It’s all about the BENJAMIN$, baby


Saturday, December 16, 2017 will go down in the annals of Braves history as the day that Alex Anthopoulos pulled off the first major trade of his tenure as the new GM of the Atlanta Braves. You can safely say it is his best trade to date and hopefully an indication of the creativity he promised to bring to the Braves front office when he was hired a little over a month ago.

The basics: The Braves traded Matt Kemp to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Adrian Gonzalez, Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy, Charlie Culberson, and $4.5M cash. There’s a lot to digest here, so as I’m always bound to do, here’s a Boggy Breakdown:

***Note: the salary figures I use don’t match those that are widely reported elsewhere on Twitter and on the interwebs. Most of the figures you read will include the pro-rated amounts of players’ signing bonuses, which is what MLB does for the purpose of calculating luxury taxes on the highest-payroll teams in the league. I choose NOT to do this because I like to treat signing bonuses as real-time money paid up-front. After all, if a team promises a signing bonus of $5M to get a player to sign with them, he’s getting that money right away, not next year or the year after (unless you’re Dan Uggla but that’s a WHOLE ‘nother can of worms that I won’t open right now).

We’ll start with Matt Kemp. He’s probably the one player on the Braves roster that almost every single Braves fan with a pulse wanted to be traded this off-season – to clear his salary, to get his arthritic hips & bad hamstrings out of left field, and to make room for uber-prospect Ronald Acuña.

Kemp was owed $21.5M for the next 2 seasons (2018 & 2019) and the Dodgers took on all of that contract, every dime, $43M total. Here’s where someone might say “Wait a second Boggy, I thought the Padres & Dodgers were off-setting come of the cost of Matt Kemp’s contract from the first 2 times Kemp was traded?”

In my research, which is backed by Associated Press articles such as this one, the Padres are sending the Braves $2.5M annually from 2017-2019 as part of the trade that sent Matt Kemp to the Braves. Let’s not concern ourselves with what the Dodgers are sending the Padres because that’s their problem. In this case, the Braves get to keep the $2.5M per year for 2018 & 2019 from the Padres, because nowhere in this latest Matt Kemp trade does anything indicate that the Braves are sending money to the Dodgers, quite the opposite actually.

Now for the players the Braves received from the Dodgers. Adrian Gonzalez is in the final year of a 7-year, $154M contract he signed in 2012 as a member of the Boston Red Sox. That contract is paying him $21.5M for the 2018 season, which makes his contract a total wash with Kemp’s for the 2018 season. He was DFA’d immediately after the trade and will be released today because the CBA stipulates that players cannot be released on the weekends during the off-season – how nice of MLB to make sure their players don’t lose their jobs over the weekend. He was DFA’d in order to get the 40-man roster down to 40 players, which is where it currently stands.

Scott Kazmir is in the final year of a 3-year, $48M contract he signed with the Dodgers in 2016. That contract paid him a $5M signing bonus (paid the day after the contract was signed), an $11M salary for 2016, and $16M salaries each year for 2017 & 2018. Some of you may have read that some of Kazmir’s contract was deferred, and you are correct (here’s the link). $8M of his salary from each season is deferred to be paid in December of 2019-2021. This effectively lowers the total value of the contract for luxury tax purposes at the time of the signing. You may be wondering why the Braves would have taken on Kazmir’s contract if it meant paying him thru 2021 and here’s my response: they didn’t.

I believe that the Dodgers set-up an annuity of some sort to account for these deferred payments. There’s no way the Braves would have agreed to this trade if it meant they actually owed Kazmir $32M until 2021 and not just $16M for 2018. So, for the purposes of the Braves and their payroll calculations for the 2018 season and beyond, that’s their total obligation to Kazmir – $16M in 2018. (h/t to @jervass of @OFRSports for going through this with me to clear it up, you should follow him and the rest of the guys at Outfield Fly Rule – they do great work)

UPDATE: After more research into Kazmir’s deferred payments (and more consultation with @jervass), I’ve confirmed that the Braves are only responsible for Kazmir’s $16M but that they will pay it out as noted in the deferral: $8M in 2018 and $8M in 2021. Here’s an AP source that states it clearly. This will inevitably vary by news source over the course of this season and future seasons, but for the sake of doing the most accurate bookkeeping, the $16M should be realized when it’s paid – half in 2018, the other half in 2021.

