Braves: A look at the players set to receive arbitration offers this week

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Another due date is fast approaching as the deadline to exchange salary figures with arbitration-eligible players is this coming Friday. The Braves, who recently non-tendered three eligible players back in early December — utility player Charlie Culberson, catcher John Ryan Murphy and outfielder Rafael Ortega — still have seven players left to negotiate salaries with for the 2020 season 

(Culberson was, of course, re-signed to a minor league contract a few weeks after his non-tendering, meaning his 2020 salary is set — $1 million if he makes the big league team this Spring.)

Before we dive into each eligible Braves’ player, let’s review exactly how this whole arbitration process works:

Players with three or more years of major league service, but less than six years, are eligible for what is called arbitration, as long as they don’t already have a contract for the next season. These arbitration salaries are negotiated by the teams and players themselves, starting on January 10th (this Friday) when teams must make their respective offers. Appropriate salaries are based on comparable players in recent seasons as well as year-to-year performance, and typically these negotiations end rather quickly; however, there is a long term negotiation period that starts on February 3rd and runs until February 21st, where the team, player, and arbitrator will be required to reach an agreement via hearing. Usually, these hearings are avoided. For more details regarding salary arbitration and how the process works: click here.

Now, let’s look at the seven Braves’ players that will need to be offered such salaries (the following arbitration salaries are compiled from Spotrac):

 

Mike Foltynewicz, RHP

Projected arb salary: $7.5 million 

At 28-years-old, the right-handed Folty will enter his third arbitration year this coming season, and despite taking a step back in the most recent campaign, he is expected to earn a nice little raise. After receiving salaries of $2.2 million and $5.475 million —  in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, respectively — Folty is projected to top $7 million for his second-to-last season under team control (the highest expected arb salary among eligible Braves this season).

We discussed Foltynewicz on Wednesday, regarding his candidacy for an extension, and it appears the Braves would be better served to wait and see if the former first-round pick can bounce back from a rough 2019 season when he posted a 4.54 ERA and matched his career-high for worst homer rate (1.77 HR/9). The 2020 season looks like a prove-it year for the hard-throwing Folty.

 

Shane Greene, RHP

Projected arb salary: $6.5 million 

Following a slow start as a Brave, Greene settled in nicely after Atlanta acquired the 31-year-old from the Tigers at the deadline last year. After only making $1.95 million in his first arbitration season in Detroit (2018), Greene earned right at $4 million for Year 2 this past season, even after finishing the 2018 season with a bloated 5.12 ERA (4.61 FIP) with the Tigers.  The righty is projected for a salary just short of Foltynewicz’s this coming season, as he’ll undoubtedly be depended on for high-leverage innings out of the bullpen. This season is Greene’s final arbitration year, making him a 32-year-old free agent next winter. 

 

Dansby Swanson, SS

Projected arb salary: $3.3 million

Another player detailed in our most recent extension discussion, the 25-year-old Swanson, is set to be rewarded handsomely for his impressive improvements last year, as the former top pick in the draft enters his first arbitration season. Projections call for a $3.3 million salary for the 2020 season, a $2.715 million raise for the former Vanderbilt star. After a year in which Swanson posted career-highs in home runs (17), batting average (.251), runs (77), and RBIs (65) and tied his best stolen base total (10), I’d say he has most definitely earned it. Swanson will hit the FA market in 2023.

 

Luke Jackson, RHP

Projected arb salary: $1.9 million

Like Swanson above, Jackson will also go through his first arbitration process — though it seems like he’s been around a lot longer. The 28-year-old righty picked the perfect time to turn things around, as he’ll double his earnings this coming season after posting a career year out of the Braves’ bullpen. If Jackson can even halfway match his 2019 season, a year in which he tallied career-highs in appearances (70), strikeouts (106), WAR (1.2), and many more statistics, he could potentially garner an extension proposal. Jackson and Swanson are part of the same 2023 FA class.

 

Adam Duvall, OF

Projected arb salary: $3.8 million

Duvall, 31-years-old, almost made Braves’ fans overlook his horrid 33-game stretch with the team in 2018 — after being acquired from the Reds in a trade — as he showed up big for the Braves last October and hit .273 with a home run during the 2019 NLDS against the Cardinals. Because he didn’t make his MLB debut until three months before his 26th birthday, Duvall enters his second arbitration year in 2020 and is expected to earn a bargain of a salary, at just under $4 million (after making $2.875 million in 2019). 

As of right now, the plan is a Duvall / Nick Markakis platoon in left field in 2020, as it seems the Braves are betting on a Pache debut at some point this coming season (or maybe a big FA signing/trade?). Regardless of whether or not Duvall is a full-time starter, his potential power at the plate and defense in the field are well worth $4 million. He’ll be a 33-year-old  free agent in 2022.

 

Johan Camargo, INF

Projected arb salary: $1.6 million

Surprisingly, despite not yet having a for-sure option to cover third base this coming season, there was noise from some of the more hyperbolic fans calling for Camargo to be non-tendered this offseason. There’s no doubt the then-25-year-old (he turned 26 last month) struggled in 2019, slashing just .233/.279/.384 in 98 games with the Braves as a part-time utility player, but it wasn’t that long ago that he posted a 3.3-WAR season and slugged 19 home runs as the Braves’ starting third baseman in 2018. 

The Braves could use Camargo’s versatile depth, especially if they fail to re-sign Josh Donaldson this winter, and at $1.6 million, what’s the risk? This season is Camargo’s first arbitration year, so he’s under team control until 2024 when he becomes a free agent at 30-years-old.

 

Grant Dayton, LHP

Projected arb salary: $800,000

The 31-year-old Dayton begins his first arbitration year in 2020, after appearing in 22 games for Triple-A Gwinnett (3.04 ERA / 4.04 FIP) and 14 for the Braves (3.00 ERA / 6.21 FIP) this past season. His projected salary of $800,000 is by far the lowest of this group, but his impact out of the bullpen could be just as meaningful in 2020, especially with his 10.6 K/9 career K-rate. As an Auburn alum — and a former player at Bob Jones High School in Madison, AL (just 10 minutes from me here in north Alabama) — Dayton didn’t make his debut until age 28 (with the LA Dodgers), meaning he’ll enter the FA market at a seasoned 35-years-old in 2023.

 

Looking ahead…

2021 first-year arb-eligible players

Next winter should be rather quick and straightforward, as the Braves will have just two new players eligible for arbitration; that after four newcomers this offseason (Swanson, Jackson, Dayton and Camargo above). Two lefties out of the Braves’ bullpen are set to go through the process this time next year:

 

Sean Newcomb, LHP

It’s hard to believe, but Newk is still making the league minimum in 2020. The big lefty has already logged 300+ innings thus far for the Braves, now entering his fourth season as a major leaguer. He’ll get a shot at making the Braves’ 2020 starting rotation this Spring, but he shouldn’t be disappointed if manager Brian Snitker sticks him back in the bullpen; judging by his success there this past season, he could make a lot of money in his career as a left-handed reliever.

 

 A.J. Minter, LHP

Minter has a lot of work to do this coming season in building his stock back up after shoulder issues and ineffectiveness kept him off the mound too much in 2019 (he didn’t even make the Opening Day roster); this coming after making 65 appearances in 2018 and posting a 3.23 ERA with 10+ K/9. The burly lefty needs to get back to domination, or he could be a non-tender candidate this time next year.

 

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