The Braves were top 10 spenders this offseason

The Braves were top 10 spenders this offseason

Baseball is finally back, and now would be a great time to not only look back at the Braves’ active offseason, but also take a gander at their spending relative to the rest of the majors. 

Currently, the Braves check in with a $156.7 million payroll, good for 12th in the majors but second-to-last in the NL East, as the Phillies (6th), Nationals (7th) and Mets (8th) enter Spring Training with more expensive rosters.

screenshot 2020 02 19 at 10.30.47 am edited
(from Craig Edwards’ post on FanGraphs)


That’s good news, though, given the Braves are the only team in the division (other than the Marlins) with financial flexibility, as their overall luxury-tax total comes out to a solid $178.7 million (via FanGraphs’ Roster Resource), leaving the Braves with almost $30 million to spend where needed before hitting the first tax threshold of $208 million. 

2020 NL East luxury-tax totals
  1. Phillies: $204 million
  2. Mets: $201.6 million
  3. Nationals: $197 million
  4. Braves: $178.7 million
  5. Marlins: $92.4 million 


That’s not to be interpreted as a signal the Braves are willing to bring in more top-tier talent, but it should be a respectable sum of money that if, perhaps, Johan Camargo and Austin Riley fail to cut it at third, GM Alex Anthopoulos would have the means to make a much-needed move… or of course reinforce the rotation at the trade deadline. 

Regardless, Braves fans should at least feel somewhat appreciative of the team’s spending, considering the organization is set to sport its highest Opening Day payroll of all time, thanks to moving up with the Big Boys this winter in spending. Take a look at where the Braves stand amongst the rest of the majors, regarding their offseason spending this year (courtesy of Craig Edwards’ report from Wednesday at FanGraphs):

screenshot 2020 02 19 at 10.58.52 am edited
(from Craig Edwards’ post on FanGraphs)


Including the Braves (who rank 9th), five of those first 10 teams on the left-hand side of that graph were playoff participants in 2019, which only suggests the obvious — these are the majors most serious contenders.

Let’s sort through the Braves’ numerous investments this offseason, shall we?

*includes only MLB additions

11/4: re-signed Tyler Flowers, C — 1 year, $4 million

11/4: re-signed Nick Markakis, OF 1 year, $4 million

11/8: re-signed Darren O’Day, LHP1 year, $2.25 million ($3.5M option for ’21)

11/14: signed Will Smith, LHP3 years, $40 million ($13M option for ’23)

11/19: re-signed Chris Martin, RHP2 years, $14 million

11/24: signed Travis d’Arnaud, C2 years, $16 million

12/4: signed Cole Hamels, LHP1 year, $18 million

1/16: signed Adeiny Hechavarria, INF1 year, $1 million

1/21: signed Marcell Ozuna, OF1 year, $18 million 


If you weren’t counting, altogether that’s 8 signings worth a total of $117.25 million in total contracts, breaking down to: $56.25 million for three bullpen signings; $18 million for one starting rotation signing; and $43 million for four position-player signings. Finally, Liberty Media seems to be interested in opening its coffers a bit.

And all of those big league signings above doesn’t count the six minor-league additions to the team, a group of players the Braves are hoping will show they can contribute at the major league level sometime this year:

  • 12/13: Charlie Culberson, UTIL
  • 12/16: Peter O’Brien, OF/1B
  • 1/15: Yangervis Solarte, INF
  • 1/18: Chris Rusin, LHP
  • 1/20: Felix Hernandez, RHP
  • 2/4: Yonder Alonso, 1B


We already know that the Hernandez signing will most likely pay off, given Cole Hamels’ shoulder strain now opens two spots in the ML starting rotation; Culberson has shown in the past that he’s plenty capable of helping out the Braves; and then Solarte and Alonso both offer plenty of experience as well as a past that has featured flashes of great production. 

This offseason has been a crazy ride filled with both positives and negatives (the latter mostly referring to the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal), but the influx in free agent spending this time around has certainly made a much better impression on the sport. Teams like the White Sox, Angels and Reds (plus a few more) seem to be putting their best foot forward in an attempt to contend in 2020.

Even more, according to the FanGraphs’ write-up by Edwards (that I referred to above), the majors has seen a $37 million increase in overall payrolls this year, which is a good sign for those that have been worried about the stagnant spending over these past few seasons. As of right now, major league payrolls are sitting at an average of $141.9 million — a 1.4% increase when compared to 2019 and a slight 0.6% decrease relative to 2018. One thing’s for sure though, next year’s free agent class definitely won’t be as exciting, in terms of household names… so the spending gains made in 2020 may not matter as much this time next offseason (however, with the next CBA looming after 2021, teams may want to maintain the status quo when it comes to handing out larger-than-usual contracts). 

Regardless, the storylines will shift after today. Actual baseball is back, and instead of previews and projections, we’ll get to start discussing events that are actually happening on the field. It was a fun winter, but I sure am glad it’s finally over. 


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