The Braves are loaded with bargains in 2020

dkb190816006 lad vs atl

The reality of a mid-market team can, at times, come with its fair share of frustrations. Payroll flexibility is always small, margins even smaller, and talent almost always has to be developed in-house. Teams with limited budgets can’t just go out and buy the best player on the free-agent market, nor can they afford the prospect hit that comes from blockbuster trades. There’s a delicate balance, and very few teams get it right consistently.

Although, the Braves seem to have almost mastered the process of grooming their young talent for the majors, seemingly bringing up homegrown stars on a routine basis, such as Ronald Acuna, Ozzie Albies, and Mike Soroka — just to name a few within the last several years. That’s what happens when your organization wields the 6th-most valuable farm system in the sport (according to FanGraphs’ THE BOARD after the 2019 season. 2020’s value ranks aren’t out yet). The luxury of bringing up your own talent instead of being forced to shop for it elsewhere is a considerable advantage financially, and one the Braves strive to achieve on an annual basis.

Let’s look at several Braves who should provide the team with incredible bargains this coming season:

To prevent any confusion, the salaries listed below are each player’s base salary. Each player’s actual luxury-tax salary may be significantly higher. For example: Ronald Acuna will earn a $1 million base salary this coming season, but will count as $12.5 million against the Braves’ luxury tax. It alters the extent of the Braves’ bargain a bit, though the point remains — these guys are putting up big numbers on the cheap.

Ronald Acuna Jr., OF

2020 salary: $1 million

We start with the most obvious choice here on this list as Acuna is destined to become one of the best to wear a Braves uniform (I said “one of”),  all while earning a combined $2 million in 2019 and this coming season (the first two years of his 8-year, $100 million extension signed last April). Consider this, the going rate for 1 WAR on the free-agent market is roughly $9 million, but Acuna produced 5.6 WAR last season while making just a $1 million salary — that results in the Braves only paying about $180,000 per WAR. Acuna’s salary will increase to $5 million in 2021 and $15 million in 2022, but it doesn’t matter, as he could earn $40 million per year and his contributions would still be worth it.

Mike Soroka, RHP

2020 salary: $565,000

Due to him still earning the league minimum for the next two years (counting this coming season), Soroka is perhaps set to be the biggest bargain on the team, assuming he continues to post 4-5 WAR seasons for the foreseeable future. According to our $9M/WAR rate, Soroka’s 4-WAR campaign last year was worth $36 million in value, though the Braves only paid roughly $141,000 for each of those four wins-above-replacement. There’s no better place to receive this kind of savings than the starting rotation, especially considering pitchers with similar talent on the free-agent market are earning upwards of $25 million per year. 

Ozzie Albies, 2B

2020 salary: $1 million 

Albies timed his break-out at just the right time, flourishing in just about every aspect of his game in 2019 on his way to a 4.6-WAR season — around $41 million in value at a cheap base salary of $1 million. Albies was next after Acuna in making a long-term commitment with the Braves last year, signing a 7-year, $35 million extension, and his deal will turn up even more team-friendly. The Braves paid for Albies’ 2019 WAR at a discount price of $217,000 per WAR.

Max Fried, LHP

2020 salary: $565,000

There’s the real possibility that Fried could wind up even more of a bargain than Soroka in 2020, given the lefty appears to have gotten over his chronic blister issues. Fried’s 3-WAR season last year was perhaps held back a bit from a propped up 4.02 ERA (3.72 FIP), though the former Padres’ first-round pick led the Braves’ rotation in wins, finishing 17-6 in 30 starts and a handful of relief appearances. Value-wise, Fried was worth $27 million in 2019, all while earning the league-minimum salary (a cheap rate of $188K per WAR). He’ll make that same $565,000 salary again in 2020.

Austin Riley, 3B

2020 salary: $555,000

There’s a chance both Riley and Camargo could be big bargains for the Braves in 2020, though less so for the latter given he’ll earn more than twice as much as Riley this coming season (still only $1.7 million). If Riley could perhaps post a 1.5-2 WAR season (even less), you’re still talking about some solid value for the Braves (2 WAR = $282K per WAR when going by his 2020 salary). What’s a 2-WAR season look like for Riley? Perhaps a .250 AVG, 20 home runs, 60 RBI, and respectable defense at third base.

Felix Hernandez, RHP

2020 salary: $1 million (if makes club)

Any former Cy Young potentially only scheduled to earn $1 million is most definitely a bargain, even if Hernandez’s time in the starting rotation ends up being temporary. The general assumption is that Sean Newcomb and King Felix have the inside track at making the staff now that it’s official Cole Hamels will be out for the first month of the season. Hernandez doesn’t have to do much to become a bargain (perhaps he already is?). Basically, all he has to do is remain healthy until Hamels gets back… anything more is a substantial bonus for the Braves.

Sean Newcomb, LHP

2020 salary: $565,000

Hamels’ absence almost assures Newcomb a spot in the rotation, and with him still earning the league-minimum, all he needs to do is not fall apart. A season similar to his 2018, when he posted 1.9 WAR and finished 12-9 with a 3.90 ERA in 30 starts will certainly do. Heck, his 0.4-WAR season last year (primarily out of the bullpen) was worth over $3.5 million in value, so it’s not going to take much. Spring Training will be a huge test for the once-hyped lefty, as this opportunity may be his final chance to show the team he’s still capable of starting.


Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: