|Andrelton Simmons tells reporters |
how awesome it is to be rich.
The latest in the line of extensions was the seven-year, $58 million deal for young shortstop Andrelton Simmons. The Braves decided to go all-in on the 24-year-old after only one full season in the big leagues.
This move came after locking up closer Craig Kimbrel (4 years, $42 million, plus a team option), first baseman Freddie Freeman (8 years, $135 million) and starting pitcher Julio Teheran (6 years, $32.4 million, plus a team option).
These are all big investments in players already on the Braves' roster, and looking at each one individually, each also has its risks.
Simmons is pretty light on experience and hasn't even shown he's an average hitter yet. Freeman has posted only one monster season, his most recent, yet his contract was among the biggest given to a player with his service time. Teheran and Kimbrel are both pitchers who could get hurt. Teheran, like Simmons, also only has one full year of experience, and as good as Kimbrel has been, he's still only a closer expected to throw around 70 innings a year.
Atlanta is definitely agreeing to fork out more money the next few years than it would by going year-to-year, renewing the contracts and taking these players to arbitration when they accrue enough service time for that.
But here's the way I look at these deals, and I'm sure how the Braves do, too:
Simmons is already an amazing defender and a nonzero with the bat. If he never gets any better, the Braves will get a good value out of this contract. If he makes adjustments and becomes an average or better hitter -- which his minor league track records suggests he can -- then this contract is a massive bargain.
Freeman's huge 2013 came after two good-but-not-great years for a first baseman. But it's hard to fault Freeman for being the best first baseman in the organization as a 21- and 22-year-old. Now just 24, he's already more accomplished than Mark Teixeira was at the same age. Unless something goes wrong, the Braves will be paying much less for the very best years of Freeman's career than the Yankees paid ($180 million) for Teixeira's last great year, three decent years, and what might be four awful, useless years.
The same goes for Kimbrel, who will cost less than other closers such as Joe Nathan, Jonathan Papelbon, Francisco Cordero and ... hold your breath ... B.J. Ryan ... have cost teams on contracts signed over the last decade. Kimbrel could have even eclipsed this total by going to arbitration with his gaudy save and strikeout totals.
Having Teheran under control means not having to plug a rotation hole with an unproven or more expensive player.
And don't forget the pay scale in baseball is only going up right now.
The Braves do lose some flexibility with these deals. If any of these guys gets hurt, or just becomes awful, Atlanta can't just nontender them and walk away. But that's the case when teams choose to sign a player from outside the organization to a huge contract as a free agent. (Too keep it close to Atlanta here, don't you think the Braves wish they could flush Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton and the rest of their contracts down the memory hole?)
Even if the total dollars in these contracts seem eye-popping right now, they still pale in comparison to some of the deals given to players not under team control.
The Braves are climbing on the hook for some big paychecks here, but in return they're keeping the pantry stocked without paying free agent prices, which means they stand to put a good team on the field and save money in the long run.