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Chop-N-Change: An Atlanta Braves Blog | Page 29

The Payroll: Another Look

Written by Tom Gieryn on .

By all accounts, for better or for worse, Frank Wren appears to have finished his offseason roster reconstruction.  We're going to bring you all kinds of analysis in the coming days and weeks, but right now the question that seems to be on everyone's mind is money: how can the Braves say they've spent all their money?  With all the moves reportedly made, we can project pretty accurately a 25-man roster, and we can take a detailed look at just how much cash the Braves have committed.

C: Brian McCann ($5.5M)
1B: Troy Glaus ($1.75M, plus $2.25M potential incentives)
2B: Martin Prado ($450K)
3B: Chipper Jones ($13M)
SS: Yunel Escobar ($450K)
LF: Matt Diaz ($2.55M)
CF: Nate McLouth ($4.5M)
RF: Jason Heyward ($450K)

C: David Ross ($1.6M, plus $300K potential incentives)
IF: Omar Infante ($2.225M, plus $775K potential incentives)
IF: Eric Hinske ($1M, plus $500K potential incentives)
OF: Melky Cabrera ($2.8M estimated)
OF: assorted fifth outfielder ($450K)

SP: Tim Hudson ($9M)
SP: Jair Jurrjens ($450K)
SP: Tommy Hanson ($450K)
SP: Derek Lowe ($15M)
SP: Kenshin Kawakami ($6.667M)

RP: Billy Wagner ($6.75M)
RP: Takashi Saito ($3.2M, plus $2.3M potential incentives)
RP: Peter Moylan ($1.25M estimated)
RP: Kris Medlen ($450K)
RP: Eric O'Flaherty ($450K)
RP: Jesse Chavez ($450K)
RP: assorted twelfth pitcher ($450K)

So, with a little help from Excel, I've done some math.  That's a total of about $81.3 million in guaranteed money, plus another $6.1 million in potential incentives.  Then let's remember that there's $500,000 coming from the Yankees in the Javier Vazquez deal.  And if we include the other 15 players on the 40-man roster at $400,000 apiece, that's another $6 million.  So, guaranteed money less the Yankees' contribution is $80.8 million.  If all the potential incentives get earned, you're talking $86.9 million.  If you include the entire 40-man roster on top of that, you're talking $92.9 million.  So maybe the Braves weren't lying when they say they planned on putting payroll where it was last year (between $92-95 million).  Mark Bowman pointed out the other day that while it might look like the Braves spent more last year, they did pick up significant insurance money for the time Tim Hudson missed.  So maybe we aren't getting shortchanged in terms of payroll money, and there's no question that the purse strings may be tightening after yet another attendance decline last year.

This is a very scary situation, for two reasons.  First, if you ask me, this team looks primed for another third-place finish, which (knowing Atlanta sports fans and the state of the economy) means yet another attendance decline, which means yet more red numbers on the payroll sheet.  Second, there isn't a whole lot of money coming off the books next year: the only expiring contracts are Glaus, Ross, Hinske, and Saito (a total of just $7.5 million).  Maybe Billy Wagner's option won't vest, but I'd say it likely will.  So not much comes off, but a lot gets tacked on: Martin Prado, Yunel Escobar and Jair Jurrjens will all go to arbitration for the first time, and barring serious decline, they'll see a combined $12 million or more in salary.  And that doesn't even account for raises to guys like Matt Diaz, Peter Moylan and Eric O'Flaherty, who'll also get arbitration-induced paydays.  That will mean more cutting next season, with little to no ability to make any additions.  It's a conundrum, no doubt.

Anyone see any solutions here? Any silver linings?

Fangraphs Lists the Top 10 Braves Prospects

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A day after reviewing the last few years of Braves drafts, Marc Hulet of Fangraphs just posted his list of the Braves' top 10 prospects. I'll just contrast them with John Sickels' list from October, on the right:

Marc Hulet John Sickels
1. Jason Heyward 1. Jason Heyward
2. Freddie Freeman 2. Freddie Freeman
3. Julio Teheran 3. Julio Teheran
4. Arodys Vizcaino 4. Randall Delgado
5. Craig Kimbrel 5. Arodys Vizcaino
6. Randall Delgado 6. Craig Kimbrel
7. Ezekiel Spruill 7. Mike Minor
8. Christian Bethancourt 8. Christian Bethancourt
9. Cody Johnson 9. Zeke Spruill
10. Adam Milligan 10. J.J. Hoover

The top 3 are identical and the next 3 are just in a different order. And both agree that Zeke Spruill and Christian Bethancourt are in the top 10. Marc Hulet's Cody Johnson pick is a bit of a lark -- he admits, "At this point, he’s a long shot to be an impact player in the Majors but he’s fun to follow." Sickels has Kody at #19. On the other hand, Hulet doesn't rank Mike Minor, just a day after writing, "He projects to be a solid No. 3 starter if everything clicks."

