February 2014

Braves, Simmons agree to 7-year extension

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Atlanta Braves continued a flurry of activity in the month of February, announcing a seven-year contract extension with shortstop Andrelton Simmons on Thursday.

The deal contains no option years and runs through the 2020 season. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that it will pay the 24-year-old defensive wizard a $1 million signing bonus and a total of $58 million over the life of the contract.

“We feel that Andrelton is one of the premier shortstops in the game today and we are happy that we were able to agree on this multi-year contract,” said general manager Frank Wren in the team release.

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman provided a yearly salary breakdown of the deal:

  • 2014: $1 million (plus $1 million signing bonus)
  • 2015: $3 million
  • 2016: $6 million
  • 2017: $8 million
  • 2018: $11 million
  • 2019: $13 million
  • 2020: $15 million

That averages out to just under $8.3 million per season, making Simmons the latest  in a group of young core players to sign a multi-year deal over the past three weeks. He joins Freddie Freeman (8-years, $135 million), Craig Kimbrel (4-years, $42 million), Julio Teheran (6-years, $32.4 million) and Jason Heyward (2-years, $13.3 million), all of whom gained the financial security of avoiding the arbitration process altogether, whether it be now or in the future.

Atlanta has now committed roughly $28o million (not including option years and possible incentives) to those five players, while also extending the contracts of manager Fredi Gonzalez and general manager Frank Wren (financial terms not disclosed). It is a serious investment in the future of the franchise as they head into their new $672 million stadium in suburban Cobb County in 2017.

Simmons led all National League shortstops with 499 assists while earning his first Rawlings Gold Glove Award in 2013. He was also named the NL’s Platinum Glove Award Winner, which recognizes the best overall fielding player in the league. Simmons turned in a 5.4 DWAR (defensive wins above replacement in 2013) while accounting for plus-41 DRS (defensive runs saved), which is the best single season mark in the 11 years that statistic has been kept.

Though his glove justifiably attracts Simmons the most attention, he took major strides at the plate in 2013. He batted .248/.296/.396 with 17 homers, 59 RBI and 76 runs scored in his first full major league season. Those 17 home runs were fourth most by a shortstop in the NL and fifth most in MLB.

Last season was really a tale of two halves at the plate for Simmons. After turning in just a .243/.282/.348 slash line in 90 games prior to the All-Star break, he slugged nine home runs and had a .255/.316/.472 mark in 67 contests thereafter.

Simmons has seen his power grow exponentially in the last calender year as well. It took him 361 games to collect the first 14 home runs of his professional career (minors included), but just 75 contests to belt his last 12. He also has a penchant for making contact, proving fourth toughest to strikeout in all of baseball last season – just once every 11.96 at-bats.

Combine that budding power with room to grow at the plate and his unparalleled defensive ability, and it’s easy to understand why the Braves decided to invest heavily in Simmons.

Grant McAuley covers the Braves for Sports Radio 92.9 The Game. Follow Grant on Twitter.

Braves Extend Contracts of Gonzalez, Wren

The Atlanta Braves extended the contracts of manager Fredi Gonzalez and general manager Frank Wren on Wednesday.

This continues a string of extensions for Atlanta, now stretching all the way from the field, to the dugout, to the front office.

Both men were entering the final season of their previous deals in 2014. Financial terms and length of the contracts were not immediately announced.

Dave O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that the club declined to release the contract specifics at this time in order keep focus on the on-field product.

Gonzalez, 50, was tasked with following in the footsteps of Hall of Fame manager Bobby Cox, who retired following the 2010 season. In his three years at the helm, Gonzalez has led Atlanta to a 279-207 record and two trips to the postseason.

Wren, 55, likewise had big shoes to fill upon taking up the general manager’s duties in 2007 after John Schuerholz was promoted to team president. In his six years serving as GM, Wren has seen the club reach the playoffs on three occasions while turning in an overall record of 528-444.

Over the past four seasons, only the free-spending New York Yankees (372) have won more regular season games than the Braves, who have compiled 370 victories over that four-year span (the Texas Rangers also have 370 wins). Unlike New York, Atlanta has accomplished its success while operating under a self-imposed salary cap of roughly $90 million.

In recent weeks, the Braves have been in a frenzy of activity when it comes to multi-year deals. Wren oversaw long-term extensions for first baseman Freddie Freeman, closer Craig Kimbrel and starter Julio Teheran while also avoiding arbitration with outfielder Jason Heyward for the next two seasons.

Grant McAuley covers the Braves for Sports Radio 92.9 The Game. Follow Grant on Twitter.

Braves, Kimbrel Agree To 4-Year Extension

The Atlanta Braves may not have been the most active team on the free-agent market over the winter, but extending their young core players has been a completely different story.

The Braves announced they have come to terms on a four-year contract extension with closer Craig Kimbrel on Sunday, making him the fourth player in the last two weeks to reach agreement on a multi-year deal with the club.

According to Jayson Stark of ESPN, Kimbrel will make $42 million over the course of the deal, which includes a $13 million club option for 2018, his age-30 season. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports Kimbrel can also earn $3.5 million worth of incentives based on performance, which could bring the total value of the contract to $58.5 million over five years.

“We are very excited to agree to terms with Craig, who we feel is the best closer in Major League Baseball,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said in the team release. “He is one of the key pieces of our pitching staff and we are happy to keep him in a Braves uniform for at least four more years.”

The deal allows Atlanta to avoid arbitration with the only one of its players to be scheduled for a hearing. Kimbrel’s case was due to be heard on Monday, but the new long-term extension will help both sides avoid the arbitration table for good.

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports provided the salary breakdown for the deal. Kimbrel will receive a $1 million signing bonus, followed by salaries of $7 million in 2014, $9 million in 2015, $11 million in 2016 and $13 million in 2017. As mentioned, the fifth-year team option is worth $13 million as well and carries a $1 million buyout.

Kimbrel, who turns 26 in May, was the 2011 National League Rookie of the year and is already a three-time All-Star as well. He has compiled 139 saves in 154 save opportunities to go along with a 1.39 ERA and 381 strikeouts in 231 career appearances. He is poised to become the franchise leader in saves, needing just 16 to surpass John Smoltz’s current record of 154.

He has built a reputation not just for recording saves at a high rate, but the manner in which he does it. Kimbrel holds a 15.1 SO/9 through his first 227.1 innings.

This latest stroke by Wren comes after signing Jason Heyward to a two-year, $13.3 million deal to avoid arbitration, locking up Freddie Freeman to a franchise-record eight-year, $135 million extension last week and, most recently, signing Julio Teheran to a six-year, $32.4 million deal on Friday.

As the Braves prepare to move into their new Cobb County home in 2017, Wren had stated the new ballpark would supply additional revenue streams which would allow the club to execute a “comprehensive plan” designed to keep the young core together over the coming years.

That has clearly been the case, demonstrated by committing what could be $251.2 million worth of extensions to Freeman, Heyward, Kimbrel and Teheran.

Atlanta has several players who could very well be locked up for the foreseeable future. Shortstop Andrelton Simmons as well starters Mike Minor and Kris Medlen could be next in line.  Simmons will not be arbitration eligible until 2016, while Minor has two years of team control remaining and Medlen just one.

Grant McAuley covers the Braves for Sports Radio 92.9 The Game. You can follow Grant on Twitter.

Braves Sign Teheran To 6-year Extension

The Atlanta Braves agreed to a six-year extension with right-hander Julio Teheran on Friday. The deal runs through 2019 season and includes an option for 2020.

According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, Teheran will make $32.4 million over the first six years, while Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports the option for 2020 is worth $12 million and includes a $1 million buyout.

“We are excited to sign Julio to a long-term contract,” Braves General Manager Frank Wren said in the team release. “He is one of the best young pitchers in the National League and one of our core of players we expect to be together for a number of years.”

Teheran, 23, who had long been viewed as one of the premier pitching prospects in the game, enjoyed a stellar 2013 season in which he went 14-8 with a 3.20 ERA in 30 starts. He struck out 170 hitters while walking just 45 in 185.2 innings and finished fifth in the NL Rookie of the Year balloting.

Prior to reaching agreement on this extension, Teheran was slated to become a free agent following the 2018 season. It pays him an average $5.4 million over the first six seasons and allows the Braves to buy out the first two years of Teheran’s free agency if the option is exercised.

Atlanta signed the 16-year-old out of Columbia for $850,000 in the summer of 2007. Even at a young age, Teheran already flashed the tools that would make him so effective, commanding the zone with his fastball, curveball and changeup combination.

This is the third multi-year deal Wren has brokered this month, all aimed at keeping the core of the team together as the team move into its new home in Cobb County for the 2017 season. Atlanta signed Freddie Freeman to an eight-year, $135 million and outfielder Jason Heyward to a two-year pact worth $13.3 million last week.

Grant McAuley covers the Braves for Sports Radio 92.9 The Game. You can follow Grant on Twitter.

Braves Sign Freeman To 8-year Extension

ATLANTA – Atlanta Braves held a Wednesday press conference to announce their eight-year extension with first baseman Freddie Freeman. Running through the 2021 season, Freeman receives the most lucrative contract in franchise history.

The deal is worth $135 million in total. According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, Atlanta will pay Freeman a $2.875 million signing bonus. followed by salaries of $5.125 million in 2014, $8.5 million in 2015, $12 million in 2016, $20.5 in 2017, $21 million in both 2o18 and 2019 and $22 million in the 2o20 and 2021 seasons.

The team announced the deal in a press release on Tuesday evening, but did not reveal the financial terms at that time. Multiple sources had confirmed that the two sides had reached an agreement earlier in the afternoon, though the Braves did not issue a statement until just before 8 p.m. as they worked to finalize the terms.

“When you look at what Freddie has accomplished in his first three years here, there was no doubt in our mind that we had found our first baseman not only of the present but of the future.” said Braves general manager Frank Wren. “He’s turned into one of the best young players in the National league… and he just continues to get better.”

