April 6, 2010 at 1:54 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves
The Braves are currently in the midst of a mini-wave of young talent graduating their farm system and filling needs for the big club. One such player, Brian McCann, signed a long term contract in 2007 and another pre-FA player, Nate McLouth, is locked up through 2011 via a contract he signed with Pittsburgh less than four months before being traded to Atlanta. The rest of the players yet to be eligible for free agency are without a contract–year-to-year. Seventy five per cent of the 40-man roster is comprised of zero-to-six year players (this doesn’t include international free agents Takashi Saito and Kenshin Kawakami), among them and most prominently, Melky Cabrera, Matt Diaz, Peter Moylan, Jair Jurrjens, Yunel Escobar, Martin Prado, Tommy Hanson, Jason Heyward, Kris Medlen, and Jordan Schafer.
Locking up young players long term is something every organization spends much time discussing and attempting under appropriate circumstances. The rest of this article is a mini-primer on the circumstances surrounding the ten players I most recently named and what to expect if the Braves do, in fact, attempt to lock them up.
Melky Cabrera – As it stands, Melky Cabrera is under team control through 2012 as an arbitration-eligible player. Melky is owed $3.1 million in 2010 (a $1.7 million raise from his first arbitration salary) and can expect a similar raise through the life of his contract, should his team elect to tender him. Right now, there’s not really enough evidence he’s going to be worth his contract, which makes him closer to non-tender bait than an extension candidate. This could change if Melky improves this season, and who knows if he will or not.
Matt Diaz – Matt Diaz is a free agent after the 2011 season. T here isn’t a whole lot to gain by locking him up. He’s not an elite player and seems to prefer the Braves, anyway. If the Braves want him around, I imagine they’ll have him around.
Peter Moylan – Peter Moylan, like Melky Cabrera, is under team control as an arbitration-eligible player through 2012. He’s a relief pitcher (read: his impact is limited), he’s 31 years old, and he spent nearly all of 2008 on the disabled list. Moylan is an extremely useful reliever, but I’m just not much for committing money to relievers that I don’t have to. The money the Braves could potentially save over the next two years isn’t going to change much, and neither would the money it would cost if Moylan blew his elbow out the day after signing a two-year extension. I find it hard to argue it’s worth the risk, though.
Jair Jurrjens – Jair Jurrjens is under team control through 2013, arbitration-eligible starting in 2011. His agent, Scott Boras, will likely quash any notion of extending Jurrjens beyond 2013, seeing as Boras prefers for his clients to test free agency as soon as they’re eligible. Considering the naturally high attrition rate of pitchers and the limited impact a long term deal can have if it doesn’t extend a player’s contract, I can’t really see a scenario in which locking up Jurrjens is a particularly good idea. Not that I don’t love Jurrjens, but you’ve got to pick your battles. If Scott Boras won’t have anything beyond 2013, the risk probably outweighs the potential reward.
Yunel Escobar – This is the one I’m most adamant about. Escobar has a special glove and does a lot of things well, offensively–including getting on base and hitting for average. Escobar is under the same contractual terms as Jair Jurrjens, but he isn’t represented by Scott Boras (read: the Braves have a shot at extending Escobar beyond 2013, something they should do if they have the opportunity) and he’s a position player, rather than a pitcher, making him a better bet to not suffer a career-ending injury. Something like 3 years, $26 million ($5 M in 2011, $7 M in 2012, $12 M in 2013, $14 M club option w/ $1 M buyout in 2014 and 2015) seems fair. Escobar is in his last year of making league minimum, and the Braves should be in a hurry to get something done.
Martin Prado – I’d like to see Prado play a bit more before I decide whether he’s worthy of a contract extension, but so far he’s been pretty impressive and extending him is something to think about. There aren’t a whole lot of middle infield prospects in the system, especially second basemen (the best second baseman in the system is probably Travis Jones or maybe Mycal Jones. Brandon Hicks and Edward Salcedo will probably play somewhere on the left side of the infield if they ever get to MLB. It’s a pretty sad position) and if the Braves are convinced Prado can stick around as an above-average second basemen for a few more years, they should probably go ahead and try to extend him. 3 years, $20 million ($4 M in 2011, $6 M in 2012, $8 M in 2013, 2 $10 M club options w/ $1 M buyout) sounds like a pretty good deal for both sides to me.
Tommy Hanson – He’s the best pitcher on the staff, but there’s no reason to commit money to a pitcher three full years away from seeing his first significant pay raise. This conversation is more appropriate in 2012 than 2010.
Jason Heyward – If he’s willing to do the Evan Longoria deal, yeah, you go ahead and do it. My suspicion is he won’t be too inclined to leave upwards of $40 million on the table and, thus, won’t be too interested in the Longoria deal. It would probably take a lot more (something like the Justin Upton deal), and if you’re going to commit a lot more, you might as well wait and see how it’s going to work out. Might as well not commit $50 million before you have to.
Kris Medlen – See Hanson, Thomas.
Jordan Schafer – How about playing a full season before we start talking about an extension. Not that I won’t embrace it later, but he needs to show some more things before the Braves commit multi-millions of dollars to him.