The upshot of both lists, of course, is that the Braves have some great pitching depth: Teheran, Vizcaino, Kimbrel, Delgado, and Spruill are all high-upside, and guys like J.J. Hoover and Mike Minor and Cory Gearrin and others for depth. Offense is a bigger question mark: Milligan's got nice potential, and Kody's still young, but once we graduate Heyward and Freeman our upper minors are going to be awfully thin of hitters. Still, you can never have too much pitching.

So how do you feel about Hulet and Sickels's lists? Who'd they miss?

Braves Land Eric Hinske

Written by Tom Gieryn on .

This Wednesday evening in Atlanta, we've got word from Scott Miller of CBS Sports that the Braves have agreed to terms on a one-year deal with lefty four corners reserve Eric Hinske.  Terms are as yet unreported, and the deal is pending a physical.  Hinske can certainly help the Braves; he's a plus defender at first base and in both outfield corners, so his versatility will be a boost to a team that's got question marks at all three of those positions.  He brings some modest sock from the left side as well.

That said, the signing concerns me quite a bit as well.  We got a tweet from MLB.com's Mark Bowman earlier today: "Braves GM Frank Wren said he is just looking for one more small piece to fill his offensive needs. Basically needs a primary pinch hitter."  Well, that's Hinske, and Hinske is decidedly NOT the piece de resistance that Wren still needs to complete his offensive rebuild.  Hinske's .337 career wOBA makes for a solid bench player and occasional starter, but the offense still needs another cog.  The combination of Hinske, Melky Cabrera, Matt Diaz and Jason Heyward between the two corner outfield spots simply does not impress me.  I don't view any of those four as regular players at this point, and it's not as if you can combine all their virtues and make two starters.  Even if Heyward bursts right out of the gate as a starting-caliber player (which is a mighty risky bet, to say the least), that still leaves left field as a weak spot, and the Braves' isn't a strong enough lineup up and down to compensate for said soft spot.  Perhaps you could parlay Hinske's platoon virtues (.804 career OPS vs. RHP, compared to .666 vs. LHP) into a job share with Diaz, but a platoon on one corner and a rookie not even old enough to legally drink on the other corner?  With no backup plan to speak of if somebody gets hurt or fails to produce?  I don't like it.

Something is odd with Wren's strategy, because he's got this obvious need for another hitter, and even if Hinske's deal is worth $3-4 million, payroll is still going to fall in the low-80s.  Would there not be room for, say, Johnny Damon at perhaps $7 million, which would keep guaranteed payroll under $90 million, and under $95 million even if Takashi Saito and Troy Glaus reach all their incentives?  Let's hope so, because as it stands right now, the Braves are going to have count on everything going just right if they want to keep pace with Roy Halladay's Phillies and Jason Bay's Mets, and even then it might not be enough.

Adrian Beltre's BoSox Discount

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I was a late, qualified addition to the miniscule Beltre-to-the-Braves bandwagon. He's a big-time defensive third baseman with enough power to make his bat above average, particularly out of the awful pitcher's park in Safeco, though his bad on-base percentage negates a lot of his offensive value. He's really the only player who would be able to convince Chipper to move off third again, and considering our utter lack of organizational depth at the position, we're probably eventually going to have to fill the hole there from the free agent market -- regardless of whether Chipper's still on the team.

So I saw Beltre as someone who potentially filled one of our holes at the corners, even though moving Chipper to first would make Troy Glaus a positionless man. Anyway, the slight air in my tires was just deflated last night, when Adrian Beltre turned down more money to play for the Red Sox, accepting nothing more than a one year, $9 million contract with a $5 million player option for 2011. This is such peanuts that I'm slightly shocked -- if he takes the option, at 2 years, $14 million, he's basically earning Mark DeRosa money. But I doubt that he will, because $5 million for a player who's just coming off a $64 million contract is basically an insultingly low amount of money. So he's taking a gamble on the Red Sox's playoff chances and the U.S. economy recovering.

I wish we were a good enough team to persuade big-time players to sign for huge discounts.

Speaking of Other Sports...

on .

The Falcons just finished their year 9-7, a few months after the Braves finished 86-76. The Hawks are 21-11, and the Thrashers are 18-17-6. Is this the first time that all four Atlanta major sport teams have been over .500 at the same time, like, ever? Any of our scholars want to check on that?

It sure is a good day to be from Atlanta!

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