Posted: 10:36 am Friday, January 31st, 2014

The Braves’ young core is set to get expensive 

By Mark Bradley

One guy just left. How long will the other be here? (Jason Getz/AJC)

One guy just left. How long will the other be here? (Jason Getz/AJC)

The Atlanta Braves are set to be taken to arbitration by Craig Kimbrel, Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman. (This after Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, Chris Johnson and Jordan Schafer accepted one-year contracts at the last minute.) As Ben Lindbergh of Baseball Prospectus notes, 146 players filed for arbitration this winter; of those, 11 were Braves.

The Braves are lucky in that they have a great young core. (We haven’t yet mentioned Justin Upton, Andrelton Simmons, Brandon Beachy or Julio Teheran.) But the owner of a great young core won’t always feel so lucky. Those guys grow up to make more and more money, and eventually they become free agents, in which case — assuming they’re still good — they can make tons of the stuff.

I’ve written a little something that will appear in Sunday’s AJC — it will be available on myajc.com, our premium site — regarding the problems the Braves are just starting to face regarding the care and feeding of their core. As general manager Frank Wren notes, this is not at all unexpected. But Lindbergh, who was interviewed for the story, points out that the easiest way to keep some (but not all) of such a core is to offer long-term extensions to guys who are still very young. Lindbergh also notes that the last young Brave to sign such a contract was Brian McCann in 2007.

The closer a young guy gets to free agency, the less apt he is to sign anything long-term. Heyward, Medlen and Justin Upton are set to become free agents after the 2015 season; Kimbrel, Freeman, Johnson and Beachy can do so after 2016.

I asked Lindbergh what he might do were he the Braves’ GM, and he made two suggestions: Consider trading Kimbrel and try hard to lock up Simmons, who’s five years from free agency and might be less reluctant to commit himself to a long-term deal. This made sense to me, even as I note that Kimbrel is the best closer in baseball by three miles. (As a rule, baseball folks tend to regard paying huge money for a closer as inefficient; they work only an inning a game, and the difference between the best closer and a garden-variety one isn’t thought to be vast.)

So now I’m asking y’all: If there’s one Brave who should be locked up now, who is it? The poll below awaits.

63 comments
TreeRollins
TreeRollins

I left out one exception. Freddie Freeman. Jump on that Matt Ryan train with that boy and pay him anything he wants!

JayHey is the African American Jeff Franceour. Treat him accordingly and cut your losses there.

TreeRollins
TreeRollins

I prefer to see the major money spent with solid veterans like Uggla and BJ! Those young guys can't be counted upon. Wren knows what to do with this team's payroll. You fans on this blog don't have a clue.

Relax, we're all good here.

Bogey
Bogey

Save...Itself, you're right that one of the core 4 MAY develop into a #1, but there's no harm in having more than one. And Sale is a sure thing, especially at only $12m in 2019.

And as far as Heyward is concerned, he HAS been an all-star and a gold glover. Downside is he gets hurt too often and slumps enough that his numbers aren't strong. BUT, you gotta admit that when he's healthy and playing well the Braves win. Freeman and Simmons are better, but JHey is the catalyst.

Still, he will leave as a free agent, so trade him to realize value...I would just like to see the Braves find a way to get Sale and he could be the key.

SaveAmericaFromItself
SaveAmericaFromItself

"J-Hey will always be the straw that stirs the drink for Atlanta...."  - adarian652

If J-Hey is the "straw", that must be a pretty weak drink !

SaveAmericaFromItself
SaveAmericaFromItself

"Pitching: core 4 of Teheran, Medlin, Beachy & Minor ( and yes, those are in order) are all going to rate as 2's and 3's at their peak - need to keep all of them. But, we need an ace....more on that soon." - Bogey

Bogey, who's to say one or more of the four you mention doesn't develop into an ace, especially Teheran ? Look how long it took Smoltz & Glavine to develop into ace-quality pitchers.

Regarding Heyward, I say trade him after 2014 for at least a young centerfielder and secondbaseman, both preferably  with speed that can hit above .250. I'm leery of trading a young starting RFer for a starting pitcher

that will either falter or leave via free agency.

58Supersports
58Supersports

Rose up.-- Turner Field is like the snow storm - a bad time in Atlanta history.  Like putting a chicken in a Fox den.


652---J-Hey will always be the straw that stirs the drink for Atlanta....What a joke!  LOL! 

