How much money do the Braves have to spend this offseason?

Alex Anthopoulos trade deadline

MLB free agency is officially underway. The Braves can now re-sign their own free agents, and in a few days, they’ll be able to negotiate with everyone. It should be another thrilling offseason in Atlanta, filled with plenty of drama, as Dansby Swanson and several others prepare to test the open market. I truthfully have no idea how things are going to shape out with their All-Star shortstop, but I do know they will spend plenty of money. The Braves had the highest payroll in franchise history in 2022, sitting right around $200 million, which ranked 8th in the league. And Braves Chairman Terry McGuirk has already said he plans for that number to be even higher in 2023.

Now, McGuirk didn’t clarify when he expects the Braves to be among the top five payrolls, but with the success the team had this past season in terms of revenue, payroll will undoubtedly rise again in 2023. So how much might Alex Anthopoulos have to spend in free agency this offseason?

Looking ahead to next season, the Braves have just under $160 million committed to their payroll, per Spotrac, but that’s before arbitration. After working out deals with Max Fried, Mike Soroka, A.J. Minter, and potentially Tyler Matzek — even though he won’t be available next season — that number will be right around $180 million, so we are almost at the 2022 payroll before even signing any free agents.

Last year, the Padres had the fifth-highest payroll in baseball at $237 million, which would mean the Braves should have around $57 million to spend this offseason. However, I don’t think they will quite be a top-five payroll in 2023. With the luxury tax set at $233 million, I expect the Braves to stay under that, even if the penalty for going over the tax isn’t really that substantial.

If I had to guess, I would say the Braves payroll will be somewhere in the $220 million range, which doesn’t leave them with too much room to maneuver. Their main priority will be to bring back Dansby Swanson or sign one of the premier free agents at the position. That will likely cost $25-30 million per year, already getting them to that $210 million mark as a team, leaving them with about $10 million left to spend on remaining free agents, potentially a little more if they really are confident about being a top five payroll next season.

Of course, trades could open up more room for Alex Anthopoulos to maneuver. I’m not confident it will be possible, but I’m sure the Braves will attempt to move both Eddie Rosario and Marcell Ozuna. It will take Atlanta parting ways with some top prospects for that to happen, but there are plenty of examples of trades like these going down during the winter. Combined, Ozuna and Rosario are set to earn $25 million next season, so even moving one of them would give the Braves a ton more flexibility this offseason.

With all the talent Atlanta already has locked in at affordable rates and payroll continuing to rise, there’s never been a more exciting time to be a Braves fan. However, fans still need to temper expectations about signing a bunch of marquee free agents each offseason. With pay bumps for guys like Austin Riley, Max Fried, Spencer Strider, Michael Harris II, and hopefully Dansby Swanson, the Braves will already be close to a top-five payroll with their current group. Thankfully, there won’t be many holes left for them to fill once they figure out their shortstop situation.

Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire

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