Grant McAuley’s 2018 Braves Preview Series will take a look at each position group in advance of Spring Training. Pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 13 and their first workout is Feb. 14. Position players report on Feb. 18, with the first full-squad workout taking place on Feb. 19.

The Braves open Grapefruit League play on Feb. 23 against the New York Mets in Port St. Lucie.

The Atlanta outfield has been a work in progress over the past three years. Many names have been penciled in that grouping, particularly in left field. With Matt Kemp shipped back to Los Angeles, there figures to be a new name patrolling the green spaces at SunTrust Park this season. At some point this season, Ronald Acuña, the club’s top prospect will be making his highly anticipated major league debut. Until that time arrives, the Braves will be counting on a defensive wizard, a veteran stalwart and some role players to round out the outfield trifecta on a daily basis.

Ender Inciarte (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Ender Inciarte | CF | Age: 27 | Contract Status: 4-years, $26.8 million

The Braves’ defense has been anchored by Ender Inciarte for the past two seasons. Acquired in the same trade that landed Dansby Swanson, the early results favor Inciarte as the big return. Two gold gloves and an All-Star appearance later, Inciarte has made the most of an opportunity to play every day. Providing above average defense while serving as a table-setter atop the Atlanta lineup, Inciarte has been everything the Braves could have hoped when they brought him over from Arizona.

Let’s start with the defense, because that has become his calling card. Inciarte makes the easy plays. He makes the hard plays. He makes the hard plays look easy. In short, Inciarte covers some serious ground in center field. His 410 put-outs were the most by any outfielder in the National League in 2017 by a considerable margin. Over the past two seasons, Inciarte’s 761 PO in 2,487 innings are the most in the major leagues. That’s 49 PO more than the next closest outfielder, Mookie Betts of the Red Sox, despite the fact that Inciarte has played 24 fewer games than Betts in that two year span. Inciarte’s seven outfield assists in 2017 tied for 10th in the NL and 21st the majors. While that total is down from his 14 assists in 2016, that’s due at least in part to runners respecting the arm of Inciarte.

Inciarte has also been doing work at the top of the order for Atlanta. Dating back to the second half of 2016, Inciarte has racked up 301 hits over 229 games while posting a .315 batting average. He set or matched career-highs in virtually every offensive category last season, including a .304 average, 201 hits, 93 runs, 27 doubles, 11 home runs, 57 RBI and 22 stolen bases. Those 201 hits were second only to the Rockies Charlie Blackmon (213) in all of baseball in 2017. Atlanta enters the upcoming season with options at the lead-off spot. Inciarte could return there or slide down and allow second baseman Ozzie Albies to take a turn at the top. The impending arrival of a certain star prospect will also lead to some interesting lineup decisions down the line.

Nick Markakis

Nick Markakis (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)

Nick Markakis | RF | Age: 34 | Contract Status: 1-year, $11 million

Nick Markakis heads into the final season of his four-year deal with the Braves. After spending nine seasons in Baltimore to begin his career, the veteran outfielder has more or less provided what the team expected in his three-year stint with the Braves. His style is certainly not flashy, but Markakis handles his job in a workmanlike manner. He could easily be described as a good soldier. He has done everything asked of him. Despite having neck surgery just after signing with Atlanta, Markakis has proven to be a durable staple in the lineup, averaging 158 games per season. Barring any last-minute transactions, Markakis will once again be counted on to provide stability in the Atlanta lineup in 2018.

At the plate, Markakis hit .275/.354/.384 in 160 games last season. That slash-line is right in line with Markakis’ normal output over the last five seasons, but his production is not what it once was at the outset of his career with Baltimore. He averaged a .295/.365/.455 line with 41 doubles, 19 homers and 85 RBI per 162 games played from 2006-2012. That has fallen to .277/.348/.380 with 35 doubles, 10 homers and 68 RBI per 162 games over the past five seasons.  Bottom line, Markakis is a solid contact hitter who has spent time in virtually every spot in the batting order over the past three years. That kind of bat comes in handy. Additionally, he was at his best with men in scoring position in 2017, driving in 67 runs in those 147 at-bats, both team-highs.