Bogey
Bogey

OK, here goes: can't just think about this year - have to look over next couple years.

Pitching: core 4 of Teheran, Medlin, Beachy & Minor ( and yes, those are in order) are all going to rate as 2's and 3's at their peak - need to keep all of them. But, we need an ace....more on that soon.

Bullpen: fantastic, until Kimbrel is gone (after 2014) after he's traded...and he has to be because the Braves won't afford him - won't get much but better than letting go for a sandwich pick. The big market teams will line up to get him. Future closers to chose from? Venters, JR Graham, Walden, Cabrera.

Position players: 3 core players they must keep...Freeman, Simmons and Bethancourt. J Upton, maybe ( if he plays too well he'll be too expensive). Heyward...nope. Hurt too much, #'s not great AND there is something not right between the Braves and Jason....no team goes to arbitration over $300K!! He'll leave in free agency when he can, and the big market teams WILL want him. Trade him now while he's got value before FA gets close.

Ace: Braves can't play with the big boys for aces so they have to go the trade route. Package up some combination of pitchers Graham, Cabrera, Hursh, Wood, Hale, along with Gattis to the White Sox for Chris Sale. Don't know what the ChiSox need, but we know it's a lot. They have said they would listen to offers.

IF the above can't work, then trade Heyward for Sale, and we'd likely have to include one of the above-mentioned minor leaguers. Sale is under a friendly contract thru 2019 - perfect for the Braves....but it will cost them. Still, a much better deal and better decision than the Tex deal (1 yr rental).

Flacons_go_2-14
Flacons_go_2-14

Who care? The fist thing the Barves need 2 do id 2 fire the loosing managar

SaveAmericaFromItself
SaveAmericaFromItself

As long as the Braves draw 2.3 - 2.5 million fans a season and make Liberty Media a comfortable profit for its stockholders, the Braves won't be sold anytime soon. I don't see some mega billionaire waiting in the wings to buy a small to mid-market franchise that has the worst TV deal in professional sports.

BRAVES2143
BRAVES2143

The 2 players the Braves should make priority one are Freeman & SImmons.  If Teheran continues to mature and shows improvement on last year then I would suggest making him an offer that takes him past his arbitration years too.  Evan Gattis would be a candidate for a long term deal too but because of his age he may only get one time to strike it rich with a big deal so waiting until free agency and putting yourself out on the open market may be in his future,  


The days of signing a closer long term may be a thing of the past with the exception of a few teams with unlimitied payroll.   Signing any pitcher long term is risky but a closer carries the additonal mental bagage and especially a guy like Kimbrel who throws so hard you have to figure a visit to Dr Andrews is on the horizon.   Also,  Buster Olney posted the other day an interesting tidbit of why it's in the Braves best interest to go to Arbitration with Kimbrel:


---"If Kimbrel wins his case and makes $9 million in 2014, then he will be well-positioned to ask for something in the range of $14 million-$15 million next year -- or, in other words, he could become the highest-paid reliever in baseball in his second year of arbitration eligibility. 

On the other hand, if the Braves win, then Kimbrel’s salary for 2015 could be closer to $10 million or $11 million, and Atlanta has a better chance to fit him within its limited budget. Even if the Braves assessed privately that Kimbrel may win his arbitration argument, it makes sense for them to roll the dice in his case in an effort to tamp down his salary, perhaps keep him longer, and augment his trade value. It even makes sense for them to bypass settlement talks, given what’s at stake. Agreeing to a new deal at the midpoint could diminish the time the Braves can retain Kimbrel."




GT71
GT71

The voting looks right - keep Simmons and Freeman for sure.

Kimbrel can be replaced and unless you are another Rivera, closers are good only for a short while.

BUT...the best thing would be to sell the whole franchise to a VERY wealthy individual and get this corp-ball crap outta here.  Then the Braves would be solid coming to Cobb where I'd go watch them many times per year.  No one in their right mind goes downtown to that horrible place called Turner Field.

SaveAmericaFromItself
SaveAmericaFromItself

"Getting to the playoffs is worthless if you can't win then. The braves are the Lucy to the Charlie Brown fan base in Atlanta....promising to hold the ball till the end , then always yanking it away when it really counts. All else is just blather" - ColdSplash

We are the NL East Division Champions ! This is the pinnacle of Atlanta sports; 93 wins in the worst division in the major leagues. Two starting players - Uggla & BJ, make ONE-THIRD of the team payroll and hit less than .190. The cornestone players currently on the roster - Freeman, Heyward, Simmons & Kimbrel, 3 of 4 won't be here when the new stadium opens in 2017. 

