Looking Ahead at the Braves’ 2023 Payroll

The Atlanta Braves are trying to chase down the rival New York Mets for the NL East crown. They’re in a dogfight with the talented San Diego Padres and surging Philadelphia Phillies for playoff positioning, with the Brewers nipping at everyone’s heels. Young talent is cropping up all over the field for the Braves.

So that means there’s only one thing I should be thinking about: Next season.

Yes, it’s a sickness, and I can’t explain it. About this time every year, something happens, and I’m prompted to think about the following season’s payroll and what could be available for additions.

As the Braves have become further removed from the rebuilding years, these numbers become more concrete. In fact, we either know or could easily guess the salaries for 21 or so of the 26 roster spots for next season.

That includes the following known salaries:

  • Travis d’Arnaud – $8M
  • Matt Olson – $21M
  • Ozzie Albies – $7M
  • Austin Riley – $15M
  • Ronald Acuña Jr. – $17M
  • Eddie Rosario – $9M
  • Raisel Iglesias – $16M
  • Collin McHugh – $5M
  • Kirby Yates – $6M
  • Orlando Arcia – $1.3M
  • Manny Piña – $4.5M

Now, there are also several pre-arb guys – William Contreras, Michael Harris II, Spencer Strider, Kyle Wright, Dylan Lee and Jackson Stephens – who I assume will have roles on Opening Day next Year. They total about $4.2M, and we can also add in Jake Odorizzi’s $6.5M player option, most likely. Further I’m guessing about $10M for Max Fried in arbitration, $3M for A.J. Minter and $2.5M for Tyler Matzek.

If my math is correct, that has the team at $136M just off those players.

That also assumes a couple pretty big things. The first is that the Braves don’t pick up Charlie Morton’s $20M option. Now, Morton is having his worst ERA and WHIP seasons in six or seven years, so either the Braves not picking up his option or Charlie choosing to retire seem to be likely outcomes. But if he wants to play, I also don’t think we can entirely rule out the Braves picking up that option. Still, I’m not going to include that money for now.

The above total also doesn’t include Marcell Ozuna’s $16M. We’ve heard rumors that the Braves nearly traded Ozuna to the Marlins at this year’s trade deadline, but in return they would’ve received Avisail Garcia, who is owed $12M next year – and two more seasons after that with a $5M buyout on another season. So I think it’s safe to assume that the Braves will either be paying Ozuna or someone of similar monetary value next season.

That brings the total to $152M with five spots left to fill.

For now, I’ve identified those spots at shortstop, designated hitter, starting pitcher, relief pitcher and bench. Now, it’s certainly possible that the recently-debuting Vaughn Grissom could continue his scorching start. If that’s the case, he could slot into that “designated hitter” role by spelling various players around the field and allowing them to DH. He’s logged time at second base, shortstop and third base in the minors, and it’s reasonable to think he could be a serviceable left fielder, especially with an offseason to prepare. He could also be the shortstop of the future and just take that role.

That would certainly save the Braves a lot of money. The top four potential free agent shortstops – Trea Turner, Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts and current Brave Dansby Swanson – are all among the top eight overall free agents in most rankings. Any of those options would cost $20M or more, easily. To satisfy Braves’ fans dreams, let’s assume they land one of those four and generously slide that $20M into the mix.

That brings our total to $173M with both Grissom and [Insert your chosen shortstop here).

That leaves the Braves with a slot to fill at starting pitcher. If they pick up Morton’s option, that’s another $20M, the payroll is $192M, and the rotation is complete with Fried, Wright, Morton, Strider and Odorizzi (yes, it’s strange not to have Ian Anderson in this mix, but we’re coping). If not, Atlanta could again turn to Anderson or another of the prospects for about $700K. I would expect the Braves to sign another veteran, though, so I’ll again be generous and just put $17M in that spot.

With that wacky and arbitrary bit of math, we’re at $190M, and we only have to really fill a relief spot and a bench spot. If you lost track, my three bench pieces are d’Arnaud/Contreras/Grissom (whichever man of this mix isn’t starting at catcher or DH that day), Piña and Arcia. I think it’s safe to assume since that reliever won’t be a high-leverage guy, those two spots can easily be filled for $5M.

So with that, we’ve filled out the entire 2023 roster for $195M, which doesn’t go way over the $182M that’s currently on the books for 2022 and would get close to the “top 5 payroll” commentary we’ve heard recently. But it also doesn’t allow for the team to go crazy on shortstop spending, and it doesn’t allow the team to land a Jacob deGrom type for the rotation. It also assumes that the Braves don’t agree to some sort of contract with Fried that pays him more than $10M, and it pretty much leaves Mike Soroka out of the picture.

With all that, we can take away a couple of things. The Braves are going to spend well over league average in 2023 because they have to. Just with the money already on the books for 2023, they’ll be over the 2022 league average of $148M, and that’s with several key spots unfilled. But we should also temper expectations. This roster is going to be very expensive just to run it back with Swanson and Morton, so landing the combination of deGrom and Turner is likely a pipe dream.

Hopefully, we’ll be dreaming those pipe dreams with a second consecutive ring, though.

38 thoughts on “Looking Ahead at the Braves’ 2023 Payroll”

  1. Letting Fried pitch several innings with a likely concussion the other night was potentially not so great an idea.

  2. Thanks, Jeremy. All makes sense to me. Only, I don’t think the Braves need to sign another veteran starter. Don’t think it will be necessary with Soroka, Anderson and Muller in the mix for next season. They all (assuming Soroka can pitch again) at least can easily fill that back-end of the rotation role.