The Braves know what they have in Markakis, who is a quiet leader in the clubhouse and is well-respected by his teammates. After posting a 2.5 WAR in 2014 for the Orioles according to FanGraphs, he’s seen that value decrease in each of his three seasons with Atlanta – from 1.5 in 2015 to 1.1 in 2016 to 0.7 last season. Meanwhile, his strikeout rate has steadily risen in each of the last seven seasons – from 10.5% in 2011 up to 16.4% in 2017. Markakis still finds his way on base enough to maintain his status as a useful everyday player. He surpass 2,000 career hits last season and is just the 10th active player to reach that plateau. That’s a tribute to his steady production over the course of his career.

Defensively, he makes the routine plays, but Markakis’ days as an above-average outfielder are behind him. He has two gold glove awards, but his range and arm strength have both diminished in recent years. Depending on what the club decides to do with Ronald Acuña this season, Markakis might benefit from a move to left field. The Braves can cross that bridge at the appropriate time.

Lane Adams (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

Lane Adams | OF | Age: 28 | Contract Status: Pre-arbitration

Lane Adams finally got a chance for an extended stay in the major leagues in 2017. He certainly made the most of that chance to show off his considerable athleticism when called upon. Adams was originally a 13th round draft pick by the Royals in 2009 and earned a brief call-up in 2014. After bouncing from Kansas City to the New York Yankees and Chicago Cubs systems, Adams briefly pondered retirement before eventually signing a minor league deal with Atlanta in December of 2016. Blessed with great speed and some pop at the plate, Adams proved he was a capable reserve and fill-in option for the Braves in the second half.

Adams batted .275/.339/.468 with five home runs among his 10 extra-base hits in 109 at-bats. Having already racked up 223 stolen bases in the minors, he swiped 10 bases in as many big league attempts in 2017. Adams became Atlanta’s primary pinch-hitter down the stretch, batting .267 with a pair of home runs and 12 RBI in 45 at-bats in that role. That contribution was a large part of a much-improved bench as the season wore on. In fact, Atlanta pinch-hitters combined to lead the majors with 10 home runs and 54 RBI in 242 at-bats last season. Depending on what the club decides to do with top prospect Ronald Acuña, some regular playing time could come Adams’ way to begin the 2018 season. Regardless, Adams will be counted on as a key contributor in a reserve capacity

Preston Tucker (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Preston Tucker | INF | Age: 27 | Contract Status: Pre-arbitration

The Braves acquired Preston Tucker from Houston in an off-season trade, hoping his lefty bat could provide some of the power he showed in his 2015 rookie season. Tucker, whose younger brother Kyle also plays in the Astros system, did not appear in the big leagues in 2017. The Tampa native spent the season at Triple-A Fresno, where he batted .250 with 24 home runs and 96 RBI in 128 games. Tucker owns a lifetime .282/.353/.491 line in the minors with three 20-homer campaigns, so the power is definitely there. He hit .243/.297/.437 with 13 homers among his 32 extra-base hits in 300 at-bats for Houston in 2015, but managed just .164 AVG with four home runs in 48 games in his sophomore season.

Atlanta added Tucker in a late-December trade for a player to be named later or cash considerations after he’d been designated for assignment by the Astros. He is expected to compete for at-bats in left field and off the bench as a lefty-hitting option. There’s a chance he may be asked to play some first base in order to provide a back-up option for Freddie Freeman, a role left vacant with the departure of Matt Adams. Tucker has one option remaining and could be stashed at Triple-A Gwinnett should the Braves decide to make any further roster moves over the weeks leading up to opening day.

Ronald Acuna (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)

Ronald Acuna | OF | Age: 20 | Contract Status: Pre-arbitration

Yes, I saved the proverbial best for last. Ronald Acuña is not only the Braves’ top prospect, but he’s arguably the top prospect in all of baseball. Baseball America has already recognized him as a such with the release of their Top 100 prospects list in mid-January. Acuña had an incredible season in 2017, making three stops up the minor league ladder and getting better at each level. Altogether, he batted .325 with 21 homers, 82 RBI, 88 runs scored and 44 stolen bases. And he did all of that at the age of 19.

