular player, history suggests that they will be close enough for this analysis.

  • Dansby Swanson:  $9.25 million (final arbitration cycle)
  • Adam Duvall:  $8 million (final arbitration cycle)
  • Max Fried:  $7.4 million (second year of 4 arb cycles)
  • Austin Riley:  $3.75 million (1st arbitration)
  • Luke Jackson:  $3.5 million (3rd and final arbitration)
  • Mike Soroka:  $2.85 million (2nd of 4)
  • A.J. Minter:  $2.25 million (2nd of 4)
  • Tyler Matzek:  $1.75 million (1st year arbitration)
  • Sean Newcomb:  $1 million (1st year arbitration)

These figures sum to $39.75 million.  I’m going to round this up to $40 million for 2 reasons:  (a) I believe there are a few figures that are on the low side; and (b) it’s an easier number to work with.

So for the purposes of this exercise:  9 players, $40 million.

The Pre-arb players

These are the players with 1-to-3 years of service time who are not yet eligible for arbitration and will be assigned a salary by the club.

Many of them will be at the major league minimum, though the Braves typically throw a bone to those with 1 or 2 years of service… a $10,000 bonus or so.

At this point, the 26-man active roster (assuming this number doesn’t change) still needs 7 more names, so we’ll add 7 generic placeholder players.

I’ll then add 2 more to represent injury replacements, particularly since players like Soroka and Morton will likely miss some significant time, even as they are still being paid.

However, we don’t know with the MLB minimum salary will be for 2022. So we’re gonna make a guess:  $650,000.

  • 9 player @ $650K…  $5.85 million
  • Add 3 bonuses of $10K apiece
  • Total of $6.15 million

What do the Braves have left?

So now our running total for an interim 26-man roster comes to $130.25 million.

The final numbers calculated by (via their Cots Contracts site) for the 2021 season was $131.4 million.

That doesn’t count the benefits package, which adds 20% ($157.764 million).  That number is the one useful for determining where the Braves stand relative to the Competitive Balance Tax threshold (they still had $52.2 million of space remaining last season).

Alex Anthopoulos indicated that the payroll would be higher in 2022, though characteristically, he didn’t provide any hints at just how much higher.

If Atlanta can get Freddie Freeman under a new contract, the payroll will immediately leap to its highest level ever, as Freeman would be signing the highest contract in team history.

  • Reports suggest that the Braves are offering 5 years at $130 million ($26m average).
  • Reports also suggest that Freeman’s camp is looking for 6 years/$180 million ($30m avg).

The low figure would make the Braves payroll $155.6 million (plus the 20% benefits pkg).  This includes the removal of one of the pre-arb players at $650K.

The high figure sends the total to $159.6m, with the CBT payroll amount going to $191.52m.  That’s within sight of the tax threshold that Atlanta would certainly like to stay clear of (though that figure will change with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement).

Splitting it down the middle… and giving Freddie that 6th year… puts Atlanta at $157.6m / $189.12m… and much higher than 2021.

No matter how you shake it, that’s a lot; and it wouldn’t leave much room for contingencies, injuries, a veteran rotation arm, a centerfielder, mid-season trades or additional pre-arb rookies to replace additional injured players Soroka, Morton, or Acuna.

Still, the team had to be planning for numbers to reach this particular neighborhood.

Next. Previewing the Big Acuna. dark

We’ll see — soon?? — how they choose to move these funds around.