  3. I think Odorizzi can be a solid 4th or 5th starter and that’s all we need with Fried, Wright, Strider, and 1 of Soroka, Muller, or Anderson. Of course he has to do well over the next few months.

    I’m a little surprised that Odorizzi is not valued higher than he is. Over 11 years in the AL, he has a 3.94 career ERA and an ERA+ of 104 – not overly special, but not bad for a 4th/5th starter. Otoh, Drew Smyly has a career ERA of 4.14 with an ERA+ of 101. Smyly has been injured throughout his career, missed two entire seasons and is 33, while Odorizzi is 32. We signed Smyly when he was 31 for 11 million. I know Braves scouts saw something that made them think he had turned it around, but in that light, Jake’s 2023 $6.5 million option looks like a bargain.

  4. Grissom might actually be a strong play at shortstop, for the monetary commitment especially. If Swanson walks, that opens the door for a LF/DH bat or sticking with Ozuna (I know, I know) if the options via trade aren’t enticing enough. If Swanson stays, he’ll be expensive so that likely closes that door, and Grissom may start at AAA. Braves FO are famously close-lipped about it all, so I honestly don’t know where payroll will go. But this is the decade to spend while this roster is so loaded, so I’m expecting it to trickle upward.

    As for pitching: I figure Odorizzi could decline his option if he has a stellar finish this season to warrant seeking more on the market, although I think he’s potentially a solid veteran starter as well. Too many questions at the bottom of the rotation without Morton, so I figure Braves will go for one more established starter, though perhaps not as expensive as Morton’s $20M.

  5. I think we need at least one more top-shelf pitcher. If a deal with Swanson hasn’t been worked out by now, I’d take that as a sign that the front office is weighing his value against a #1 starter, and I think the need for a starter might prevail.

    To be fair, the Braves are making money hand over fist, so the “why not both?” outcome seems perfectly fine as well.

  6. Has Swanson cooled off? His overall line is still pretty good, but it seems like he hasn’t done much since July 1.

  7. That’s pretty spot on: since July 1, he’s hitting .297/.338/.426, which is just a little better than his career line of .256/.323/.417.

    His otherworldly May and June (.318/.375/.528) are already in the bank, though, and they guarantee that whatever he does the rest of the year, this will be the best year of his career. On the “it ain’t my money” principle, I sure hope they pay him.

  8. If Morton comes on strong the next month and a half and pitches as he did last year–which is entirely possible–I’ll bet the Braves exercise his option, and he is the veteran starter they sign. OTOH, Charlie may be in decline and if he struggles the rest of the way this year, I imagine he will call it quits. He seems like a guy who can be hard on himself when he doesn’t perform up to his expectations. I don’t think he’ll want to stick around as a back-end starter.

    Morton’s option is expensive, but a true #1 starter like deGrom is likely to cost upwards of 40 million/year, and I can’t see them going that far.

  9. DeGrom’s health scares me witless. I have no problem whatsoever with spending someone else’s money, but I’d rather go after Chris Bassitt.

  10. Instead of correcting the article, I’m just going to discuss it here (with Jeremy’s permission, of course). Odorizzi’s contract came with a crazy amount of incentives and apparently his final incentive has already been activated, which means that his player option has been maxed out and it’s for $12.5MM with a $6.25MM buyout. Word on the street from one of his friends is that he will likely take the buyout because he thinks he can get his last multi-year deal with an AAV of $12-14MM/year.

  11. Having Kirby Yates pitch to his first MLB batters in two years in the eighth inning of a two-run game was certainly a choice.

  12. Snitker.. puts a guy in a 2 run game in 8th that has had 1 inning in majors in 2 yrs .. brilliant

  13. When can we give $200 million to Michael Harris II? Is tomorrow good for everybody?

  14. Please keep telling me how great Jansen’s control is. I swear he issues a walk every outing he has

  15. He had absolutely no idea whatsoever where the ball was going. None. But at least he didn’t give up a homer!

  16. I think it’s no coincidence that Ozuna bats seventh and any rally happens either before or after his spot in the order. Where would we be without the rookies. I love these kids.

    What if Dansby doesn’t sign and we end up with Ozzie at SS and Grissom at 2B (or vice versa)?

  17. MH2! Nice win. Muller starting today, excited to see him back. Wright apparently experiencing arm fatigue.

  18. Rumor has it the Braves are putting Wright on the IL and Darius Vines, who was to make his AAA debut last night, will be the 3rd player this year to play for the Braves with no AAA experience. There’ll have to be a 40-man move.

  19. Arm fatigue. I guess they could still IL Wright if he’s not ready to make his next start, but Jay Jackson was sent down to make room for Muller.

  20. Has anyone been to Cuba? Going there at the end of the month and would love to hear from the diverse crowd we have here.

  21. I hate when Dansby is treated like he is just disposable. He is the leader of the core line- up, already signed.

    There isn’t anyway any of the other available SS could be any better defensively.

    Just give him a decent contract and let him stay here. Everyone, is gonna be pissed if you let him go, and replace him with a rookie or even comparable SS. He is our team’s leader, and a phenomenal SS. Just quit screwing with him and his fans and sign him, or you will regret it in every aspect.

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