Acuña’s journey started with the High-A Florida Fire Frogs in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. All he did there was bat .287 with 11 extra-base hits and 14 stolen bases in 28 games. He followed that up with a torrid stretch in Double-A Mississippi, slashing .326/.374/.520 with nine home runs among 25 XBH to go along with 30 RBI, 29 runs scored and 19 steals in 57 games. Triple-A was next on Acuña’s hit list. He exploded onto the scene as the youngest player in the International League and hit .344/.393/.548 with 9 homers, 33 RBI, 38 runs scored and 11 steals in 54 games.

Need an encore? No problem. Acuña terrorized the Arizona Fall League as well. He batted .325 and led the league with seven home runs on his way to earning MVP honors. It was truly a meteoric rise for a prospect who was well-regarded before the season started and well-renown by the time it ended. Acuña is a five-tool player and those are hard to come by. Though he was prone to the strikeout – with 144 of those in 557 at-bats – there was never a period of time in any league in which Acuña seemed completely over-matched. His ability to make timely adjustments is an attribute that will serve Acuña well as he looks to get accustomed to the big leagues.

The Braves will give Acuña plenty of playing time this spring as he prepares to make that jump at some point in 2018. Manager Brian Snitker has said on multiple occasions that he was so impressed with Acuña last spring that he very well could have made the big league club on pure talent alone. This was a kid who had just 148 at-bats above the rookie-ball level. Most agree that Acuña has the chance to be an above average center fielder, but that decision will be a difficult one with a premium defender like Inciarte already entrenched at the big league level. Atlanta will likely have Acuña start the season in the minors in order to insure another year of team control, but a mid-April call-up seems like a distinct possibility. If 2017 is any indication, then Acuña’s big league debut will be must-see television.

Non-roster options:

The Braves have a handful of outfielders in camp vying for playing time in some cases, and simply looking to make a first impression in others. Obviously Acuña is the biggest name on this list and has been covered extensively. Another highly-touted prospect heading into his first big league camp is Cristian Pache, the 19-year-old from the Dominican Republic. Talent evaluators have deemed Pache’s defense in center field to be both major league ready and gold glove caliber. He batted .281 with 32 stolen bases, but is still looking for his first professional home run. Despite that, many believe there’s untapped power in Pache’s bat. Perhaps he’ll begin to unlock it at High-A Florida this season… Dustin Peterson, 23, enters what feels like a make-or-break year in many respects. He had a chance to compete in big league camp last year, but a fractured hamate in his left hand derailed those hopes. That injury sidelined Peterson for a couple of months at the start of the season and probably sapped his strength once he did return. Peterson batted .248 with one home run and 30 RBI in 87 games for Triple-A Gwinnett. That setback came after being named the Braves minor league hitter of the year in 2016, when he batted .288 with 38 doubles, 12 homers and 88 RBI in Double-A Mississippi. Peterson was left exposed in the Rule 5 draft over the winter, but was not selected and thus has a chance to redeem himself and get back on track in the Braves organization. A second tour of duty in Gwinnett seems likely… Jaff Decker, soon-to-be 28 years old, was a minor league signing who brings some big league experience with him to camp. Dacker was originally a first round supplemental pick by San Diego in 2008 and has played 77 big league games with four different clubs. He’s batted .174 in just 161 at-bats between the Padres, Pirates, Rays and Athletics. Decker is well-rounded player who can work a count, run the bases well and hit the occasional home run. He’ll probably serve as organizational depth on stand-by at Gwinnett this season… Atlanta brought back the versatile Danny Santana, 27, who was acquired from the Twins last season and spent most of 2017 with the Braves. He signed a minor league deal to return after being non-tendered in December. A switch-hitter who can play all over the diamond, Santana has struggled to recreate the success of his rookie season. He batted .319 with 41 extra-base hits and 20 stolen bases over 101 games for Minnesota in 2014. Since then, he’s slashed just .221/.255/.320 in 703 plate appearances over 248 games. Santana plays three infield positions and all three spots in the outfield and will compete for a spot on the bench this spring. At worst, the Braves have an insurance policy with some major league experience at they ready should injury inevitably crop up this season.