SaveAmericaFromItself
SaveAmericaFromItself

"but Heyward would be my  first pick on this short list then Upton , Simmons  , Teheran ." - adarian652

You'd rank Heyward & Justin Upton ahead of signing Freddie Freeman? I'm surprised Dan Uggla isn't on your list.

I like Heyward but he's not been the 5-tool player he was hyped up to be by Braves' management. I believe a huge year is about to happen but so is free  agency looms after 2015, and the Braves don't have the resources to retain his services for the long haul.

ColdSplash
ColdSplash

Rank all braves players by only their performance in September and October....1 - 25. Then pay the highest salaries from top to bottom, who cares what this franchise does in the reg season anymore. Getting to the playoffs is worthless if you can't win then. The braves are the Lucy to the Charlie Brown fan base in Atlanta....promising to hold the ball till the end , then always yanking it away when it really counts. All else is just blather...blah blah blah. Freddie Gonzalez is still a joke. Wren is an idiot, Scheurholz is a thief, and liberty media is a crime syndicate.

RandyBrittain
RandyBrittain

How can the young core of stars be fairly paid when the general manager has used one-third of the annual salary resources available ($30+ million of $90 million) to contract with the 2 worst performing players (Uggla and B.J. Upton) on the 25 man roster? 

There will never be enough resources for the talented players when management does that!


I wonder if that point will come up in the arbitration meetings where Wren wants to put the facts on the table.

59bulldawg
59bulldawg

There's not a day that goes by that I don't wish Liberty Media would go belly-up and be forced to sell the Braves to someone who cares about baseball and winning and not just a tax write off. I really despise those SOBs . . .

adarian652
adarian652

Jason Heyward  will always be the straw that stirs the drink in Atlanta. As Jason goes so does the Braves. Nothing against Freeman, as the votes say its he that the Braves should care most about but Heyward would be my  first pick on this short list then Upton , Simmons  , Teheran . The farm has great pitching.

RoseUp
RoseUp

Are they really going to demolish Turner Field? I'm still in shock over that. The baseball talk seems surreal. Another pro team is leaving the city. I just can't seem to make myself care anymore what they do now. The Braves were always #1 in my heart; but now, to me, they've fallen below the Falcons, Jackets and Hawks - the only teams left in Atlanta.

GwinnettDad1
GwinnettDad1

So far, all I really care about is how the Braves play in September.  September comes, and the Braves suck, and either miss the playoffs or get eliminated immediately.  Somebody do a record of how well the Braves have played in September since the Series win in 1995?  Wouldn't be surprised if it was well below .500.  It has to have been below .500 the last three years as well.  Letting McCann go may help the club, since he seemed to run out of gas.

NajehDavenpoop
NajehDavenpoop

Start with Simmons. His skill set makes him the least replaceable player in the "core". 

jeeperscrow
jeeperscrow

Falcon6---sorry won't help much to get  $15 million off the books for Uggla. McCann's money as well as Hudson's money both came off the books this offseason...well over $15 million, but it didn't allow the Braves to add anyone. As long as payroll stays around where it is the Braves will NOT be okay as they move into the future.

josephina
josephina

Freeman, Chris Johnson, Medlen, and Kimbrell would be my picks to lock up to longterm contracts. Heyward has not played up to all the hype about being the future leader of the Braves. He's ok but not worth big bucks. We can afford to wait a couple of years before getting Simmons and Gattis tied into a longterm contract.  All we can hope for out of Liberty Media is that they sell the team to someone willing to spend the big bucks.  Ted Turner are you listening?  Help us out here!  And we need to replace Frank Wren.....he's a dud.  Do not extend his contract!

ChefTimDix
ChefTimDix

I think its a pipe dream to think you can lock up any of them. Thirteen years from now this era of Braves Baseball will be referred to as the Expo years: Producers of great talent they could never afford to keep.

SaveAmericaFromItself
SaveAmericaFromItself

Frank Wren, 

When you field offers for Jason Heyward, be sure to get a centerfielder, second baseman and a stud relief prospect, all preferably under 25, the CF & 2B capable of hitting above .250 and stealing some bases as well.

Thank you.

