2019 Off-Season Payroll Expectations

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Alex Anthopoulos
Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos answers questions during a press conference a day following the loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Before we dive too deep into rosterbating for the upcoming off-season, we need to set parameters on how much the Braves have to spend. Often times, people try to come to this number by looking at the amount of money the Braves have coming off the books and deciding that the team will match that dollar for dollar going forward, but the Braves are in a special case where a lot of their roster is young, and therefore, they have to hold money in reserves for salary increases through arbitration, so trying to forward expiring money into available money doesn’t always match up.

Another thing to keep in mind is that how much money the Braves have to spend isn’t equal to how much money the Braves want to spend. Alex Anthopoulos has said over and over that he likes to keep some of the budget put back for in-season acquisitions. In 2019, the Braves added $22,095,483 with in-season moves on Dallas Keuchel, Chris Martin, Mark Melancon, Shane Greene, Adeiny Hechavarria, Billy Hamilton, and Francisco Cervelli.

I don’t know that something north of $20 million is what we should typically earmark for in-season moves, as typically they aren’t going to be adding $13 million on a free agent starter in June, but I think the almost $10 million they added in deadline moves would be a safe bet.

With that said, this is where the Braves are moving forward.

Guaranteed Contracts

Player2020 Salary
Freddie Freeman$22,359,375
Mark Melancon$14,000,000
Ronald Acuña Jr.$1,000,000
Ender Inciarte$7,700,000
Ozzie Albies$1,000,000

Players with options

Player2020 SalaryOption Buyout
Julio Teheran$12,000,000$1,000,000
Nick Markakis$6,000,000$2,000,000
Tyler Flowers$6,000,000$2,000,000

Note: I have removed Billy Hamilton from the list as I believe his $1 million buyout was already assumed when acquired and will be attributed to the 2019 budget sheet.

For the purposes of the exercise, we’re going to assume all of the options are picked up as we calculate our payroll totals.

Arbitration Eligible Players

Player2020 Projected Salary*
Shane Greene$6,500,000
Mike Foltynewicz$7,500,000
Charlie Culberson$1,800,000
Adam Duvall$3,800,000
Dansby Swanson$3,300,000
Luke Jackson$1,900,000
Grant Dayton$800,000
Johan Camargo$1,600,000

*Arbitration estimates are from MLB Trade Rumors.

Note: I have removed John Ryan Murphy from the list as he’s a clear non-tender. I thought hard about Grant Dayton, but I opted to leave him in, mostly because his estimated number doesn’t make much of a difference.

Notable pre-arbitration players likely to be on the roster

Player2020 Projected Salary
A.J. Minter$600,000
Sean Newcomb$600,000
Mike Soroka$600,000
Max Fried$600,000
Austin Riley$600,000

Payroll Breakdown

Contract Type2020 Salary
Guaranteed Contracts$46,059,375
Guaranteed through options$24,000,000
Arbitration Players$27,200,000
Pre-Arbitration Players$3,000,000
In-season Acquisitions$10,000,000
Total$110,259,375

According to Roster Resource, the Braves estimated final payroll number for 2018 was $123 million and the estimated final payroll for 2019 was $133 million. This is where the fuzzy math comes into play. Do we expect the Braves final payroll to stay in the $135 million range or can we realistically expect another $10 million jump again?

Regardless of where the Braves final payroll number falls, you can see how much the $11 million decision to keep Julio Teheran impacts their available payroll going forward. Knowing that, along with how little the Braves have trusted Teheran for the last two postseasons, I think it’s very likely the Braves look to move on from there and try to find a better way to spend that $11 million this winter. Nick Markakis’s option is another one that is in limbo, but I don’t think the $4 million decision will make a big impact as it relates to these numbers, so I’m not going to spend too much time addressing it here.

While I think the Braves could go higher, my current thought is that the Braves will look to keep the final payroll number around $140 million in 2020, and that would leave the team with about $30 million or $40 million to spend this winter depending on their decision on Teheran. Others could have a number that varies depending on what they think the Braves final payroll number will be or how much the team will hold in reserves for in-season acquisitions, but for me, this seems to be a nice safe spot to land for now.

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