February 22, 2014

No Big Free-Agent Signing, No Big Deal

Despite not signing or trading for a power-pitching ace, failing to dump Dan Uggla, and losing Tim Hudson and Brian McCann, the 2013/14 Braves offseason has been one of the best in years. It could hardly be more different than last year when we were making big waves in the free-agent market, piecing together what was supposed to be the best outfield trio ever. The focus of the last offseason seemed to be on immediate results. On the other hand, this offseason has been all about long-term investments.

The biggest move of all, bigger than all of the extensions combined, is the announced relocation to Cobb County. It will be years before we know the true impact of this decision, but what it means at the moment is that the owners are willing to invest more money in the team based on a projected increase in revenue. It’s a little unnerving to see so much money tied up in just a handful of players (about 280 million for the five extensions), but it also shows that the front office is serious about improving the team.

Here’s what those 280 million worth of extensions accomplishes: for two years we have one of the most dynamic outfielders in the game. I shudder to think what J-Hey can do with an entire healthy season in the leadoff spot. For four years we have the most dominant closer in baseball. For six years we have a young, talented starter. I truly believe Teheran is only going to improve, that he might even develop into that ace we so badly need, and by the end of his contract we’ll see that we got him for a bargain. For seven years we have a serviceable batter and incredible defensive shortstop. And for eight years we have a leader by example in Freeman. We can’t expect Freddy to have an MVP-type season every year like he did in 2013, but his bat, glove, attitude, and work ethic will be assets to the Braves as long he laces up.

It’s possible, but unlikely, that one or more of these players nosedives (a la Uggla), but all of these players are safe enough bets.

Of course there are concerns left unaddressed. We still lack a true number one in the rotation, and it remains to be seen whether or not Gattis can handle the role of an everyday catcher. But the contract extensions are more promising to me than any potential free-agent signing. Having secured several key players with multi-year deals, there’s no feeling of urgency or desperation. The window of opportunity is not closing. Rather, it’s wide open.



One Response to “No Big Free-Agent Signing, No Big Deal”

  1. 1
    Shaun Says:

    Good stuff, Mike. Kind of a weird dynamic this offseason, in terms of fan reaction. The general mood seemed to be one of frustration early on because of no big additions. As Steve touched on on the podcast, there still haven’t been any significant changes from 2013 to 2014. If anything, the big changes are the losses of McCann and Hudson. But the mood has changed dramatically because of all the deals, and most of the deals have a lot to do with cost certainty more than extending players because of lot of the years were years in which the players were going to be on the team. The Braves just bought out mostly arbitration years (with the exception of the Freeman deal).

    Of course this is a bit of an oversimplification because they did tack on buyouts of a free agent year or two to most of the deals. But it’s not like they gave these players huge contracts that bought out 4-6 free agent years or something like that.

    As you say, no big deal, but perhaps those who were pessimistic before shouldn’t have been so pessimistic. The Braves are in a better position because of all these deals, no doubt, even if it’s mostly for cost certainty purposes. But the Braves were in a good spot for the next at least couple of years anyway. Coming off 96 wins with so many good, young players should have been a signal for optimism, not pessimism, at least for a couple of years and now for the next 6-7 years.

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