Comments (7)
  1. Paul Lentz says:

    Grant, I’ve been a Braves fan since 1982 (I was 10 years old when we opened the year 13-0..and won The Division on the last day of the season when The Giants beat The Dodgers). I’ve lived through the worst of 1985-1990….to the amazing consecutive playoff streak of 1991-2005 (that ultimately led to The Braves with winning The World Series in 1995)…to the current Rebuild that began with Coppy selling off our offensive players (and Kimbrel) after The 2014 Season ended.

    While far from perfect, in general I have to say that I’m very pleased with the results of Coppy’s Rebuild. Now it’s AA’s turn to take it to The Next Level (he’s off to a good start. 1. The Matt Kemp Trade not only cleared his salary from The 2019 Season, but NO prospects were attached as ‘sweeteners’, lol. 2. AA refrained from sacrificing our high ceiling prospects by staying away from acquiring Christian Yelich. Thank you, lol).

    Here’s what (and why) I would do to improve The Braves going forward:

    The 2018 about giving The Braves PLETHORA of talented pitching prospects (along with Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna) PLENTY of playing time in 2018… show us what they have! Julio Teheran, Mike Folty, Luiz Gohara, Sean Newcomb and Brandon McCarthy (not sure what Atlanta is going to do with Max Fried….however I feel that long term, due to his past injury issues, Fried would be better off eventually being transitioned to the bullpen, where he has the potential to be an Andrew Miller-like pitcher) with Lucas Sims as the long relief man/spot starter if someone gets hurt/needs rest in the 1st half of the season. Mike Soroka and Kolby Allard will be doing their thing in Triple A, gearing up for a possible promotion to Atlanta in the 2nd half IF their Triple A performance warrants it. And of course, we have the likes of Kyle Wright and Tooki Tousiant in Double A….and Ian Anderson, Joey Wentz, Bryce Wilson and Kyle Muller in High Class A. In addition, Patrick Weigel will be coming back from his ACL injury in Triple A by the end of 2018, gearing to be in full force by Opening Day 2019 in Triple A.

    Unless our GM, AA, changes course, I see him dealing at least one of McCarthy/Kazmir by The Trade Deadline (giving them some starts to showcase them being able to stay healthy, lol). However, I’d love to see both of them gone by Opening Day (if the right offer comes along, because I want no one blocking our young guys once they are ready)! If someone gets hurt, we’ll still have the likes of Aaron Blair and Matt Wisler in Triple A to plug in until Soroka and Allard are ready later in 2018. No need to waste a roster spot for veteran pitchers whose only purpose is to take away spots in the rotation from the youngsters!

    As far as The Bullpen….we’re set (no need to find a true closer for 2018…..we’ll get one in The 2018 Free Agent Offseason, when we’ll be positioned to offer Craig Kimbrel $18 mil a year-ish to return to The Braves). In the meantime, we’ll have PLENTY of youngsters to pick from to build a bullpen in 2018 (with an eye on who can excel long term starting in 2019!).

    One idea that AA may be pondering….is to wait until after Spring Training is over (you know, every year, someone/someones always gets hurt pitching-wise. Maybe it would be wise to hold onto McCarthy and Kazmir….and see who is healthy on Opening Day 2018. If everyone is…then we trade both of them (shouldnt be that hard). If some are hurt…then the next step depends on who is hurt. If McCarthy and Kazmir both excel, then our return in a trade could be nice.