Brandon McCarthy is in the final year of a 4-year, $48M contract he signed with the Dodgers in 2015. He received a $6M signing bonus (paid in 2015) and a salary of $11M per year for 2015 & 2016, and $10M per year for 2017 & 2018. Here’s a little piece of info you might not know: the Dodgers bought themselves some injury insurance as part of this trade – the team holds a conditional team option for the 2019 season for $5M if McCarthy spends more than 180 days on the DL quote: “as a result of an injury to his pitching shoulder related to stress fracture or a reaction injury” (more on that here) from 2015-2018. The option is worth $8M if he spends between 120-179 days on the DL during that time period. Now, I can’t tell you if this injury qualifies him for this option, but I can tell you he spent the entirety of the 2015 season on the DL and half of 2016 on the DL recovering from Tommy John surgery. All totaled, he’s spent 379 days on the disabled list since he signed that contract. I’m no expert or doctor, but my guess is that the Braves now hold a team option for $5M for the 2019 season on Brandon McCarthy.

UPDATE: After consulting with @TrueBlueLA and doing a little more digging into McCarthy’s original contract and injury history, I no longer believe the Braves hold a $5M team option for the 2019 season for McCarthy.

The conditional option was included in his contract because of previous shoulder problems he’d had, not elbow problems. The conditional option only applies for an injury to his pitching shoulder and none of his DL time since he signed his contract can be attributed to his pitching shoulder – it’s all for his pitching elbow (Tommy John surgery ’15-’16), “the yips” when he returned from his surgery and all of a sudden couldn’t find the strike zone again, and blisters on his pitching hand in 2017. Unless he spends most of the 2018 season on the DL with right shoulder problems, McCarthy will be a free agent after 2018 with no cheap team option.

The Braves also get utility infielder and Rome, GA native Charlie Culberson in this deal. Culberson is pre-arbitration eligible for the 2018 season so the Braves have 4 more years of control over an excellent defender at multiple positions including 2B, SS, 3B, & the outfield. He essentially replaces Jace Peterson. I’m obligated by my name alone to tell you the he is out of options. Since he’s pre-arbitration eligible, the amount he’ll make in 2018 is a non-factor in the evaluation of the finances of this trade, since leftover roster spots are filled with pre-arbitration players making league minimum (more on this later).

Lastly, the Dodgers are sending the Braves $4.5M as part of this trade, an amount that will apply to the 2018 season. This amount is simply to make the entirety of the trade a financial wash for both teams. Summary: Braves add Gonzalez $21.5M + Kazmir $16M + McCarthy $10M ($47.5M total) and subtract Kemp $43M and $4.5M ($47.5M total) for a net of $0 added for each team. You may be wondering why 2 teams would make a trade that nets neither team any financial obligation, and one team is taking on $21.5M extra for the 2018 season. This trade works great for both teams because it allows the Braves to clear future payroll in 2019 to spend on the great upcoming free agent class and it allows the Dodgers to get under the luxury tax threshold for 2018, which also allows them to potentially be able to spend on the 2019 free agent class.

Here’s the breakdown of how the Braves 2018 Opening Day payroll looks as of today:

Under contract: $69.8M (10 players, includes Brothers & Whitley’s minor-league guarantee)

Arbitration estimates: $8.4M (4 players, figures from MLB Trade Rumors)

Pre-arb players: $6M (11 players at $545k, league min)

Dead money: $22.3M (Gonzalez, Dickey buyout, Uggla deferred singing bonus, Rule 5 selection fee for Anyelo Gomez)

From others teams: $7M

GRAND TOTAL: $99.5M

Assuming a rough budget of $130M for the 2018 season, the Braves still have around $30.5M they can spend to shore up the bullpen, and/or improve at third base, the 2 places it is believed the Braves are still looking to improve this off-season.

Here’s where the Braves really came out looking like ballers & shot-callers in this trade: their financial obligation for the 2019 season is now a mere $37M. That’s it. All of it. Three guaranteed contracts (Freeman, Inciarte, & Teheran). That’s before arbitration raises but I won’t even begin to estimate those right now because so much can happen between now and next winter before determining who on the roster is or will be arbitration eligible. But if someone says to you “The Braves will have $100M to spend on the free agent class of 2019”, don’t correct them – they’re pretty close to right.

