Will the Braves go into the luxury tax?

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Much has been made about the Braves becoming a top-five payroll after Braves Chairman Terry McGuirk claimed that was the goal earlier in the offseason. As exciting as that is, McGuirk never said when the Braves would move into the top five payrolls. It could be this year; it could be years down the road.

My guess is it will happen sooner rather than later, and this year is a possibility. However, for that to happen, the Braves have to be willing to go into the luxury tax — a place they’ve never been before and a place David O’Brien of The Athletic swears they will not go in 2023.

O’Brien could be right, but I doubt he has any inside information on the situation, and the way he is scoffing at the idea in the tweets above is somewhat comical. The fact is, without signing any free agents, the Braves are already set to have their highest Opening Day payroll. If they have any hope of signing Dansby Swanson and filling out the rest of their roster, they are going to be very close to the luxury tax. I talked about it in a previous article:

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.

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.

The Braves haven’t indicated one way or another how far they are willing to go this year as far as payroll is concerned. If I had to guess, they’ll do their best not to go into the luxury tax, but I don’t think that will be the deciding factor on whether or not to re-sign a player like Dansby Swanson. A top-five payroll will go into the luxury tax, so it wouldn’t surprise me if the Braves entered that territory in 2023.

Photo: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire


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