    At the end of the day…the Matt Kemp Trade was ALL ABOUT giving our young players a chance to SHOW US what we have going into 2019 (by absorbing Kemp’s money into The 2018 Season, I seriously doubt that AA is going to ALSO spend serious money this offseason). Also……it clears our payroll for us to be SERIOUS PLAYERS come The 2018 Free Agent Offseason! Dare I say MANNY MACHADO, BRYCE HARPER & Craig Kimbrel ‘could’ be Braves Opening Day 2019? I know, fat chance/too pricey, right? Well if you’re willing to follow me, in a few paragraphs, I will SHOW that signing all three can work (not only for 2019 BUT ALSO beyond!):

    Projected 2018 Line-up:

    1. Ozzie Albies…..2nd
    2. Ronald Acuna…RF (once he gets called up by late April)
    3. Freddie Freeman…1st
    4. Tyler Flowers/Kurt Suzuki…C (righty-lefty balance…DO NOT want Markakis hitting clean-up)
    5. Nick Markakis…Left
    6. Rio Ruiz/Culberson…3rd (I’d rather see Johan Carmago be our everyday supersub)
    7. Ender Inciarte…..Center
    8. Dansby Swanson….SS (he’s suited to hitting 8th, draws lots of walks/gets the occasional bloop hit….clearing the pitcher’s spot in The National League has value. I’d rather see Dansby focus on that…as well as being a leader who focuses on playing STELLA DEFENSE. The offense will come IF it’s meant to come for him).

    While far from playoff worthy…’s somewhat respectable. What I’m more focused on…is how Albies and Acuna WRECK HAVOC at the top of the order/setting the table for Freddie! AA can work on the 4-5-6 spots (3rd base, Left Field and Catcher, long term, lol) in the order by Opening Day 2019! We’ll have THE MONEY…..will AA be able to convince Liberty to go “ALL-IN” in The 2018 Free Agent Offseason?

    Do the math now….on whether $150 mil Braves payroll in 2019 (a $20 mil jump from the likely 2018 $130 mil Payroll is more than reasonable, given that this team would generate likely additional revenues by participating in The Playoffs)..can absorb paying Machado and Harper $35 mil a year-ish long term contracts…as well as Craig Kimbrel $18 mil a year-ish (either 4 or 5 year contract)….for a total of $88 mil combined starting in 2019 (which would, in theory, leave $62 for the other 22 roster spots). Well, when you factor in Freddie Freeman’s $21 mil and Ender Inciarte’s $5 mil 2019 salaries…then that leaves only $36 mil for 20 roster spots (after Machado, Harper, Kimbrel, Freeman and Inciarte).

    However, the remaining non-minimum wage players left are Julio Teheran ($11 mil in 2019)….Mike Folty (3 years of arbitration left after 2018…expected to make around $5-$6 mil in 2019).. Adroys Vizcaino (approximately $5-$6 mil in 2019…Free Agent in 2020)..and Dan Winkler ($1.5-$2 mil in 2019…a FA after 2020). Depending on how those four perform in 2018 (and ESPECIALLY how our PLETHORA of high profile young pitching prospects performs in 2018)…all four could either return OR be traded by The End of The 2018 Season.

    Albies, Acuna, Swanson, Minter, Soroka, Allard, Gohara, Fried, Wright, Newcomb, Lane Adams, Johan Carmago, Lucas Sims, Jose Ramirez and Anyelo Gomez (who we drafted from The Yankees in The Rule 5 Draft….if he stays with The Braves in 2018)….(that’s at least 15 players slated to make The MLB Minimum Opening Day 2019)…which leaves 5 spots to fill (15 times $550k MLB Minimum….equals approximately $8.25 mil)…out the remaining $27.75 mil in remaining salary to fill The approximate hypothetical $150 mil 2019 Team Payroll.

    With Dan Winkler ($1.5-$2 mil in 2019)….along with one more year each (hypothetically speaking) of Tyler Flowers/Kurt Suzuki (same contracts as 2018 for 2019), a combined $7.5 mil. That’s 3 players at a combined cost of $9.5 mil. That’s a total of 23 players for a total of $132.75 mil.

    If I had to make a decision today, I feel that either Teheran or Folty will rise up in 2018 and stake a claim to be THE ACE of this staff going into 2019. My guess…is that it will be Folty. Teheran could…but chances are Sun Trust Field is in his head….and even if he has a decent season, he will probably be traded. Folty’s stuff is simply TOO GOOD to be a mediocre pitcher. Add Folty’s projected $5-$6 mil 2019 salary to the mix…24 players/$138.75 mil total…leaving 1 player left/$11.25 mil left.

