How much money do the Braves have left to spend?

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Ladies and gentlemen, we are officially less than a week away from pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training. It’s baseball season; however, it remains unknown exactly what Atlanta’s roster will look like heading into the 2021 campaign.

After the signing of Marcell Ozuna, Alex Anthopoulos said he backloaded the contract (Ozuna will only earn $12 million in 2021) to have some money to upgrade the bullpen and bench. To this point, neither has happened, so how much exactly do the Braves have to waste on new additions this late into the offseason.

As of now, Atlanta has around $130 million committed to the Opening Day payroll. Last year, the Braves entered the season with their highest Opening Day payroll in franchise history, topping $150 million (before salaries were pro-rated). However, given the circumstances surrounding the pandemic, it’s unrealistic to expect the Braves to spend that much going into 2021, and Mark Bowman of confirmed that in his recent mailbag.

An exact number is not known, but we know this year’s payroll will be less than it was last year, when it crested above the $150 million mark. We also know the Braves have already committed a little more than $130 million for the upcoming season. Even if the reduction was just $10 million, they would have little wiggle room if they attempted to strengthen their currently weak bench and also sign Melancon or Greene.

Realistically, I expect the Opening Day payroll to be around $140 million, leaving the Braves with about $10 million to spend before the start of the season. Their bullpen could use an upgrade, but they have enough depth to skate by if they choose to do so. What they must improve is their bench. It currently looks like a struggling AAA team behind the starters. Thankfully, there are still plenty of inexpensive options available.

However, if Liberty Media were ever to bend the rules (that they set for themselves) a bit and give Anthopoulos a little more wiggle room, Justin Turner would be a dream addition on a one-year pact. That would require payroll to be similar, or perhaps even a little higher than last year’s on Opening Day, but adding that kind of impact bat to an already loaded lineup would give the Braves the best offense in baseball. It would also strengthen their bench as Austin Riley would move to a reserve role, serving as a platoon option and the team’s primary pinch-hitter.

Unfortunately, as Bowman said, payroll is likely to be substantially lower than 2020’s; therefore, Turner isn’t a realistic option. Still, expect the Braves to be active over this next week in filling out their roster.

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