Why the Braves Won’t Pursue Correa, Turner, Bogaerts

The Braves have had extra success in extending younger, core gamers than any staff in current reminiscence, however for a second straight offseason they’re going through the potential departure of a longtime common who’s helped to anchor the infield. Dansby Swansonlike Freddie Freeman earlier than him, reached the open market with out signing an extension, has rejected a qualifying supply and is now free to discipline curiosity from the recreation’s different 29 groups.

Atlanta reportedly provided Swanson an extension in the neighborhood of $100MM sooner or later over the course of the season, however the widespread expectation is for him to outpace that assure by a snug margin. (MLBTR predicted a seven-year, $154MM contract on final week’s Top 50 free agent record.) One of the greatest questions on the minds of Braves followers is simply what the staff will do at shortstop. Can Swanson be retained? And, if not, the place does the staff flip? The market provides a trio of high-end alternate options in the type of Trea Turner, Carlos Correa and Xander Bogaerts.

As Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic experiences, nonetheless, it is unlikely that the Braves will make a legit play to signal any of the large free-agent shortstops apart from Swanson. President of baseball ops Alex Anthopoulos went out of his solution to point out Vaughn Grissom and Orlando Arcia as in-house alternate options eventually week’s GM Meetings, and Rosenthal provides that the Braves are typically reluctant so as to add a significant wage that “takes up too excessive a share of their payroll” — together with oft-speculated match Jacob deGrom.

Braves followers had been understandably heartened by CEO Terry McGuirk’s feedback about Atlanta rising to have one in every of the recreation’s 5 largest payrolls, however what McGuirk did not stress was simply how shut the Braves already are to reaching that territory earlier than making a single addition. Last month at MLBTR, I identified that for the Braves to make even one high-priced acquisition, they’d have to exceed the luxury-tax threshold; making a pair of big-name additions — or signing one premier free agent and, say, extending Max Fried — may shatter the threshold and ship the staff barreling into not less than the second tier of luxurious penalization.

As issues presently stand, Roster Resource’s Jason Martinez initiatives the Braves to be lower than $5MM away from tier one in every of the luxurious tax. They’d be a first-time luxurious payor, so the penalty on the first $20MM by which they cross that threshold would “solely” be 20%. The penalty on the subsequent $20MM would soar to a 32% tax.

We’ll get again to the shortstop quandary, nevertheless it’s price digressing and taking a deeper have a look at simply what the luxurious tax realities may appear to be for the Braves.

To put this into extra particular context, we are able to use deGrom for instance. Many consider that the four-time All-Star and two-time Cy Young winner may safe a mean annual worth of $40MM or extra this winter. A $40MM AAV on deGrom would push the Braves’ luxury-tax invoice up into the $268MM vary — an overage of roughly $35MM. The 20% tax on that first $20MM would come out to $4MM, and the 32% tax they’d be paying on the subsequent $15MM can be one other $4.8MM. So to signal deGrom for a $40MM AAV, the Braves would successfully must be prepared to pay $48.8MM in complete — not less than for the upcoming season. With Justin Verlander looking for a deal corresponding to that of Max Scherzerthis will all be utilized to him as effectively.

It’s an identical, however not fairly so excessive case with Swanson. Using the $22MM AAV on MLBTR’s predicted contract for instance, Swanson would push the Braves a bit greater than $17MM over the luxurious tax on his personal. That’d make our predicted $22MM AAV extra akin to paying $25.4MM this season. And, after all, signing Swanson at that fee would imply that any subsequent wage additions of notice would then push the Braves into the second tier of penalty, subjecting them to the identical 32% fee talked about in the deGrom instance.

The different wrinkle is that any such signing would additional trigger the staff’s luxurious invoice to balloon in future seasons. The Braves have already got about $135MM of luxurious obligations on their 2024 payroll, two years down the street, and that does not embody potential membership choice pickups for veterans like Charlie Morton, Kirby Yates and Collin McHugh — who does it embody arbitration salaries for Fried, AJ Minter and Kyle Wright. Paying the luxurious tax for consecutive seasons would trigger these charges of penalization to additionally improve (30% in tier one, 42% in tier two, and so on.).

