Yesterday was an unexpectedly eventful day.
The deadline for players to accept or reject qualifying offers was yesterday at 5:00 PM, and 15 minutes before the bell rang, Alex Anthopoulos made a significant, albeit shocking, bullpen addition.
Will Smith contract with #Braves, per source: Three years, $40M with option that could make it four years, $52M.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 14, 2019
The acquisition of the finesse arm out of San Fran bulks up an already strengthened bullpen. Smith, Melancon, and Greene stand ready to handle the final few innings for the 2020 season, with guys like Luke Jackson and Jacob Webb now set to man the lower leverage situations.
The abrupt signing of Smith is an exciting one, but still very unexpected. Although we know Alex Anthopoulos pretty well by now, and that the close-to-the-vest, catch-you-by-surprise approach is one he is keen to (see last year’s curveball named Josh Donaldson). Personally, I never saw him even looking at Smith or any player who received a qualifying offer. But, as said, that’s just who AA is; surprising and unpredictable.
And he'll cost the #Braves a draft pick, as he received a #17.8M qualifying offer from the Giants. Alex Anthopoulos did this one without anyone getting an inkling of it beforehand. There had been some thought that Smith might be one of the few to consider taking the QO.
— David O'Brien (@DOBrienATL) November 14, 2019
Either way, the Braves have another strong bullpen arm in the newly-added Fresh Prince of the South East (new nickname, fight me) for the low, low price of $40M. But now there’s a new looming question following the big signing; where does that leave the rest of the FA market for the Braves?
Options, Options, Options
Last year’s payroll sat around $143 million, according to Spotrac. After the Smith signing, the Braves are sitting around $95 million pledged towards the 2020 roster once they settle in arbitration, possibly less if they let a guy like Shane Greene walk. Typically, Anthopoulos likes to keep about $10 million open for potential transactions, which would leave Atlanta with around $35 million left to play with in free agency if payroll were to be the same, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility for payroll to be higher next year considering all the revenue produced by the club.
Either way, $35 million is a lot of money.
Does anybody want a couple of new Lambos? Maybe a village-sized mansion or two? No? Me neither. So, let’s get some big guns to launch us past the NLDS and beyond.
Option 1: Donaldson and Hamels
I fall under the broad category of fans that desperately wants to see Josh Donaldson come back for the next few years. Personally, I love me some rain.
It’s doable, but that would make the Braves options thin for not only the rotation but the remainder of the market.
Donaldson will likely look for something along the lines of the predicted 3/$75M. That would leave about $10-15 million to tend to whatever needs are left. It’s not exactly the most fiscally responsible plan, but it’s an option that would work and be beneficial for the club and, of course, for the fans.
Rundown: Donaldson: 3 yrs, $75M, Hamels: 2 yrs, $25M
Option 2: Moustakas, Wheeler/Bumgarner
Moustakas is a controllable, proven option at the hot corner at a budgeted price. He was an All-Star last year, blasting 35 home runs with a .848 OPS. It’s not quite Donaldson’s production at the plate, and Moose isn’t as smooth with the glove, but it still offers Freddie Freeman the necessary protection in the lineup. Freeman is coming off a career-year himself, and having Donaldson behind him was a primary reason as to why.
All that remains is a starting pitcher. With the Braves moving on from Donaldson and saving money with Moustakas, they will have what it takes to land a great arm like Wheeler or Bumgarner. This solidifies Atlanta’s rotation, after patching up their bullpen with the addition of Will Smith.
Anthopoulos could also go in a slightly different direction after signing Moose if he wanted to address all his needs, but this would require Liberty Media to open up their pockets some more, which doesn’t seem ridiculous after handing a reliever $40 million.
The Braves could settle for Cole Hamels on the above two-year, $25 million deal and make a run at the best catcher on the market, Yasmani Grandal. This might be unrealistic, but Grandal turned down a BIG contract last offseason because he wanted to “do something better for him in the long run.”
So why did he take a one year, $18.25M deal with Milwaukee?
Easy; he wanted to contend. He wanted to win.
Enter AA. IF he can work enough magic, sell the contention point, and wave enough money around, I can see Grandal coming on for 2/$36M. It’s improbable, definitely, but not impossible. After all, AA has done more with less.
All of that would probably cost somewhere in the $40-45 million range, so slightly over the expected budget. But again, who knows. The signing of Smith certainly could point to an increase in payroll.
But even if payroll goes up a bit, you can see the picture here. After the Smith signing, it becomes unlikely the Braves will be able to pull off re-signing Donaldson and bring in a top-flight pitcher like Madison Bumgarner. Anthopoulos will have to choose between one or the other, but if he can get a guy like Cole Hamels and manage to retain Donaldson, that sounds pretty close to a picture-perfect offseason.
Rundown: Moustakas: 2 yrs/$20M, Wheeler: 4 yrs/$84M or Moustakas: 2yrs/$20M, Hamels: 2 yrs/$25M, Grandal: 2yrs/$36M