SaveAmericaFromItself
SaveAmericaFromItself

Heyward is going to have a monster season in 2014, and Frank Wren had better be prepared to shop him before he takes off for the Bronx and Yankee pinstripes, the team of his childhood dreams..

Falcons63
Falcons63

The Braves will be fine.  Everyone acts as if the payroll is 30 million dollars.  Uggla's contract will be off the books in 2 seasons.  That's about 15 mil off the books right there.  I think that Freeman and Simmons are going to be cornerstones of the franchise.  Heyward... I'm just not so sure.  This is a huge season for him.  Enough of the injuries and inconsistency.  So far he's a good but not great player.  It's time to put up numbers that equal his talent.  If he doesn't.. I think he will be moved.  As far as Kimbrel, you ride his arm as long as you can, but for every Billy Wagner and Rivera there are a dozen Bobby Thigpens.  Chances are, the arm issues will pop up.  Ride him another year and he may well be moved depending upon the confidence in the farm system.

This is what most teams have to do.  Unless you are one of the top payroll teams then you face long term decisions that may effect the team short term.  You wish you could keep everyone, but it's just no longer the nature of the game.  I don't like it, but I don't think it dooms the franchise.

pbond3
pbond3

"........paying huge money for a closer as inefficient; they work only an inning a game,......."

   Not to mention they almost ALWAYS come in with the bases empty. The "save" stat is, by far, the most overrated stat in baseball, and maybe in all of the major sports. Look no further than last years elimination game vs. LA, when CK was left in the pen with the season on the line, because of some silly unwritten rule that you cant use him until the 9th. So let me get this straight.....the best arm (closer) can pitch only with bases empty, and when there is danger present (base runners) it has to be someone of lesser ability?

  Makes sense to me.

MikeJay
MikeJay

Heyward and Freeman.  Gamble you can get Simmons locked up later....right around when the new stadium opens. 


Freeman will be a Braves cornerstone.  So marketable. 

Heyward : Take away the hit In the face and appendix explosion and he would have had a good year. 

farberboy
farberboy

You can count on Wren doing an awful job no matter who the players are.  Most people in business could not survive the Uggla and BJ Upton disasters.  Wren has to thank his lucky stars that Liberty is a lax manager.

bratt771
bratt771

Just make Liberty sell the team.  As long as we are a tax write off this team will never be anything other then a minor league trading post for the serious playing teams.  I gave up on the braves 3 years ago.  They can't keep good talent and they can't sign good talent.  They only force bad trades for our great young players and get nothing in return.  And Wren is no JS.  He needs to go with the sale.

BobInSF
BobInSF

Relievers and closers in general are fungible assets; bring JR Graham up as a set-up guy, groom him for the closer's role, then trade Kimbrel after this season (or during if circumstances dictate)

GFJacket
GFJacket

Package deal to the Yankees - - Trade Kimbrel along with Uggla and BJ.  Yankees have to assume all salaries of BJ and Uggla.
  Braves accept whatever talent Yankees offer from their farm system, but ask for Gary Sanchez and Slade Heathcott (if only for his name).

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

"Heyward is too inconsistent", "Heyward has never". Geez, people, the kid is 24 and he was beat up medically and literally last year. You speak of him as if he's a veteran like Dan Uggla; he's an emerging young star.

58Supersports
58Supersports

Trade Kimbrel now while you can get 4 or 5  very good players for him.


Sign Freeman long term ASP then  Simmons. Freeman 1st because he will be gone in two years. Simmons next year to  long term deal when he  has four year to go.

JHey can go or be traded... can do better. We could get good  young outfielders for  Kimbrel etc..


Fire Wren....

Intruder
Intruder


Halley's Comet is arguably the most famous comet and returns to Earth's vicinity about every 75 years, making it possible for a human to see it twice in his or her lifetime, roughly equivalent to seeing the Braves win the World Series. No stars, no champions.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

I go with Freeman and Simmons, but just think if someone had Mariano Rivera at Kimbrell's age and didn't lock him up, the criticism they would get over the next 20 years would be incessant. 


Kimbrell may be another Rivera. 


DisgustedFan
DisgustedFan

Freeman and Simmons are the top two to lock up long term


As great as Kimbrel is -- and he is a special closer he will not be retained with the cheap ownership we have & Heyward is too inconsistent from yr to yr


You also have to lock in your best pitchers -- I am afraid they will only keep two out of the three of Minor, Teheran and Medlen.  And I do not see them keeping Beachey given his injury history. 