To finish this off, I say we raise our glasses to Alex Anthopoulos, who managed to pull off a trade that we all wanted but were afraid was impossible to accomplish, and he managed to add a veteran starting pitcher, and reliable bench bat and utility fielder with a great glove, and a wild card lefty who could be something, or could be nothing at all, depending on his return from injury. I imagine AA is dippin’ in the Benz with the spoilers right now.

– Boggy

4 thoughts on “It’s all about the BENJAMIN$, baby

  • December 18, 2017 at 10:01 pm
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    The Braves have A PLETHORA of options regarding what to do with McCarthy and Kazmir! Do we keep them/start them the 1st few months….showcasing them to other teams? Do we try one/both in the bullpen….showcasing them to other teams? Do we keep them AND INSTEAD trade one/both Julio Teheran/Mike Folty? Or do we package/mix and match a veteran/prospects proposed trade in an effort to acquire AN ACE?

    Slow your roll, lol! Stay in your lane, lol! Hold your horses! As I’ve stated ALL ALONG….we simply have TOO MANY QUESTIONS that need answering in 2018…BEFORE we start making moves designed for a playoff push starting in 2019!

    This year..is about giving our PLETHORA of talented pitching prospects (along with Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna) PLENTY of playing time in 2018…..to show us what they have! Kind of hard to fit either/both McCarthy AND Kazmir into a proposed rotation of Teheran, Folty, Gohara, Newcomb and Fried (with Sims as the long relief man/spot starter if someone gets hurt/needs rest in the 1st half of the season….while Mike Soroka and Kolby Allard will be doing their thing in Triple A, gearing up for a possible promotion to Atlanta in the 2nd half IF their Triple A performance warrants it. And of course, we have the likes of Kyle Wright and Tooki Tousiant in Double A….and Ian Anderson, Joey Wentz, Bryce Wilson and Kyle Muller in High Class A. In addition, Patrick Weigel will be coming back from his ACL injury in Triple A by the end of 2018, gearing to be in full force by Opening Day 2019).

    Unless AA changes course, I see him dealing at least one of McCarthy/Kazmir by Opening Day (giving them some starts in Spring Training…to showcase them being able to stay healthy, lol). However, I’d love to see both of them gone by Opening Day! If someone gets hurt, we’ll still have the likes of Kris Medlen, Aaron Blair and Matt Wisler in Triple A to plug in until Soroka and Allard are ready later in 2018. No need to waste a roster spot for veteran pitchers whose only purpose is to take away spots in the rotation from the youngsters!

    As far as The Bullpen….we’re set (no need to find a true closer for 2018…..we’ll get one in The 2018 Free Agent Offseason, when we’ll be positioned to offer Craig Kimbrel $18 mil a year to return to The Braves). In the meantime, we’ll have PLENTY of youngsters to pick from to build a bullpen in 2018 (with an eye on who can excel long term starting in 2019!).

    One idea that AA may be pondering….is to wait until after Spring Training is over (you know, every year, someone/someones always gets hurt pitching-wise. Maybe it would be would be wise to hold onto McCarthy and Kazmir….and see who is healthy on Opening Day 2018. If everyone is…then we trade both of them (shouldnt be that hard). If some are hurt…then the next step depends on who is hurt. If McCarthy and Kazmir both excel, then our return in a trade could be nice.

    At the end of the day…the Matt Kemp Trade was ALL ABOUT giving our young players a chance to SHOW US what we have going into 2019. Also……it clears our payroll for us to be SERIOUS PLAYERS come The 2018 Free Agent Offseason! Dare I say MANNY MACHADO, BRYCE HARPER & Craig Kimbrel will be Braves Opening Day 2019?

    To close…I assume that we’re keeping Nick Markakis and moving him to left field (Ronald Acuna will be playing Right Field..with his blazing speed and rifle arm)!

