Well, it’s January Braves fans…
…and it’s the worst part of the year for me as I care nothing for NCAA football championships, NFL playoffs, or cold weather. Not to mention the celebrations, fun, family, presents, good beer, and all things related to the holidays are buried in the closet with random assortments of leftover Christmas paraphernalia and all that’s left behind is a festering cold that holds no festivity. Yes, Scrooge has taken my heart and driven a stick of holly through it that nothing can warm. Well, except some solid buy-lows on some Braves Free Agent Targets!
But geez…the offseason! What an offseason. Have the general managers turned into bears and have taken to hibernating? Or have they simply been reading Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and have taken Scrooge’s penny pinching philosophies to heart? Jim Bowden had the tweet that shows just how S L O W free agency has moved this year:
Only 31 of the 166 MLB Free Agents have signed. Here is the latest on the top 10 remaining: https://t.co/7TmmbnfAVa
— Jim Bowden🌟🎤 (@JimBowdenGM) January 8, 2018
That’s right. There are 135 unsigned free agents. What’s the reasoning? Many have speculated the 2019 stacked free agent class has a lot to do with it. Others have said that there are too many teams rebuilding and the ones that aren’t don’t have glaring holes that the current market fills. Others say that GMs have become wiser and realize that the bargains come later in the offseason. Personally, it seems like it’s a combination of all things above that’s caused a perfect storm of nothingness. While I know that the Braves have little money left after absorbing costs, maybe AA can convince Liberty Media that this market is a great opportunity to buy-low on players that could factor into the future.
What are Atlanta Braves current needs?
This is a loaded question as it depends on who you ask, but if the Braves are looking to be contenders for the 2018 season (and I’m not expecting this, but speculating) then they’ll likely need a 3B and an OFer. There’s argument that they’ll need more but that is where we are for this exercise.
From there, we need to know what Braves have to spend in 2018. According to Cot’s Contracts, after factoring in guaranteed contracts, arb-eligible contracts, and pre-arb players, there’s about 117 million committed to 2018. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that the Braves can push a payroll up to 135 million. With the money Braves are taking on from the Dodgers and the lack of commitment to next year’s payroll, that might not be out of the question.
I’m not going to go full pie in the sky here, but I am going to assume a few things:
- Nick Markakis will be traded and Braves will eat 5MM of his salary.
- Free Agents will not take less $ per year, but will take a 2-year deal rather than the deal they’re currently seeking.
Subtracting the 6 million from the 117MM balance leaves 112MM. Now subtract 2 pre-arb players’ salaries that puts you at 24MM to spend. Although it hasn’t proven terribly accurate this year (actually been on the high side which is good for this exercise), I’m going to use MLBTradeRumors Free Agent predictions to gauge salary/year on players listed then do a bit of guesswork for those not listed, so let’s get to work.
Free Agent 3rd Basemen Fits
- Todd Frazier- 11MM
- Neil Walker- 10MM
- Brandon Phillips- 7MM
- Yunel Escobar- 7MM
- Eduardo Nunez- 7MM
Free Agent Outfield Fits
- *Lorenzo Cain- 17MM
- Cameron Maybin- 5MM
- Curtis Granderson- 8MM
- Jon Jay- 7MM
- Carlos Gonzalez- 8MM
- Carlos Gomez- 11MM
- Jay Bruce- 13MM
*Cain is the only guy on either list that, in no way do I think he’d accept a 2-year deal, so I’d sign him to a 4-year deal that gives him the option to opt-out after 2 years therefore he enters back into free agency after the big class.
Now play mix and match. If you’re a GM that can get the guys listed above on 2 year deals and you’ve got 24MM to spend, how do you go about it? There are plenty of combos to use, so I’ll suggest a few:
- Todd Frazier and Jay Bruce. Adds serious pop from both sides of the plate and makes the lineup a contender right out the gate.
- Lorenzo Cain and Eduardo Nunez. Puts focus on defense and provides a super-utility option should Riley prove ready in 2019 and gives the Braves the best OF defense in the majors with 3 natural CFers.
What would your combo be? Would you utilize the money in a different way? Let’s hear from the peanut gallery!