Atlanta Braves payroll update, post-Olson

The Atlanta Braves are spending money like never before, but how much payroll space remains?. (Photo Illustration by Mykola Tys/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
The Atlanta Braves are spending money like never before, but how much payroll space remains?. (Photo Illustration by Mykola Tys/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images) /

The Atlanta Braves are raising the payroll again this season, or so we’ve been promised.  Now that some of the (considerable) smoke has cleared. though, where do they stand?

It hadn’t been that long since we took a detailed look at the status of the Atlanta Braves‘ payroll situation.  But things are a’changin.

That happened during the lockout, and while I’ll not bother to regurgitate a lot of those details, there are a few obvious questions that now need to be addressed:

  • What is today’s payroll status?
  • How did the new CBA impact things?
  • What do the Braves have left to spend?

Let’s address the easier question first:  that being the CBA’s impact.

For the majority of the team, nothing changes.  Players either under contract or in their arbitration years should still end up with salaries roughly as previously speculated.

Pre-arbitration players are now set to earn a minimum of $700,000 in 2022.  For the February exercise, I speculated that the number would be $650,000, so that adds $50K for each of the 9 pre-arb players that I had guessed would make the roster… an addition of $450,000.

So… for a 26-man roster (which might still be expanded… at least early in the season), that changes our previous baseline payroll number from $130.25 million to $130.7 million.

Your mileage may vary but that’s probably within an error range of $2 million or less, with the differences being about (a) actual arbitration results and (b) the occasional insertion of a veteran player rather than one of the 9 rookies.

Again, at the risk of quoting myself, I would nonetheless encourage a glance at the details in the prior post on this subject.

The Big New Recent Braves Updates

But wait… there are some big changes.

  • Matt Olson is on the board, and scheduled to bring home $15 million this season.
  • Collin McHugh is as well.  He’s signed to the tune of $4 million.
  • Each of these players also displaces one of the 9 rookie salaries

So that’s $19 million added on and $1.4 million removed.  That brings the running total to $148.3 million.

So where does that leave things for the Braves?

The O’Brien comment came before the signing of McHugh, so that would suggest another $11 million remaining to sign an outfielder and a starter.  That could be a stretch worthy of a signature Freddie Freeman reach at first… oh, sorry… too soon?

Those numbers also suggest a ceiling price of roughly — now we’ll round off the numbers since we’re into rampant speculation — $160 million.  I won’t be trying to nail this to the penny:  the purpose here is more to speculate about what payroll room might be available in general terms.

So is that correct… or at least in the ballpark?  Is that the number set that Alex Anthopoulos is dealing with?

The Real Numbers?

Bottom line is that we don’t entirely know, but there are reasons to believe that $160 million represents a strong guideline, but not a robust barrier.

Interestingly, had Freeman signed for the Braves reported offering price, that contract alone would have added more than $26 million to the payroll immediately… which would have put Atlanta within sight of the $160m “ceiling”.

Then there was the pursuit of Justin Verlander.  It would have required $25 million (at least) to obtain his services… and that came well before the decision about first base.

Three more points about Alex Anthopoulos and his payroll handling:

  • The 2022 payroll is promised to be higher than in 2021 (which would be a record).  We are currently looking at the 2021 level as things stand today… before the last expected additions to come.
  • Routinely, there are monies held in reserve for in-season acquisitions.  We saw that masterfully executed last Summer when he brought forth The Hitters:  Soler, Pederson, Rosariso, and Duvall.
  • If there is a special player available that’s worth spending a bit extra, AA will do it.  This is particularly true if it’s a matter of putting his Braves over-the-top in building a lineup capable of ‘going all the way’.  As defending Champions, that certainly could come into play.

So:  $11 million remaining for an OF bat and a starter?  That could be tight, but if the right player comes along, I believe we can expect the Braves to pull the emergency ripcord and make the deal… regardless of the price.

Also: note that any new free agent signing will displace a $700K player from the roster… so in reality, we’re looking at $12.4 million as the baseline of available dollars… not just $11 million.

So perhaps the Braves are looking at $160 million for Opening Day, and then perhaps adding another $10-ish million near the trade deadline as needed.

That’s a total of $170 million, or $204 million when adding the 20% premium for the team’s benefits package as required for calculating the amount subject to the Competitive Balance Tax threshold (which they would still be safely under).

WEDNESDAY MORNING UPDATES:  The addition of Eddie Rosario ($9m per year) and Alex Dickerson ($1m, non-guaranteed) chews up $10 million of that presumed $12.4 million remaining.

The Braves still have not added a starting pitcher.  A third major league player (I had previously assumed they would add only two) would (again) be exchanged for a $700K pre-arb guy, so the new remainder is roughly $3.1 million.

The Braves 40-man roster is now full.  Mike Soroka was moved to the 60-day IL to allow space for Dickerson.

Next. Braves add yet another Atlanta-area homeboy. dark

We’ll see what they can come up with in the next couple of days.