Update 2/20 12:45 pm: The Braves added a nice cherry on to the top of the contract extension sundae on Thursday. Atlanta agreed to a seven-year $58 million deal with shortstop Andrelton Simmons.
Considering what he brings to the table defensively, that’s quite a bargain for the gold-glover. I think that Mike Minor will be the next Brave to get locked up for the future.
Including the Simmons deal the Braves have committed $280 million to its young talent the last two weeks.
Original post: After a quiet off-season for the Atlanta Braves, the franchise made four deals the last few weeks that will shape the future of the franchise as it gears up for a 2017 move to Cobb County.
Prior to new deals for Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward, Craig Kimbrel and Julio Teheran, the biggest move Atlanta made was trading for C/Of Ryan Doumit and signing veteran pitcher Gavin Floyd.
Freeman’s deal was the headline grabber, as he inked a franchise-record eight-year, $135 million deal. Kimbrel was signed to a four-year, $42 million deal that could be worth as much as $58.5 million after incentives.
Teheran was locked up for six years and $32.4 million, while Heyward signed away his final arbitration years for a two-year deal worth $13.3 million.
I think you all know how I feel about the Freeman deal. The first thing I wrote for this blog was that the California native was the future of the franchise and the Braves should make him their poster boy. They’ve done just that with the biggest deal in franchise history.
Teheran’s deal makes sense as well, although there are some out there who feel the Braves invested too early in the Colombia native. In his 34 career Major League starts, the righty is 15-9 with a 3.44 ERA. Last year he was 14-8 with a 3.20 ERA.
He’s only shown signs of getting better with each and every start, which is why the Braves opted to gamble on him now rather than risk allowing him to hit the free market after further proving himself at the big league level.
The two riskiest deals are Heyward and Kimbrel’s.
It’s not an absolute, but the length of Heyward’s deal means it will likely be the final contract he signs with Atlanta. Heyward was looking for more of a long-term commitment from the Braves prior to the arbitration-avoiding deal, and if he puts together two more good years it’s unlikely the Braves will have the necessary cash to keep the hometown hero.
After an encouraging 2012, Heyward took a slight step back last season, hitting just .254 with 14 homers and 38 RBI. He’s shown all the tools at the MLB level, but has yet to put it all together on a consistent basis, which is why Atlanta couldn’t invest in him like they did his best buddy Freeman.
If Heyward has two solid seasons in Atlanta he will certainly be able to parlay it into a hefty payday on via free agency. That’s the risk for the Braves. If the homegrown star does come into his own the franchise will have to either lock him up for a deal similar to Freeman’s or watch him flourish for another team.
Kimbrel’s deal is thought to be the biggest risk, considering the shelf-life for elite closers. Kimbrel has been the best closer in baseball the last two season, racking up 92 saves with an ERA under 1.21 both years. Opponents have hit just .155 against him in three-plus MLB seasons.
Still closers are constantly looked at as deprecating assets thanks to guys like Éric Gangé, Carlos Marmol and Heath Bell. I understand the risk of signing a young reliever to such a long deal, but ultimately I liked the move for the Braves.
I’m not one of those guys who thinks that all innings are the same, and I think it takes a special player to be dominant in the ninth. Kimbrel has been a difference-maker since he debuted in 2010, and while the Braves may have over-paid for his final arbitration years the deal saves them two years of free agency. As he stays healthy I’d like to see the game’s best closer in a Braves uniform.
The only deal I didn’t get overly excited about was Heyward’s, because I do think he can become a terrific asset for the franchise (much more so than B.J. Upton). I worry that the relationship between him and the Braves will sour over the next two seasons due to the lack of a longer deal. Still the deal is a good business decision for Atlanta.
I think these moves have put the Braves in a great spot for the next few seasons to compete for division titles and the World Series as the Braves play out their final years at Turner Field and move out to the suburbs.