The Atlanta Braves have made a lot of moves to lock up their core of young players for years to come. The future is now for Atlanta as they have signed 1st baseman Freddie Freeman, shortstop Andrelton Simmons, closer Craig Kimbrel, and starting pitcher Julio Teheran to multi-year deals.
Freeman received an 8-year deal at $135 million. Simmons just signed a contract for 7 years and $58 million. Kimbrel inked a deal at 4 years and $42 million, and Teheran signing for 6 years and $32.4 million. In addition to those long deals, outfielder Jason Heyward also signed an extension for 2 years and $13.3 million.
All of these moves indicate the focus of Atlanta to keep their players together for more than just a season or two. Rather than target big name free agents, Atlanta has developed a nucleus of stars that led them to the team’s first divisional title since 2005. The Braves might have learned their lesson as well when B.J. Upton failed miserably to live up to expectations last season after he was heralded as a key free agent signing. He is in the 2nd year of a 5-year, $75.25 million contract that has looked like a bust so far.
Atlanta is slated at $93 million in player salaries for 2014 not including signing bonuses and possible incentives. They have usually been a middle of the pack team in terms of budget for salaries, and the deals they have given out will not be as big of an impact until down the road.
This season, Kimbrel will make $7 million, Freeman will make $5.125 million, Simmons will receive $1 million, and Teheran will “only” get $800,000.
The payroll could be reduced if Atlanta is able to find a suitor for 2nd baseman Dan Uggla who struggled down the stretch at the end of last season. He has two years left on his contract and is scheduled to make $13 million this season and next season. There were rumors about sending him to Cincinnati, but that seems unlikely with the Reds having Brandon Phillips still on the roster.
Part of the money used to give all the young players extensions came from the void left by Brian McCann’s contract after he left to sign with the New York Yankees. Evan Gattis could prove to be just as good a hitter as McCann at a greatly reduced price and making the team better in the long run.
The great run in the 90’s and early 2000’s included a core of players including Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, and Chipper Jones. The current team may not have the pitching dominance it did back then, but the offense is much better and should only improve as they enter the prime of their careers during the length of the contracts they just signed. There could be a lot of tomahawk chopping going on in late October and early November the next few seasons.