Certainly, there are methods for the Braves to decrease their present luxurious tab and supply additional respiration room, though the path to doing so just isn’t a simple one. There’s little hope of discovering a staff prepared to cowl even a small portion of the $36MM nonetheless owed to Marcell Ozuna by way of 2024. Atlanta would most likely welcome the alternative to shed the $9MM owed to Eddie Rosario in 2023, however that is additionally far simpler stated than finished after he hit .212/.259/.328 in the first season of a two-year, $18MM contract. One current supply of Twitter hypothesis amongst followers — a doable commerce of Ronald Acuna Jr. —is not one thing the Braves are contemplating, per Rosenthal.

Lengthy digression apart, let’s get again to the shortstop query. If, as Rosenthal suggests, the staff is more likely to be “out of the image” for any of Correa, Turner or Bogaerts in the occasion of a Swanson departure, what may that imply for his or her 2023 outlook at shortstop?

Grissom and Arcia are in-house candidates, as alluded to by Anthopoulos, however Grissom’s bat wilted after a torrid begin to his rookie season in 2022. He nonetheless completed with a terrific .291/.353/.440 batting line in 156 plate appearances. , however Grissom slashed .420/.463/.660 in his first 54 plate appearances and simply .220/.294/.319 over his ultimate 102 journeys to the plate. He additionally skipped Triple-A fully on his solution to the Majors, and scouting opinions on his long-term outlook at shortstop range. Arcia, as soon as one in every of the recreation’s top-ranked prospects, was a roughly league-average hitter in a part-time position final yr however carries a .233/.288/.356 slash (70 wRC+) over the previous 5 years.

The free-agent market has some modest stopgaps who may assist ease Grissom into the full-time position at shortstop. Elvis Andrus was launched by the A’s over the summer time, however that was extra about stopping his 2023 vesting choice from kicking in than about his play. He had a robust end after signing with the White Sox and hit a mixed .249/.303/.404 with 17 homers and 18 steals between the two golf equipment. Jose Iglesias retains hitting for common and barely hanging out — .291/.325/.408, 13.1% strikeout fee since 2019 — however defensive metrics have soured on the soon-to-be 33-year-old over the previous two seasons. Old buddy Andrelton Simmons is a free agent, too, however he is batted simply .216/.277/.261 in 536 plate appearances since Opening Day 2021.

None of these free-agent choices are going to encourage Braves followers a lot — save for the doable nostalgia of a Simmons reunion — however they spotlight the proven fact that it is a skinny crop past the “Big Four.” The commerce market, then, might be a extra palatable method for Anthopoulos to discover. Cleveland’s Amed Rosario is a transparent commerce candidate with only a yr to go earlier than free company and a mounting (by the Guardians’ requirements) price ticket. He’s projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $9MM subsequent yr, and a low-payroll Guardians membership that is deep in MLB-ready center infield prospects may look to money in on the 27-year-old, as I lately explored at better size .

The Yankees determine to be open to shifting on from Isiah Kiner-Falefa now that Oswald Peraza is prepared for a glance in the Majors. The Reds would possible be open to dealing Kyle Farmer, with whom Anthopoulos is unquestionably acquainted courting again to his Dodgers days. Arizona’s Nick Ahmed and St. Louis’ Paul DeJong even veteran alternate options who might be had for pennies on the greenback, as the D-backs and Cardinals would certainly welcome the likelihood to simply shed a few of the respective $10MM and $11MM remaining on their contracts. Both are buy-low choices, at finest, coming off poor showings in current seasons. Any of Kevin Newman (Pirates), Nicky Lopez (Royals) or the oft-injured Adalberto Mondesi (Royals) may possible be had in a deal, however every has some apparent purple flags.

To be clear, there isn’t any indication that the Braves plan to easily stand pat this winter. A reunion with Swanson stays eminently believable, even when earlier extension makes an attempt along with his representatives — the identical brokers who signify Freeman, for what it is price — have but to bear fruit. It’d push the Braves into luxurious territory for the first time in franchise historical past, however primarily based on McGuirk’s feedback a few potential top-five payroll membership, that is one thing on which the entrance workplace could have a inexperienced mild, not less than with regard to Swanson .

What does appear far much less possible is a lavish spending spree that sees the Braves make a number of marquee splashes on the free-agent market. If Swanson does signal elsewhere, it is the bulk of the Braves’ heavy lifting that will very effectively come by way of the commerce market and the center tiers of the free-agent market.

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