    Projected 2018 Line-up:

    1. Ozzie Albies…..2nd
    2. Ronald Acuna…RF
    3. Freddie Freeman…1st
    4. Tyler Flowers/Kurt Suzuki…C (righty-lefty balance…DO NOT want Markakis hitting clean-up)
    5. Ender Inciarte….Center
    6. Rio Ruiz/Adonis Garcia…3rd (I’d rather see Johan Carmago be our everyday supersub)
    7. Nick Markakis…..Left
    8. Dansby Swanson….SS (he’s suited to hitting 8th, draws lots of walks/gets the occasional bloop hit….clearing the pitcher’s spot in The National League has value. I’d rather see Dansby focus on that…as well as being a leader who focuses on playing STELLA DEFENSE. The offense will come IF it’s meant to come for him).

    While far from playoff worthy…..it’s somewhat respectable. What I’m more focused on…is how Albies and Acuna WRECK HAVOC at the top of the order/setting the table for Freddie! AA can work on the 4-5-6 spots (3rd base, Left Field and Catcher, long term, lol) in the order by Opening Day 2019! We’ll have THE MONEY…..will AA be able to convince Liberty to go “ALL-IN” in The 2018 Free Agent Offseason?

    Do the math now….on whether $150 mil Braves payroll in 2019..can absorb paying Machado and Harper $35 mil a year long term contracts…as well as Craig Kimbrel $18 mil a year (either 4 or 5 year contract)….for a total of $88 mil combined starting in 2019 (which would, in theory, leave $62 for the other 22 roster spots). Well, when you factor in Freddie Freeman’s $21 mil and Ender Inciarte’s $5 mil 2019 salaries…then that leaves only $36 mil for 20 roster spots (after Machado, Harper, Kimbrel, Freeman and Inciarte).

    However, the remaining non-minimum wage players left are Julio Teheran ($11 mil in 2019)….Mike Folty (3 years of arbitration left after 2018…expected to make around $5-$6 mil in 2019).. Adroys Vizcaino (approximately $5-$6 mil in 2019…Free Agent in 2020)..and Dan Winkler ($1.5-$2 mil in 2019…a FA after 2020). Depending on how those four perform in 2018 (and ESPECIALLY how our PLETHORA of high profile young pitching prospects performs in 2018)…all four could either return OR be traded by The End of The 2018 Season.

    Albies, Acuna, Swanson, Minter, Soroka, Allard, Gohara, Fried, Wright, Newcomb, Lane Adams, Johan Carmago, Lucas Sims, Jose Ramirez and Anyelo Gomez (who we drafted from The Yankees in The Rule 5 Draft….if he stays with The Braves in 2018)….(that’s at least 15 players slated to make The MLB Minimum Opening Day 2019)…which leaves 5 spots to fill (15 times $550k MLB Minimum….equals approximately $8.25 mil)…out the remaining $27.75 mil in remaining salary to fill The approximate hypothetical $150 mil 2019 Team Payroll.

    With Dan Winkler ($1.5-$2 mil in 2019)….along with one more year each (hypothetically speaking) of Tyler Flowers/Kurt Suzuki (same contracts as 2018 for 2019), a combined $7.5 mil. That’s 3 players at a combined cost of $9.5 mil. That’s a total of 23 players for a total of $132.75 mil.

    If I had to make a decision today, I feel that either Teheran or Folty will rise up in 2018 and stake a claim to be THE ACE of this staff going into 2019. My guess…is that it will be Folty. Teheran could…but chances are Sun Trust Field is in his head….and even if he has a decent season, he will probably be traded. Folty’s stuff is simply TOO GOOD to be a mediocre pitcher. Add Folty’s projected $5-$6 mil 2019 salary to the mix…24 players/$138.75 mil total…leaving 1 player left/$11.25 mil left.

    That would leave $11.25 mil to fill out the last reserve player (I’ll leave that up to AA to find…assuming we’d be going into 2019 with a 4 man bench like in 2018…..2019 bench would be Carmago, backup catcher-Flowers/Suzuki, Lane Adams, and AA’s choice).

