We’ll spend some time over the next couple of weeks unpacking the various deals the Braves made in the offseason, but let’s start with some big picture analysis. First we see the salaries of the opening day roster last April, 2014. Keep in mind that salaries reported on various websites like baseballreference.com and baseball prospectus are estimates, due to issues like the Giants paying Dan Uggla for the last couple of months, etc. Only the Braves know for sure what they paid, but these should be roughly accurate.
Here is the same graph for today’s roster:
Obviously, there were lots of moving parts to the various moves the Braves made, but a few impressions can be made:
1) The Braves shed a lot of players who were being overpaid. Justin Upton never matched his 2011 6.1 WAR season, and has been a 2.5-3 WAR player ever since. That means he should be worth about 9-10 million a year (given the normal rough estimate of $3 million per WAR), but we was being paid much more. Melvin (formerly B.J.) Upton was being paid $15 million a year to be a minor-league level player. The Braves had to send along the best closer in the game (at 27 years old) just to get the Padres to take his money. Ervin Santana was an emergency signing to deal with injuries last spring, and his $14 milion salary brought only 1.2 WAR. Along with the Dan Uggla boondoggle, we see that the current Braves leadership is sacrificing to fix serious errors made by the previous General Manager. The Braves were in a desperate “win now” mode, which resulted in a 79-83 record last season. Clearly some housekeeping was necessary.
2) This graph doesn’t show future years, such as Heyward and Justin Upton being in the last year of a contract that will likely bring them a raise. It also doesn’t show Freeman’s contract, which will increase every year until it reaches the $20 million annual range in a couple of years. Yes, 2015 is the last season of the Uggla contract.
3) The Braves kept all of their home-grown starting pitchers, and acquired apparently high quality arms in return. Except for possible exception of Minor (who has been great, but injury-prone), this group will likely continue to be bargains.