Braves: Pablo Sandoval added on MiLB contract, while rest of NL continues to spend 

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The Braves chose quantity over quality this past weekend and capped off Sunday with their third addition in two days by signing 34-year-old infielder Pablo Sandoval to a one-year, $1 million minor-league pact (this after claiming both Victor Arano and Kyle Garlick on Saturday).

If you recall, the Panda played in Atlanta last September (also originally on an MiLB deal), and he wound up appearing in a regular-season game as well as three NLCS affairs during the postseason. As recent as two seasons ago, the veteran third baseman slashed .268/.313/.507 with 14 home runs in San Francisco, so a come-back from Sandoval isn’t completely impossible. 

Considering there’s been essentially zero chatter in regards to the team being “in” on any other third baseman, the signing of Sandoval this past weekend appears to perhaps mean the Braves are set to give the lion’s share of reps at the hot corner to Austin Riley with the hope that Johan Camargo can bounce back and provide respectable play as a backup/utility-man. As a Bravos fan, It’s not exactly what I’d like to see (I wrote as much awhile back), but if Sandoval has absolutely anything left in the tank, this deal will be well worth it. Although, being “worth it” in this case could still mean very little from third base in 2021 for the Braves, which is a shame given the team finished dead last in FanGraphs WAR from the position last season. 

However, the lack of reinforcement at third isn’t even the point here. Despite GM Alex Anthopoulos’ hesitancy when it comes to potentially handing out the wrong deal (which I believe we all very much appreciate), it’s still disappointing to see the rest of the league simply getting better. Just consider the moves/rumors from NL teams… just this past weekend:


Friday (Jan. 22)

  • Marlins sign right-handed reliever Anthony Bass to a two-year, $5.5 million deal. Bass had been one of the better relievers on the market this offseason, and at that price is an absolute steal of a deal for a team in need of a few more options in the bullpen (uh… like the Braves). Plus, MLB Trade Rumors released an article reporting that Miami is interested in not only free agent Yasiel Puig, but also outfielders Anthony Santander (Orioles) and Andrew Benintendi (Red Sox). Look out for the Fish.
  • Also, on Friday, the busy Padres re-signed INF/OF Jurickson Profar to a three-year, $21 million contract. Mainly as an outfielder for San Diego in 2020, Profar played above-average defense (0.7 Def) and posted a 111 wRC+ with 7 homers and 7 stolen bases in 56 games. I’m not sure about a three-year deal, but Profar was interesting as possible depth for Atlanta.
  • Lastly, the Reds acquired right-handed reliever Hector Perez from the Blue Jays in exchange for a player to be named later or cash. Perez doesn’t really have much big league experience, but FanGraphs had him as a top 40 prospect in Toronto’s system at the time of the trade. 


Saturday (Jan. 23)

  • The Nationals re-signed first baseman Ryan Zimmerman to a one-year pact worth $1 million as it appears this is probably the final season for the 36-year-old. This signing doesn’t really make Washington that much better, considering Zimmerman has been on the decline for a few years now. However, despite being past his prime, the career National has still managed above-replacement production in each of his last three seasons. 


Sunday (Jan. 24)

  • Washington completed Sunday’s biggest transaction when the team signed lefty reliever Brad Hand to a one-year, $10.5 million deal. Hand has been the premier closer left on the market this winter, and while the Braves are probably set with lefty Will Smith pitching the ninth in 2021, adding someone like Hand on another of AA’s one-year contracts would’ve made perfect sense for a Braves bullpen that said goodbye to Mark Melancon, Darren O’Day, and Shane Greene this offseason. 
  • Also, on Sunday night, MLBTR reported that the Giants are in on both outfielders Eddie Rosario and Jackie Bradley Jr. Those two names have been mentioned plenty among Braves Country as potential outfield options for the team, though nothing official from the Braves brass has been released. With Marcell Ozuna reportedly commanding a four-year deal and more than likely something around the $25 million AAV range, AA could punt on the Ozuna sweepstakes and buy low on Rosario (questionable defense) or JBJ (a poor ’20 season). As bad as I’d love to see Marcell in Atlanta this coming season, it’s rather unlikely AA hands out that type of contract. With Ender Inciarte on the decline, Cristian Pache just getting his feet wet in the majors, and Drew Waters still probably at least a half-season from debuting, the main thing here is that AA does something to help out the team’s outfield. I’m going to remain hopeful as long as there’s offseason left.


Saving that money

While it’s certainly not AA’s fault and really more a result of Liberty Media’s lack of interest when it comes to pouring money into its product, the Braves pace only the Marlins in the division in payroll for this upcoming season, currently sitting at just under $113 million overall

We’ve seen the Mets and Nationals make moves, and even if it’s not “stupid money” the Phillies are at least running a respectable payroll when considering the team’s lack of contention these last few years. Meanwhile, despite winning three-straight division titles, Atlanta ranks fourth in the NL East in 2021 payroll:


2021 NL East Payrolls

  1. Mets — $166,904,168
  2. Nationals — $148,841,575
  3. Phillies — $139,665,962
  4. Braves — $112,759,375
  5. Marlins — $44,200,000


I know winter is not over yet, and the Braves like to make splashes when no one’s expecting it, but there’s no reason for this franchise to sit towards the division’s bottom in payroll anymore. Hopefully, ownership will allow AA to make some savvy moves soon. 

Photo: David John Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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