With the release of Marcus Giles and the Braves failure to even make an offer to Tom Glavine, many fans have been complaining about the $80 million payroll constraint that Time Warner has imposed on John Schuerholz. This isn’t a bad ownership problem. It’s not like John Schuerholz was handed a memo to cut payroll last week. He’s been complaining about the constraint since he cut Kevin Millwood lose after the 2002 season—which was an excellent move to avoid overpaying Millwood.
$80 million isn’t too paltry a sum to run a ballclub. Eight NL teams had payrolls less than that in 2006. One of them made the playoffs (San Diego) and another won 78 games—one game less than the Braves—with $15 million (Florida). In the AL, Minnesota and Oakland made the playoffs on $60 million payrolls. And Cleveland and Texas won about the same number of games as the Braves with payrolls under $70 million. Now, this doesn’t mean that a larger budget wouldn’t make things easier. I could do a lot more things if I had more money, but there’s not much I can do beyond working within my constraints.
If the Braves are so limited limited by their budget that they can’t afford to pay Marcus Giles what he is worth, or even pay Tom Glavine less than he was worth—he was willing to take a significant discount to play in Atlanta—then I have to wonder about some of Atlanta’s recent personnel moves.
- Trading Andy Marte for Edgar Renteria to replace Rafael Furcal at shortstop. Even if you grant that Wlison Betemit was a worse player, he wasn’t that bad and was much cheaper than Renteria. And to give up a young top-prospect in Marte…well, time will tell how bad this deal looks.
- Trading Dan Meyer and Juan Cruz for one year of Tim Hudson—cheap young arms for a single season of an older and more expensive one—then signing Hudson to a lucrative long-term deal.
- Trading Jose Capellan for Dan Kolb.
- Trading Zach Miner and Roman Colon for 27 innings of Kyle Farnsworth.
- Acquiring Mike Hampton and his huge contract.
- Signing Vinny Castilla and moving Chipper Jones to the outfield instead of going with Wes Helms at third or platooning Darren Bragg and Matt Franco in left field.
My point isn’t that these aren’t defensible moves—I actually liked some of these deals at the time they occurred—and Schuerholz has made some other good deals. And it’s unfair to look back on these deals with perfect hindsight. But, these aren’t the type of moves that a team tightening its belt should be making. We see a lot of cheap young talent going out for more expensive veteran talent. Unless Time Warner was orchestrating all of these moves, ownership is not to blame for the Braves present situation. If you think John Schuerholz deserves a lot of credit for the success he had with the Braves when the budget was big, then he shouldn’t be held blameless since the budget has diminished. Because if all that matters is budget, then the GM is nothing more than a mascot.