    That would leave $11.25 mil to fill out the last reserve player (I’ll leave that up to AA to find…assuming we’d be going into 2019 with a 4 man bench like in 2018…..2019 bench would be Carmago, backup catcher-Flowers/Suzuki, Lane Adams, and AA’s choice).

    2019 Starting 8 could be:

    1. Ozzie Albies…2nd…$550k
    2. Ronald Acuna…RF…$550k
    3. Freddie Freeman…1st…$21 mil
    4. Manny Machado….3rd….$35 mil
    5. Bryce Harper….LF….$35 mil
    6. Flowers/Suzuki..C….combined $7.5 mil
    7. Ender Inciarte…Center…$5 mil
    8. Dansby Swanson…SS….$550k

    2019 Projected Starting 5 Rotation:

    1. Mike Folty….$6 mil
    2. Luiz Gohara…..$550k
    3. Mike Soroka…..$550k
    4. Kolby Allard……$550k
    5. Kyle Wright….$550k (to be honest, we’re going to have Tooki Tousiant, Joey Wentz, Bryce Wilson and Ian Anderson waiting in the wings to make a push by Opening Day 2020, lol…that is how SICK our depth is, lol. Not to mention Patrick Weigel and Kyle Muller, lol).

    2019 Projected Bench:

    1. Johan Carmago….$550k
    2. Suzuki/Flowers….$0.00 (already accounted for in the starting lineup)
    3. Lane Adams……..$550k
    4. AA’s choice………(he has $11.25 mil to play with).

    2019 Projected Bullpen:

    1. Craig Kimbrel….$18 mil
    2. Dan Winkler…..$2 mil
    3. AJ Minter……..$550k
    4. Sean Newcomb….$550k
    5. Max Fried………$550k
    6. Anyelo Gomez….$550k
    7. Lucas Sims…….$550k
    8.Jose Ramirez…..$550k

    To be honest, a number of those bullpen arms will be interchangeable/rotated between Triple A/The Disabled List/Atlanta throughout the 2019 Season! We’ll have the likes of Akeel Mooris/Jacob Lindgren, Grant Dayton, Josh Ravin, Devan Watts, Corbin Clouse, Josh Graham, Mauricio Cabrera (if he ever gets his act together), Adam McCreery, etc. to slide in when needed!

    Now doesnt that have the makings of A POTENTIAL DEEP PLAYOFF RUN type team? Unless AA went with a really PRICEY bench piece with the $11.25 mil left I ‘gave him’ to spend…..I think I did AN AMAZING JOB ‘spending’ $138.75 mil on this roster! Or AA could use the $7.5 mil allocated for Flowers/Suzuki and go in a different direction and get a younger, long term catcher (either via trade or Free Agent). Regardless, the flexibility that AA has going into The 2018 Offseason…is AMAZING!

    Depending on what we’d gotten back from trading Teheran (in this scenario)…as well as Kazmir and McCarthy….we could either have some more Lower Minor League Depth…OR a more valuable bench piece than Culberson, lol!

    I know that many felt that there would be NO WAY for The Braves to spend $150 mil and field a competitive playoff team….NOT ONLY did I do so…but I did so with $11.25 mil LEFT (again, assuming AA didnt go for a PRICEY bench piece..he’s going to have around $10 mil left to ‘play with’ during the season IF a need arises…with the option of increasing the $150 mil payroll to $160 mil or so IF something happens). However, given our depth in The Minors…we’ll be fine pitching-wise. However if a Harper, Machado or Freeman got hurt…then yes, we’d need to make some sort of move to address that for the short team! Barring that….this hypothetical team would be STACKED/LOADED/and more importantly…HELLA YOUNG! Also, the payroll would be virtually the same come 2020 (Dansby Swanson the only 2019 pre-arbitration player who’ll be eligible for arbitration…unless he drastically improves, he wont be due a huge raise for 2020). Sure, 2021 will see a number of arbitration eligible players…however the ability to afford the increased payroll will also go up (because revenues will be increasing). I see the payroll increasing to over $160 mil in over $175 mil in 2021…and $190 mil in 2022 (as well as revenues increasing over that time…ESPECIALLY if The Braves have started another playoff streak).

