Joel Sherman of the New York Post sent out this tweet yesterday, and it sent Braves twitter into a fury of retweets.
Also on Hot Stove with Freeman signed long term, heard #Braves want to try to do pre-arb extended deals with Simmons/Teheran
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) February 6, 2014
I’m gonna try to read between the lines here and assume some things. This could be a dangerous game, but I am willing to play it.
The first thing it says to me is that the Braves likely tried to extend Jason Heyward beyond the two years they eventually signed him for earlier this week. There have been a lot of articles and comments made in the last few days about how the Braves “chose” Freddie Freeman over Jason Heyward by giving him the big extension. Most Braves fans that know what they are talking about scoffed at this, but there are many out there that believe it, especially considering that they are now looking at extensions for Simmons and Teheran. With that said, I highly doubt they would just skip over Heyward. Whatever slim chance they already have at resigning Heyward as a free agent in two years would disappear if they started extending everyone around him and didn’t at least offer him the same type of deal. Wren isn’t stupid and knows this.
I’m sure the Braves would love to sign all 4 of those guys to long extensions, but it is a two-way street there. The player has to be willing to sign, not just the Braves being willing to offer the contract. There were rumored talks last year of the Braves wanting to extend Heyward and that he wasn’t interested. It seems to me that Heyward was likely content to work out a deal for his last two arbitration eligible seasons, and go into free agency after the 2015 season looking for a larger payday than what the Braves are willing to offer right now. Now, this doesn’t close the door between Heyward and the Braves, but the ship is at the dock and ready to sail away.
Another thing this says to me is that the Braves know who they are right now and are trying to get a head of the high salary curve. One thing you can be sure of is that, with the Braves mediocre-at-best TV deal, you can most likely thank the new Cobb County stadium and the revenue it is expected to bring for the Braves new deal with Freeman and the current extension talks. In fact, if you look at the breakdown of the Freeman extension, the expensive seasons ($20M+) don’t kick in until after the Braves will be in their new stadium starting in 2017. This is not a coincidence and Wren has pretty much said as much.
The Braves have been hamstrung by their limited payroll over the last few years (basically the same payroll as they had 10 years ago), and especially when you consider how bad most of their big free agent signings have gone (Uggla, Lowe, BJs bad start), it should come as no surprise that they are looking to extend guys already in the system.
In my opinion, it is a bit too early to project money and years for extending the likes of Simmons and Teheran since they haven’t even reached their first arbitration eligible seasons, but if you like looking that far ahead, MLB Trade Rumors put up some comparable numbers in their piece here.
I believe that going forward will see much more of these types of deals from the Braves, trying to extend guys already in their system over the bloated free agent contracts. I think it is a plus for the player and the team in those situations. Both sides already know the lay of the land and will not have an adjustment period from switching teams or leagues, getting to know teammates, managers, etc. Also, the organization will already know as much as they possibly can about a player that they have already seen for years and can more accurately predict where they think a player can go in their career. I, for one, am a big fan of building and maintaining a team this way, and I hope Atlanta continues on this path.