Freeman, 24, enjoyed a break-out campaign in 2013, placing fifth in the National League MVP voting. He batted .319/.396/.501 with 23 homers, 109 RBI and 89 runs scored in 147 games, setting career-highs in virtually every offensive category.

“For them to believe in me with this kind of contract, it’s truly and honor and humbling,” said Freeman. “For it to happen this young, I never thought that would be even possible or imagined that.”

At just 24 years old, Freeman becomes Atlanta’s highest paid player in both overall contract value and average annual salary. He surpasses the six-year, $90 million extension that Chipper Jones signed in August of 2000, following his MVP season of 1999.

The salaries will rise incrementally over the eight-year span of the extension, while both sides are able to avoid any further arbitration worries. Freeman’s first significant jump during the contract is 2017, when he goes from $12 million up to $20.5 million. That is the same season he would have been eligible for free-agency as well as the year that the Braves move into their new stadium.

Freeman’s $16.875 million average moves him ahead of B.J. Upton for largest yearly salary in club history. Upton became Atlanta’s highest paid free-agent acquisition just last winter after signing a 5-year, $75.25 million contract ($15.05 million per season).

“[The Braves] gave me a chance when I was 20 years old, called me up to the big leagues and it’s been the greatest three years plus change,” said Freeman. “This is a team that I want to play for for a long time.

Wren added on Wednesday that this move begins what the club hopes to be a series of deals to retain the services of its talented young nucleus for years to come. This vision coincides with the Braves’ upcoming move to a new ballpark located in Cobb County for the 2017 season.

Freeman’s extension was just the first step.

“We were looking at a comprehensive plan,” said Wren. “It wasn’t focused on keeping one player; it was focused on keeping a team, and keeping a competitive team that we could go forward into Cobb County and beyond.”

The team surprised many last November by announcing it had struck a deal to move to suburban Smyrna, leaving behind Turner Field and the city of Atlanta in the process.

“I think the great attribute that Cobb County gives us is that it helps us stay competitive,” added Wren. “It gives us the revenues and the additional ability to stay competitive within our division and that’s an important aspect of it, but this is a comprehensive plan. It’s not just about Freddie, although this is one of the first big steps.”

When it comes to market value, it’s worth noting that this deal is for substantially more than some of Freeman’s first base contemporaries of  similar age and service time have signed in the past 12 months.

Last March, the Arizona Diamondbacks signed Paul Goldschmidt to a five-year, $32 million extension that includes a $14.5 million club option for another season. Goldschmidt, 26, was runner-up for the NL MVP in 2013, batting .302/.401/.551 and leading the NL with 36 homers, 126 RBI, 332 total bases and a .952 OPS.

Not long after the ink had dried on Goldschmidt’s deal, the Chicago Cubs inked Anthony Rizzo to a seven-year, $41 million extension in May. The deal also includes a pair of $14.5 million options for 2020 and 2021 which could bring the overall value to 9-years, and upwards of $70 million including incentives. Rizzo, 24, struggled after the announcement, finishing the year with a .233/.323/.419 line to go with 23 homers and 80 RBI in 160 games.

The Braves may have locked up their young first baseman for more than some clubs, but the deal is for substantially less than the likes of the Reds Joey Votto, Prince Fielder of the Rangers and, of course, Albert Pujols of Angels.

Freeman has proven himself to be one of the best young hitters in the game. Atlanta nabbed him in the 2nd round of the 2007 draft. That was the same year the Braves acquired first baseman Mark Teixeira from the Texas Rangers for a slew of prospects, only to trade him away the following summer for little return.

While that series of moves may be met with universal displeasure in hindsight, the Braves did not compound it by moving heaven and earth to keep the now declining and oft-injured Teixeira around for anything remotely close to the eight-year, $180 million offer he received to join the Yankees prior to 2009.

Instead of making their investment in the 29-year-old Teixeira that winter, the Braves rebuilt from within and used their funds this winter to retain a 24-year-old Freeman for roughly $45 million less over the same eight-year pact.

In all fairness, the funds to extend Teixeira and satisfy his agent Scott Boras were likely not available when the decision was made to deal the first baseman away in 2008, but the fallout from Teixeira’s time with the Braves may finally be in Atlanta’s favor.

At least, in a manner of speaking.

Teixeira’s recent injury history and rapid decline make him one of worst contracts in baseball. He played just 15 games in 2013 and 138 over the past two seasons, batting .240/.325/.460 combined while making $45 million during that time.

And the Yankees will be paying him $22.5 million over the next three seasons as well.

Though the Braves employ a “file and trial” policy with arbitration eligible players who fail to reach agreement prior to the deadline, Wren did not let that deter him from exploring long-term deals.

Atlanta also announced a two-year pact with outfielder Jason Heyward on Tuesday morning. That deal is worth a reported $13.3 million and includes performance bonuses. [More on Heyward]

One arbitration case remains on the docket, however. Closer Craig Kimbrel has requested $9 million, with Atlanta countering with $6.55 million salary offer. Kimbrel’s hearing is set for Feb. 17.

Grant McAuley covers the Braves for Sports Radio 92-9 The Game. Follow Grant on Twitter.