The Braves lost free agent catcher Brian McCann to the Yankees and they have yet to make any signings this off-season, but they stand to make a ton of news as they make decisions about their many arbitration eligible players. Based on Matt Swartz’s arbitration salary projections at MLB Trade Rumors, Mike Axisa of CBS Sports writes that the Braves’ 13 arbitration-eligible players are projected to earn a total of nearly $37 million in 2014, a salary increase of $22 million over the past season.
Craig Kimbrel is projected to see the biggest jump in salary, going from $655,000 last season to a projected $7.25 million in 2014. Freddie Freeman will see a marked increase as well, moving from $560,000 to a projected $4.9 million. Non-tender candidates include Elliot Johnson, Ramiro Pena, and Paul Janish, but they represent a very insignificant slice of the pie.
After the Braves tender contracts to the crowd, their next big move appears to be moving second baseman Dan Uggla and as much of his remaining $26 million as possible. They could also be in the hunt for a veteran starter to take over for Tim Hudson, who signed with the Giants.
Free agent right-hander Jeff Manship has reportedly signed with the NC Dinos of the Korea Baseball Organization, according to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The righty was non-tendered by the Indians in December.
Manship, 32, completed his second season with Cleveland in 2016. He delivered a 3.12 ERA, 4.6 BB/9 and 7.5 SO/9 rate over 43 1/3 innings, a slight decline after posting an 0.92 ERA with the club the year before. During eight years in the major leagues, Manship carries a 4.82 career ERA, 3.6 BB/9 and 6.4 SO/9 in multiple stints with the Twins, Rockies, Phillies and Indians.
The right-hander will be joined by fellow MLB transplants Eric Hacker and Xavier Scruggs, each of whom took one-year deals with the Dinos last month. Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors notes that each KBO team is allowed up to three foreign players, so Manship will round out the trio when he joins the roster. Any salary terms have yet to be disclosed.
With the Braves on the cusp of formalizing their one-year deal with Kurt Suzuki, the market for free agent catcher Matt Wieters is dwindling. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick references an inside source that lists the Angels, Rockies and Reds as potential suitors for the 30-year-old’s services.
Wieters is coming off of an eight-year career with the Orioles. In 2016, he played through his first full year after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2014 and batted .243/.302/.409 with 17 home runs and a .711 OPS in 464 PA. A return to Baltimore in 2017 isn’t out of the question, Crasnick writes, citing some within the team that would be open to Wieters stepping into a DH role and catching platoon with Wellington Castillo. However, he also points out that the front office appears divided on the veteran catcher, and sees the Orioles as a long shot for the foreseeable future.
The Angels have already been tied to Wieters this offseason, while the Rockies and Reds don’t appear to have made any formal inquiries so far. Both could use a veteran presence behind the dish, as the Rockies are planning to platoon rookie catcher Tom Murphy with 24-year-old Tony Wolters in the spring. The Reds, meanwhile, are banking on a quick recovery for 28-year-old Devin Mesoraco, who missed most of the 2016 season after undergoing shoulder and hip surgery and forced the club to rely almost exclusively on back-up backstop Tucker Barnhart.