Atlanta Braves’ payroll status entering trade deadline weekend

Brian Kelley performs on stage at The Georgia Power Pavilion at The Battery on July 22, 2022 outside Atlanta Braves' Truist Park. (Photo by Terence Rushin/Getty Images)
Brian Kelley performs on stage at The Georgia Power Pavilion at The Battery on July 22, 2022 outside Atlanta Braves' Truist Park. (Photo by Terence Rushin/Getty Images) /
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There are two ways to acquire talent from other clubs.  You can use your prospects to make a trade or you can sometimes “buy” your way in.  So how fat is the Atlanta Braves’ wallet now?

By this point — with four straight playoff seasons under their belts — the Atlanta Braves know exactly what kind of extra monies are generated from a playoff appearance.

They have been bounced in the first round, they have played in front of home crowds, away crowds, neutral sites, and in front of no crowds at all.

They’ve been in the NLDS, NLCS, and the World Series — clearly with the latter being the most lucrative of all.

Atlanta is still riding that horse that brought ’em to this year — attendance is way up over 2021 as they have the second-highest total fan attendance in baseball:  2.1 million fans, an average of 38,445 per home date.

Before the championship season?  2.3 million fans for the entire year with an average of 29,490 for each date.

These numbers and many more should be telling the team “we’ve got money to spend on the team” as trade deadline weekend ensues.

The only real limiting factor is the so-called “luxury tax” threshold, which now stands at $230 million.

The Braves should be willing to spend, but it’s almost certain that they won’t spend recklessly.  In no scenario can we imagine that they’d want to entertain the thought of blowing through that barrier… a level not breached since 1998.

That said, this is a year in which the payroll is the highest it’s ever been, and that does mean a flirtation with those kinds of numbers.

The Braves Payroll

The Cots spreadsheet for the Braves is not kept up to date on a daily basis.  As a result, there are a few lapses.

For example, Atlanta has used 24 different pitchers this season.  Jesus Cruz threw 8.2 innings earlier in the year.  While he was up with the club, he would have received a pro-rated amount of the major-league minimum salaray ($710,000) for approximately 34 days.

That amount (roughly $129,000) isn’t expressly accounted for by Cots, though they do throw in $2.25 million under “40-man players/minors”.

Overall, you can generally estimate that the team almost always has a couple of MLB-minimum players on the active roster (Robbie Cano, Dylan Lee, etc.) who aren’t otherwise noted on the spreadsheet.  Thus, that $2.25 million figure is probably a reasonable swag to use… so far.

Once we get to September, there will be a few minor league callups as rosters expand.  Each of those players have to be paid, so you can figure on something between 500K and 750K for that as well (which Cots doesn’t include until after the fact).

There’s also $1.666 million allocated to the new CBA’s bonus pool… the funds MLB uses to pay rookies of the year and such.  Happily, this is a fixed sum, so that’s easy to work with.

Then there’s the differences between actual salaries and “CBA tax” salaries.  Kirby Yates, for example, is getting $1 million for 2022.  However, the Braves are being “charged” $4.125 million against the luxury tax threshold since Average Annual Values (AAV) are used to compute payroll for tax purposes… and Yates is set to receive $6 million in 2023, plus a possible option buyout of $1.25 million in 2024 (that’s also lumped into 2023).

Add all that up, and Atlanta is sitting at something in the $206-208 million range right now.  Cots has $206,280,000 as their figure.

I’ve already suggested the reasons why this might be a bit underdone, so for our purposes today, we’ll go with $208 million to err on the conservative side.

That leaves Atlanta with $22 million before hitting the taxing threshold… and really it’s another 8% less than that since “player benefits” much be accounted for.

So that leaves Atlanta around $20 million under the cap right now.

Would they spend all of that?  Almost certainly not… and in truth, there’s likely not a lot of players available that you’d want to blow that kind of money on.

There may be some, though… we’ve talked a bit about Noah Syndergaard on these pages.  He’s on a $21 million deal with the Angels, so he’s got just over $8 million still due for the rest of the year.

Ian Happ‘s name continues to get bandied about.  The Cubs would probably prefer prospects to cash, but he’s still looking for $2.62 million more on his contract between now and season’s end.

Joc Pederson?  Slightly less… $2.23 million.

The bottom line is this:  whatever the Braves are looking for, they can probably afford… at least in terms of cash.  Whether a trading partner is good with taking money over talent… that’s another question, and the answer will vary on a team-by-team basis.

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But if you’re wondering whether Atlanta has the funds?  First off:  Battery Atlanta is practically printing money right now, but from an MLB payroll position right now… the answer is “yes”.