    I’m not saying that The Braves WILL go after Machado, Harper and Kimbrel…I’m saying that IF a number of things happen during The 2018 Season (like 1. Albies and Acuna showing that they are The Braves Version of Altuve and Correa at the top of our order..2. If our young, high ceiling starting pitching develops/rises like they did in 2017…then The Braves SHOULD pull out all stops and SIGN Machado, Harper and Kimbrel. Those three players would PERFECTLY fit what The Braves need to take THAT NEXT STEP (3rd base, left field, batting #4-#5 in our order providing power/ability to knock in runs…as well as Kimbrel being THE HAMMER to close out games, giving our young pitcher some confidence that if they can get it through 6-7 innings, Kimbrel will be there to CLOSE THINGS OUT, especially come playoff time)!

    Your thoughts?

    1. G-Mc says:

      That’s a lot to digest. A few things I’d say:

      It’s not realistic for longterm roster construction to think they’d be able to allot $30+ million annually to two players (Harper and Machado). It would not allow for longterm roster viability unless the team is committed to going over the luxury tax threshold.

      Secondly, I don’t think they’ll ever pay a closer $18 million. The kind of money we’re talking about here is what a $200 million club payroll would look like. I don’t see Atlanta going there. Not anytime soon.

      1. Normally, I would agree with you about the ‘long term implications’ for a mid-market team like The Braves to pay TWO players $35 mil each in long term deals. However, you have to look at this from several perspectives:

        1. The payroll will naturally increase each year (as will the revenues generated by a playoff team like The Braves WOULD BE if they signed the likes to Machado/Harper/Kimbrel to go along with Freeman/Inciarte AND THE PLETHORA of young talent like Albies, Acuna, Gohara, Soroka, Fried, Allard, Wright, Minter, even Swanson, etc. FLOODING The Braves roster in the next few years)! So while The 2019 Payroll would be around $150 mil-ish…..if revenues increase like I think they would in a playoff year….The 2020 Payroll could increase to over $160-165 mil….The 2021 Payroll to $175-180 mil-ish…the 2022 Payroll (when a number of pre-arbitration players from 2019 become eligible for arbitration) increases to around $200-210 mil-ish…and so on!

        Grant, by 2022 (when Machado and Harper would be in 4th year of their $35 mil a year-ish deals)….their combined salaries of $70 mil would still leave at least $130 mil left (of at least a projected $200 mil-ish payroll for 2022) to fill out the roster! You also have to remember that come 2020, The Braves will have ANOTHER FLOOD of prospects who are currently starting the year in High Class A (like Pache, Wentz, Anderson, Wilson, Davidson…in addition to who we may end up drafting in June of 2018) who may be pushing their way onto The Braves Roster!

        Our GM, AA, will have enough payroll flexibility to manage that roster! The influx of young players with KEY Free Agents who provide what we currently lack (power in Machado and Harper, a lockdown closer in Kimbrel) will position The Braves to be playoff contenders for yeas to come!

        I know what I posted was a lot to digest….but if you have some time….look at what the payroll projects would be for 2020 and 2021 with the roster I proposed for 2019! You’ll see that fitting the salaries of Machado, Harper and Kimbrel can work for not just 2019..but also 2020 and 2021. I do agree that when the 2019 rookies become eligible for arbitration going into the 2022 season…some decisions will need to be made! However, if any question marks remain for some of those eligible for arbitration in 2022, we’ll have some prospects who are projected to reach The Majors by 2020-21…..who could very well replace those eligible for arbitration! Plus, the payroll is going to go up each year with revenues increasing!

        All I ask is that you look at how those free agent salaries could fit in 2019, 2020 and 2021! If I’m right about fitting Harper, Machado and Kimbrel into the payroll in future years….then imagine what impact those three players could have in 2019 and beyond…..with Freeman, Inciarte AND The Plethora of young, cheap talent that is slated to FLOOD our roster in the next 3-4 years! AA has to do something come 2019 via Free Agency in order to take advantage of those cheap, talented, high upside prospects!

Leave a Reply