When it comes to building teams that win on a consistent basis in baseball, people look at the Atlanta Braves of the 1990s. What were they able to do that other teams struggle with? Did they build a team from the ground up? Sure, but the hardest part of that process is keeping the core of the team together. When a team is as successful at the Braves were at the time it is hard to keep all of the players together, especially if the team isn’t willing to put forth millions of dollars for the players that want and deserve it.
The Braves of today face an issue that could cause problems for the team’s core as it moves forward. One member of that core, Brian McCann, has already elected to play for a more financially blessed team, the New York Yankees. However, the Braves didn’t flinch in the contract negotiations seeing that they have Evan Gattis ready to start in 2014 and Christian Bethancourt possibly making the roster at some point this coming season.
Where the problem really comes in is when we start talking about Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward, Andrelton Simmons and guys like Craig Kimbrel, Mike Minor and Julio Teheran. I’m excluding B.J. Upton from that because he is locked up in a franchise record-setting contract, his brother Justin Upton because he is also with the team for the next few years and Dan Uggla because the team will probably happily wave goodbye to him after next season if not before.
Freeman is the key to this team, though. He is a star defensively, offensively and in the clubhouse. He competed for the MVP award last season and will continue to compete for it in the future, and I’m waiting on the team to offer a pretty big contract extension to him. However, when he gets paid there are still four to six guys who will be looking to get paid.
It is possible for the team to sign Heyward and Simmons to fair extensions even with signing Freeman. Therefore, offensively, the Braves would be set with Freeman, Heyward, Simmons and the Upton brothers if they could hold them all together for the next three to five years.
Pitching is a different story. I see no way that Kimbrel sticks around as a Brave for more than two more seasons. He will pull a contract that the Yankees, Boston Red Sox or Chicago Cubs could easily give him, and frankly the Braves aren’t known to give out big contracts often. Out of Minor and Teheran, I can see the team signing Minor to a shorter term deal while finding a way to hold Teheran to the four to five year span that fans would like to see.
If the team wants to lock up some of their core players it has to start this year. They can’t let Freeman have another MVP type season while Heyward and Simmons continue to shine in the field while producing well at the plate and still be able to hold them in Atlanta for more than two or three more seasons. Sign them now!