    2019 Starting 8 would be:

    1. Ozzie Albies…2nd…$550k
    2. Ronald Acuna…RF…$550k
    3. Freddie Freeman…1st…$21 mil
    4. Manny Machado….3rd….$35 mil
    5. Bryce Harper….LF….$35 mil
    6. Flowers/Suzuki..C….combined $7.5 mil
    7. Ender Inciarte…Center…$5 mil
    8. Dansby Swanson…SS….$550k

    2019 Starting 5 Rotation:

    1. Mike Folty….$6 mil
    2. Luiz Gohara…..$550k
    3. Mike Soroka…..$550k
    4. Kolby Allard……$550k
    5. Kyle Wright….$550k (to be honest, we’re going to have Tooki Tousiant, Joey Wentz, Bryce Wilson and Ian Anderson waiting in the wings to make a push by Opening Day 2020, lol…that is how SICK our depth is, lol. Not to mention Patrick Weigel and Kyle Muller, lol).

    2019 Bench

    1. Johan Carmago….$550k
    2. Suzuki/Flowers….$0.00 (already accounted for in the starting lineup)
    3. Lane Adams……..$550k
    4. AA’s choice………(he has $11.25 mil to play with).

    2019 Bullpen

    1. Craig Kimbrel….$18 mil
    2. Dan Winkler…..$2 mil
    3. AJ Minter……..$550k
    4. Sean Newcomb….$550k
    5. Max Fried………$550k
    6. Anyelo Gomez….$550k
    7. Lucas Sims…….$550k
    8.Jose Ramirez…..$550k

    To be honest, a number of those bullpen arms will be interchangeable/rotated between Triple A/The Disabled List/Atlanta throughout the 2019 Season! We’ll have the likes of Akeel Mooris/Jacob Lindgren, Grant Dayton, Josh Ravin, Devan Watts, Corbin Clouse, Josh Graham, Mauricio Cabrera (if he ever gets his act together), Adam McCreery, etc. to slide in when needed!

    Now doesnt that have the makings of A POTENTIAL DEEP PLAYOFF RUN type team? Unless AA went with a really PRICEY bench piece with the $11.25 mil left I ‘gave him’ to spend…..I think I did AN AMAZING JOB ‘spending’ $138.75 mil on this roster!

    Depending on what we’d gotten back from trading Teheran (in this scenario)…as well as Kazmir and McCarthy….we could either have some more Lower Minor League Depth…OR a more valuable bench piece than Culberson, lol!

    To all you who felt that there would be NO WAY for The Braves to spend $150 mil and field a competitive playoff team….NOT ONLY did I do so…but I did so with $11.25 mil LEFT (again, assuming AA didnt go for a PRICEY bench piece..he’s going to have around $10 mil left to ‘play with’ during the season IF a need arises…with the option of increasing the $150 mil payroll to $160 mil or so IF something happens). However, given our depth in The Minors…we’ll be fine pitching-wise. However if a Harper, Machado or Freeman got hurt…then yes, we’d need to make some sort of move to address that for the short team! Barring that….this team is STACKED/LOADED/and more importantly…HELLA YOUNG!

    Your thoughts?

    Reply
  • December 19, 2017 at 10:45 am
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    Wow. That’s a lot to unpack, Paul. Thanks for reading.

    I never made any suggestions in the article about what the Braves should do with the money or the players they received – I just spelled out the finances of the trade. As for Kazmir & McCarthy – you’re totally right, one or both could be useful & flipped mid-season for a decent return, which in turn allows the Braves to give a chance to the young guys.

    Some very interesting points you make for moving into 2019. I highly doubt the Braves will be players for both Machado AND Harper – it’s just not their style or in their finances to pay both of them $300M+ for 9-10 years each. If they wanna go after one of them, that’s great. I think if they’re going to go after 2 big FA next year, they should pursue one of those 2 and a starting pitcher. I love the idea of getting Kimbrel back though! Welcome to the Jungle baby!!!!!

    I like your breakdown of 2019 but one flaw I see is assuming Flowers and Suzuki come back for $7.5M combined. Both will be free agents and I highly doubt they BOTH re-sign with Atlanta. I think Flowers might re-sign in a back-up or 2-3 days a week role to mentor a young catcher like Alex Jackson, Brett Cumberland, or Drew Lugbauer. It’s also a little hard to imagine both of them repeating their performance again like they had in 2017.

    Anyways, thanks for reading and commenting. #ChopOn

    Reply
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