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Let's Talk Turkey

It's Turkey day already and the Braves seem to have made all the moves necessary to retool last year's team for a run at getting back into the postseason next year. We've traded our $8 million shortstop and seemingly let our $13 million center fielder walk. In their place we add room for the salary of Mark Teixeira and the free agent return of Tom Glavine. The question now, "is there any money left?"

The Braves have stated publicly that they will spend many millions more on next year's team, but what exactly will that figure be? According to Cot's Baseball Contracts the Braves payroll was at about $87 million last year. The AJC reports that the Braves started the year at around $81 million and added around $5 million via trades during the season. So between those reports, we can accurately assume that the Braves payroll in 2007 was around $86 to $87 million.

Below is a chart I've compiled over the past few days by using data from Cot's and MLB4U. I also took plenty of liberties and used a whole lot of my own "memory" of what I think the contract status is of these players. I'm pretty sure this chart is not 100% correct, but it's pretty darn close and that's really what I'm going for. (An * means an option year; a ~ means an estimate of contract or arbitration value; FA means the player is a free agent and not under contract that year.)

2008 Braves Salary Overview
Player Position Status 2008 2008 2009 2010
Brian McCann 2 Under Contract $800,000 $3,500,000 $5,500,000
Mark Teixeira 3 Arbitration ~$12,000,000 FA FA
Kelly Johnson 4 Controlled $400,000 $400,000 $400,000
Chipper Jones 5 Under Contract $11,000,000 $11,000.000 FA
Yunel Escobar 6 Controlled $400,000 $400,000 $400,000
Matt Diaz 7 Arbitration ~$800,000 ~$1,200,000 ~$2,200,000
Josh Andersonn 8 Controlled $400,000 $400,000 $400,000
Jeff Francoeur 9 Arbitration ~$1,500,000 ~$3,500,000 ~$5,500,000
John Smoltz SP-1 Under Contract $14,000,000 $12,000,000* $13,000,000*
Tim Hudson SP-2 Under Contract $13,000,000 $13,000,000 $12,000,000*
Tom Glavine SP-3 Under Contract $8,000,000 FA FA
Mike Hampton SP-4 Under Contract $15,000,000# FA FA
Chuck James SP-5 Arbitration ~$800,000 ~$1,600,000 ~$2,800,000
Willy Aybar Bench Controlled $400,000 $400,000 $400,000
Willie Harris Bench Controlled $400,000 FA FA
Brayan Pena Bench Controlled $400,000 $400,000 $400,000
Clint Sammons Bench Controlled $400,000 $400,000 $400,000
Scott Thorman Bench Controlled $400,000 $400,000 $400,000
Rafael Soriano Bullpen Arbitration ~$2,250,000 ~$4,000,000 FA
Mike Gonzalez Bullpen Arbitration ~$3,000,000 ~$4,500,000 FA
Peter Moylan Bullpen Controlled $400,000 $400,000 $400,000
Joey Devine Bullpen Controlled $400,000 $400,000 $400,000
Chris Resop Bullpen Controlled $400,000 $400,000 $400,000
Royce Ring Bullpen Controlled $400,000 $400,000 $400,000
Tyler Yates Bullpen Arbitration ~$750,000 ~$1,500,000 ~$2,500,000
Linup Total $27,300,000 $20,400,000 $14,400,000
Rotation Total $50,800,000 $26,600,000 $27,800,000
Bench Total $2,000,000 $1,600,000 $1,600,000
Bullpen Total $7,600,000 $11,600,000 $4,100,000
Grand Total $87,700,000 $60,200,000 $47,900,000
# Hampton Recalculation $80,700,000 $60,200,000 $47,900,000

One of the most noticeable items is that we are pretty much already at the total salary level we were at the end of last year - only slightly more than the $87 million we spent last year. But remember the words of Braves CEO Terry McGuirk, we will spend "many millions more" on next year's player payroll. Now all we need to do is figure out how much the word "many" means.

The thing that really jumped out at me about this chart was how much we are going to spend on our starting rotation next year - almost $51 million - that's over half of our payroll. With the rotation taking up so much of our 2008 resources, you better believe it is the most important part of this team - much like it was throughout the 90's.

Another revelation I had because of this chart is just how much value we will likely be getting out of our bullpen. There will likely be four or five guys making under $1 million if not the major league minimum. And while their salary will be low, I still think they have the stuff to be solid bullpen contributors.

The bench, too, will consist of mostly major league minimum salaries, as will two or three spots in the starting lineup.

The question now is what will we go get with our "many millions more?" I'm guessing a bullpen lefty is part of the plan, as is a possible upgrade over our untested rookies in center field, and perhaps a veteran bench bat. We can certainly look at this chart and see how a $15 million salary, which Andruw Jones might collect were we to offer him arbitration, would certainly break the bank, and leave us no room for the little upgrades like a bullpen lefty or bench veteran.

Update [2007-11-22 12:56:55 by gondeee]:

A great point was brought up in the comments section about the way the Braves are calculating Mike Hampton's contract. While they were only on the hook for several million the first couple of years, they went ahead and took the total amount they owed Hampton and averaged it out evenly across the five years they were paying him. It's rather crafty book keeping, but in the eyes of the Braves and their salary structure, they are only paying Hampton $8 million from this year's budget. That's a huge chunk less - $7 million less. That is quite a bit of extra money to spend on free agents or players acquired via trade. I've added this into the chart as the "Hampton Recalculation." We won't call it the Grand Total as it is mostly back-room book keeping that we mysteriously only found out about last year, but we will definitely keep it mind when considering how much room the Braves have left in their salary budget.

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