Heck, they might not keep anybody.


As for Uggla -- only 2 more yrs left on him and if he plays well I can see other teams inquiring about a trade assuming they don't have to give much


Under this ownership they all might not want to stay and explore better opportunities elsewhere.  Can't blame them. 


MikeS777
MikeS777

I would say sign Freeman, Kimbrel, Justin Upton, and Chris Johnson.  These are the guys producing that would be by far the hardest to replace.  Freeman, Upton, and Johnson (along with maybe Gattis) are the Braves most consistent bats by far.  Kimbrel has been one of if not the best closers in the game since day one.  Great closers are hard to come by, and the bullpen has already taken some losses in FA.


Heyward has never produced at a level enough to sign long term.  Beachy keeps getting injured, and the starting pitching is so deep the Braves haven't had any issues replacing anyone.  Simmons is great in the field but just doesn't hit well enough to be someone they can't do without.  


When you look at the overall young talent, it truly makes you shake your head about how cheap this ownership is.  Had they allowed Wren to go out and spend some money on proven veterans to bring in around these guys, the Braves would be an annual World Series contender without having to come near the price tag of the Red Sox, Phillies, Dodgers, Yankees, etc.  That's really the hardest part to understand.  They wouldn't have to go far above $100 million on the payroll if at all...say $120 million at the extreme.

AABraves
AABraves

If the wheels start to fall off early I would trade Kimbrel and Heyward. Agree with locking Simmons up and the starting pitching if you can. Trading Oso Blanco dude to AL club would work too. I would try to rebuild a younger better core of players in time for the new ballpark.

FineousMcDirtyBird
FineousMcDirtyBird

Freeman and Kimbrel. I understand the philosophy about not paying out to closers. But it really only makes sense if you invest that savings in an everyday impact player. That's not what's going to happen. Wren will turn that money around and sign some low impact role players or pocket the money for corporate. I'd rather do what good teams do, which is keep their bonifide homegrown stars.

Speaking of stars, Heyward isn't one. How much should we pay for a corner outfield who's career batting average is under .260, has never hit 30 HRs in a season, has never driven in over 100 RBIs in a season, isn't a base stealing threat, has never scored 100 runs in a season, has struck out over 100 times in a season twice, and has chronic health issues. Nothing. A good team would get a better corner outfielder.

Problem is, the Braves are not a good team. Competitive? Sure, but they are not built for, or capable of, a championship run. MB, JS, and DOB do a good job of twisting themselves in knots trying to claim otherwise but it's been painfully obvious for years that this organization is not interested in doing what it takes to bring another championship to this city. In other words, we trade Kimbrel for nothing and keep Heyward until he has virtually no value (a la Hansen, Jurgens), which is not far from the case now.

FarTrain
FarTrain

@59bulldawg   Agree, two things have to happen before things will be any different for the Braves.  Liberty Media has to go and Fredi Gonzalez too.

Donald_01
Donald_01

@RoseUp Turner Field - Nice Part - Terrible Location in a bad part of town.  Every business anywhere around the ball park has bars on the windows and one does not feel at ease walking to and from ones car unless there are crowds.  Everything they tried to set up there to compliment Turner field has failed quickly. 

pbond3
pbond3

@RafeHollister

    Wouldn't matter if Kimbrel is another Rivera (and I agree he may well be). If Rivera is so valuable, how did the Yankees make the playoffs in 2012 when Rivera never threw one pitch? How did the Giants win the Series the same year when their closer, Brian Wilson, never pitched after April?

DisgustedFan
DisgustedFan

@RafeHollister


But the ownership that Rivera was under cared about the winning product


This ownership that Kimbrell is under cares about asset value, cutting costs and legal tax avoidance. 

Donald_01
Donald_01

@MikeS777 Simmons "doesn't hit well enough to be someone they can't do without." Dude what are you smoking - Simmons is that once in a life time short stop that WILL make a difference by his glove alone.  You take his defense away from last year's team and ALL of the pitchers ERAs go up considerably.  You cannot undersell his value in the field.

DisgustedFan
DisgustedFan

@MikeS777


They really are a contender in spite of ownership


The post season breaks have not gone their way but they were good enough to get to the series since 2010.  They do choke in post season every yr

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  1. […] to arbitration after all. This is a major development for the Braves, who are trying to find ways to placate their gifted young core, which is getting older — and therefore more expensive — by the day. This contract runs […]