December 11, 2010 at 6:42 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves
With the 2011 roster mostly constructed, the Braves can spend the rest of the offseason planning for the future.
First, a bit on the 2011 roster. Right now the Braves are about $1.4 million over budget with 2 league minimum players filling out the bench (Schafer/Young and Hernandez/one of those 6-year FA’s) assuming an $88 million payroll. This will change once Kenshin Kawakami is dealt. Early in the offseason it was reported that a Japanese club would be willing to provide the Braves with $3 million in salary relief for Kawakami’s rights. Unfortunately MLB contracts aren’t transferable to NPB, so the Braves can’t simply trade Kawakami to a Japanese team. If Kawakami is going to play in Japan next year he’ll have to agree to a contract with a NPB team after his rights are sold, and word is he wants to stay in the United States (thus he won’t agree to a contract with a NPB team). So the Kawakami-to-Japan thing is all but dead and the Braves are going to have to find a stateside trading partner.
I don’t blame Kawakami for wanting to stay in the U.S., he’s perfectly capable of contributing to a MLB team. The Braves have only themselves to blame for the position they’re in with Kawakami. In 2010 he pitched as well as he did in 2009, posting a nearly identical FIP, xFIP, bbFIP, and SIERA both years. Yet his ERA was a run and a third higher due to things he can’t control–defense and sequencing. The Braves should have recognized the quality of his performance was the same and given him an opportunity to rebound a bit. Instead he was exiled to the bullpen and threw 109 total pitches during the season’s final three months. As a result of this irresponsible lack of use Kris Medlen is on the shelf for most of 2011 and the Braves are going to have to eat somewhere between $3 and $6 million of Kawakami’s 2011 salary ($6.67 million) and receive next to nothing in return for a slightly below-average starter. Not to mention the fact that the Braves are going to have a tough time luring other Japanese players in the future, don’t think for one second all of Japan didn’t notice Atlanta’s mistreatment of Kawakami. It was penny wise and pound foolish. The Braves are undoubtedly kicking themselves right now. I only hope they’re kicking themselves for the correct reason: not signing Kawakami to a 3-year, $23 million contract, but squandering an asset. That’s called strip-mining, and it’s how good organizations turn into awful ones. This situation won’t itself ruin the Braves, but the way it was managed is quite frightening.
Back to the roster, here’s what it looks like:
Note: the roster spots occupied by Schafer and Hernandez indicate spring training battles rather than guaranteed spots.
Since Kenshin Kawakami is all but certainly staying in the U.S., I have no idea how much the Braves will have left to spend. In that light, I would be mentally prepared for them to basically break camp with the above 25 on the active roster. There’s nothing wrong with that roster, though another $2 million to acquire a better 4th OF and reserve INF would be very nice.
I’m assuming the Braves will at least discuss locking up some of their players this offseason. Dan Uggla gets talked about a lot because he’s a free agent after 2011, but I would offer a bit of unsolicited advice on that front: DON’T DO IT YET!
From ESPN Stats & Info Blog:
There is one indicator that shows that Uggla’s streak of four straight 30-homer seasons may come to an end in Atlanta.
The right-handed hitting Uggla is a pull power hitter, with all but three of his home runs in 2010 traveling to left field or left center. Since 2006, Uggla has hit 154 home runs, with 114 hit to left field or left center at an average distance of 392 feet, according to HitTrackerOnline.
Uggla’s average home run distance to left or left center dropped in 2010 to 385 feet.
Why is a seven-foot drop significant for Uggla?
Turner Field, Uggla’s new home ballpark, is slightly less friendly to right-handed hitters than Sun Life Stadium (according to the Park Factors available in the Bill James Baseball Handbook).
Also, Turner had an average home run distance of 399 feet to left and left center in 2010, and 400 feet dating back to 2006.
This could suggest that Uggla will have “warning-track power” in Atlanta. Using data from Hittrackeronline.com, we can estimate that of Uggla’s 13 home runs in Florida last season, only eight would have been home runs at Turner Field.
There may be nothing to see here, just a little bit of variance. This may be a sign of a real decline, though, and in that light waiting to see what Uggla’s got would be the smart thing to do. Keith Law also offers: “Uggla’s not a player I want to lock up into his mid-30s”.
Next offseason the Braves will have to find a shortstop, center fielder, and possibly a third baseman or left fielder. If Chipper does retire, retaining Uggla and moving Prado to 3B makes a lot of sense. If Chipper does not retire, I’m not sure retaining Uggla and using Prado in LF is an efficient allocation of resources, considering their payroll and needs.
Other than Uggla, there are five logical candidates to receive contract extensions. Two of them you can pretty much immediately throw out due to their representation (Scott Boras)–Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens. This leaves Jason Heyward, Martin Prado and Brian McCann. Heyward is five years away from free agency and hasn’t been fully healthy for a single professional season. Despite his freakish talent, this is one I’d wait on. Brian McCann and Martin Prado are both scheduled to hit free agency after the 2013 season (assuming Brian McCann’s no-brainer-of-a-$12 million 2013 club option is exercised). Despite their different service time situations, Prado and McCann are the same age! 2014 will be their age 30 seasons, so locking them up for more than two or three years beyond their current deals would probably be a mistake, but at least exploring an extension with both player is appropriate. I’d offer McCann 2-years, $30 million with a $17 million club option for 2016 ($2 million buyout) and Prado a 5-year, $35 million contract and see if either sticks.
Beyond that, the Braves have a crappy draft position next year (28th overall) and didn’t net any picks from departing free agents, so if they’re inclined to add some talent to their system (and they absolutely should be) now would be a good time to go after some of the July 2 leftovers. Cory Harrilchak is currently their best OF prospect, so pursuing some international OF prospects would be very wise, if not downright imperative.