Atlanta Braves v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game Four

Are the Braves a small market team now?

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The Braves may be moving into a new stadium soon, but with the Phillies’ latest 25-year, $2.5 billion TV deal with Comcast SportsNet, Grant Brisbee of SB Nation argues that the Braves have more in common with the Rays than the rival Phillies, Mets, and Nationals.

Brisbee notes that in 2000, the Braves had the third-highest payroll among all 30 teams at $86 million. They stayed in the top-ten through 2006, but have had the 15th or 16th highest payroll in each of the past four seasons, hovering between $84 and $90 million. Their current TV deal, to compare to that of the Phillies, will give them between $200 and $400 million over 20 years. Even in a vain attempt to put lipstick on a pig, Braves CEO Terry McGuirk admitted the team’s TV deal is bad:

“We have a long-term, 20-year deal. It is what it is. It was a deal that we didn’t like when we saw it, when we inherited it. And we knew that in the performance of time, it would probably not be the deal that we would like to have in the marketplace to exploit…. It’s not the only lever and dial we have to pull and turn to make this thing work, and we just have to be a little bit better in a bunch of other areas. And I think we are.”

If the Braves had more payroll flexibility, they may not have lost catcher Brian McCann to free agency and they may have been able to replace Tim Hudson with someone better than Gavin Floyd. They could happily sign Freddie Freeman to a contract extension to buy out his three years of arbitration eligibility and a year or two of free agency. If they so desired, they could do the same with Kris Medlen, Craig Kimbrel, and eventually Andrelton Simmons as well. But, as McGuirk says, they will instead have to be “a little bit better in a bunch of other areas”, just like the Rays. To their credit, they certainly have been, developing a ton of Major League-quality talent over the years.

Phillies sign outfielder Michael Saunders

CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 3: Michael Saunders #21 of the Toronto Blue Jays runs to first after being walked during the third inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on May 3, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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The Phillies have signed free agent outfielder Michael Saunders.

Saunders was an All-Star in 2016 due to his wonderful start, but he cratered in the second half of the season. Overall is numbers looked good — he hit 24 homers and posted a line of .253/.338/.478, but his second half line was .178/.282/.357 in 58 games. He’s not the best defender around either.

The Phillies could use him, however, and if he has another red hot first half, there’s a decent chance they could flip him if they wanted to.

Jose Bautista and the Blue Jays nearing a two-year, $35-40 million deal

Toronto Blue Jays Jose Bautista flips his bat after hitting a three-run homer during seventh inning game 5 American League Division Series baseball action in Toronto on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
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It was first reported that the Blue Jays and Jose Bautista were close to a deal last night. Now Ken Rosenthal reports that the deal is near completion. It will likely a two-year contract in the $35-40 million range.

Bautista had a tough 2016, hitting .234/.366/.452 with 22 home runs and 69 RBI, and some clubs likely considered a long-term deal for the 36-year-old too risky, this leading to the relative lack of reported interest in Bautista by other clubs. But back-to-back ALCS appearances by the Jays and the success and popularity Bautista has experienced in Toronto make his re-signing there a pretty sensible move for all involved.

The Jays, who already lost Edwin Encarnacion to free agency, get their slugger back on a short term deal. Unlike anyone else, they don’t have to give up the draft pick attached to him via the qualifying offer. Bautista, in turn, will make, on average, more than he would’ve made on the qualifying offer if he would’ve accepted it and a raise over the $14 million he made in 2016.