Atlanta Braves: Arbitration could make or break 2014

atlanta braves

(Credit: Daniel Shirey, USA Today)

Right now, the Atlanta Braves have three of their most valuable players waiting on arbitration hearings to debate their salaries.  Craig Kimbrel, Freddie Freeman, and Jason Heyward were anything but pleased with the offers set forth by the Braves’ organization.

Kimbrel, the Braves’ closer, led the National League last year with 50 saves.  He was named Major League Baseball’s Delivery Man of the Year (best closer), beating out Baltimore’s Jim Johnson who also boasted 50 saves this past season.  Kimbrel will have a lot to present in the hearing that will debate his salary.  After all, he is the first Brave to ever receive the Delivery Man title, and is one of only 11 closers to attain a 50-save season.  In addition, he is the youngest (25 years old) to ever achieve either one of these accomplishments.

Kimbrel deserves a high salary after proving himself in 2013, but all the Braves could afford to offer was $6.55 million.  The Braves are stuck in an unfortunate situation since they are required to pay their two most disappointing players, Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton, the majority of the salary allotment.  Kimbrel is asking for $9 million this season.  The arbitration hearing for Kimbrel is unlike most because there really isn’t any other player to compare to Kimbrel.  With the lack of a benchmark, the outcome of the hearing could possibly land Kimbrel $9 million this season which would lead to an approximate $14 million next season.

Freddie Freeman, first baseman for the Braves, was expecting a higher salary offering from the Braves after finishing fifth on the National League’s MVP ballot this past season.  The Braves offered Freeman $4.5 million, but the 25-year-old is asking for $5.75.  The average salary for a Major League first baseman is about $5.36, so Freeman’s request is right on mark, and may even be a bit low considering his impressive 2013.  Freeman proved his worth by placing third in the National League with a .319 batting average (just behind teammate Chris Johnson’s .321).  Freeman also finished 2013 with the second-most RBIs in the National League.

Jason Heyward, Atlanta’s right fielder, is arguably being picky when it comes to agreeing on a salary.  The Braves offered Heyward $5.2 million, but he is demanding $5.5 million.  Heyward has proved to be an extraordinary leader and a great player, but the arbitration is going to cost both sides more than what they are in dispute over.

The arbitration hearings are set to take place in early February and while Heyward’s result won’t faze the Braves much, the outcome of Kimbrel’s hearing will be significant.  It has been predicted that Kimbrel’s salary will be set close to the $7 million mark; no organization would be able to afford him in following seasons if he were to receive $9 million this year.  Freeman stands a good chance at winning his case because his outstanding statistics prove that he deserves more than the typical first baseman.  Like Kimbrel, Heyward will probably be stuck with what the Braves have offered him.  Stakes are high for all sides, but especially for the Braves.

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What may be overlooked in arbitration is that all three of these players are the main drivers in Atlanta’s fan-base.  Kimbrel, Freeman, and Heyward are all greatly involved in the community and are extremely popular.  All three have proved to be the core of the organization, and losing just one could make or break the 2014 season for Atlanta.

  • Mike K

    Give Freddie a blank check, if the other 2 leave then so be it.

    • ris

      Largest Airport in the World.l. Past home of the Sumer Olympics. 1st rate City. 2nd rate Ownership!

      • motnahp

        Tim Hudson was also “greatly involved in the community”. If this were an important factor for re-signing players, Tim would not be pitching for the Giants this year. The Braves appear headed (or have already arrived) at the intersection of Oakland avenue and Minnesota Boulevard. At this junction are teams with great scouting and minor league development systems and either a pitiful budget or poor budget management.

  • Anthony Robertson

    The Braves are in this predicament because of Liberty Media. How can MLB allow Liberty Media to use The Braves as a yearly tax write-off?

    Braves fans should demand an ownership group that cares about the team.

    If something doesnt change soon we will lose all of our current star players to the likes of Yankees and Dodgers.

  • blue

    Wren is the worst FA negotiator in MLB. Who gives a lifetime hitter $15 million per year for 5 years?

  • Don39

    Having lost my favorite player and an icon to my most hated team, they can go to,,,,I hope Kimbrel follows to the Yankees to replace Rivera. And if Freeman and Heyward can make it too, I’ll be back to watching and cheering for the Yanks after a fifty year lapse!

  • Mike in Georgia

    There is no doubt in my mind that Freddie Freeman (a misnomer isn’t it due to his salary) is gonna be a potential HOF’er and the Braves would be wise to lock him up longterm right now….Kimbrel likewise might be the greatest closer ever but he is so young and has been so successful, the question is, when does his salary get too high? He has a chance to be another stalwart like John Smoltz. My suggestion, make him a three-year offer now and go from there. Likewise, Jason Heyward has a lot of potential and probably will get better as each year passes. As long as they are reasonable, the Braves should get 3-4 year deals done now to protect these potential assets…