Anthopoulos tells Braves fans of ‘go for it’ directive from McGuirk

While the Braves' projected opening-day payroll currently hovers around $150 million, general manager Alex Anthopoulos suggested to fans over the weekend that he has authorization from his boss to spend more.

"I can tell you I was talking to (Braves chairman) Terry McGuirk the other day. And obviously, we've done a lot so far this winter — (he has been) very supportive. He just told me the other day, 'Look, I want you to continue. If there is something else that you think is big and impactful and can continue to drive us forward and put us over the top, I want you to go for it. I want you to try to do it,' " Anthopoulos said during a state-of-the-team Q&A with fans as part of the Braves' Chop Fest weekend.

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“I’m, like, ‘Wow, I can just keep going and going?’ He’s, like, ‘Yeah.’ So it was exciting to hear.”

That exchange should be read, of course, in the context of knowing the Braves didn't sign any of the biggest-ticket free agents who changed teams this offseason — i.e., Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, Zack Wheeler — and didn't retain their own prized free agent, Josh Donaldson, because they opted not to meet the Minnesota Twins' offer. So you obviously shouldn't interpret McGuirk's message to Anthopoulos to mean the Braves are going to become unrestrained spenders; they are particularly cautious with long-term contracts for free agents in or near their 30s. But the comment seems to portend a willingness to stretch the payroll further to make additional moves this year.

As of now, the Braves’ 26-man opening-day payroll projects to be in the range of $148.5 million to $150 million.

That will be the Braves' highest opening-day payroll, topping the $126.1 million of 2017, and currently ranks just outside the top 10 among the 30 MLB teams. The Braves' payroll was $114.4 million at the start of last season and $144 million at the end of last season (including $6 million in buyouts of 2020 options).

"We're not done," Anthopoulos told the fans Saturday at the newly renamed Truist Park. "We're going to continue to try to add, whether it's now (or) during the season."

The Braves have signed four free agents from outside their organization to major-league contracts this offseason: left fielder Marcell Ozuna for one year at $18 million,  starting pitcher Cole Hamels for one year at $18 million, relief pitcher Will Smith for three years at a total of $40 million ($13 million this year) and catcher Travis D'Arnaud for two years at a total of $16 million ($8 million this year). Those four players' 2020 salaries total $57 million.

On the other side of the ledger, the Braves have shed several major salaries from their 2019 team this winter: Donaldson’s $23 million, Dallas Keuchel’s $13 million and Julio Teheran’s $11 million. Those three players’ salaries totaled $47 million last year.


Here's a look at how the Braves' opening-day payroll is shaping up, pending further moves: 
Freddie Freeman, 1B, $22.36 million 
Cole Hamels, SP, $18 million 
Marcell Ozuna, OF, $18 million 
Mark Melancon, RP, $14 million 
Will Smith, RP, $13 million 
Travis d'Arnaud, C, $8 million 
Ender Inciarte, OF, $7.7 million 
Chris Martin, RP, $7 million 
Mike Foltynewicz, SP, $6.425 million 
Shane Greene, RP, $6.25 million or $6.75 million (depending on arbitration ruling) 
Tyler Flowers, C, $4 million 
Nick Markakis, OF, $4 million 
Adam Duvall, OF, $3.25 million 
Dansby Swanson, SS, $3.15 million 
Darren O'Day, RP, $2.25 million 
Luke Jackson, RP, $1.825 million 
Johan Camargo, 3B, $1.7 million 
Ronald Acuna, OF, $1 million 
Ozzie Albies, 2B, $1 million 
Adeiny Hechavarria, IF, $1 million 
Charlie Culberson, IF-OF, $1 million* 
Felix Hernandez, SP, $1 million*  
Grant Dayton, RP, $655,000

Plus: Pre-arbitration players Max Fried, Sean Newcomb, Austin Riley, Mike Soroka, Jacob Webb and/or others will make slightly above the major-league minimum salary of $563,500. Figure that the combined total of their salaries will be approximately $3 million.

Total: $148.5 million to $150 million, pending further moves.

(All figures include 2020 salary and prorated portion of any signing bonus paid by the Braves. * - Culberson and Hernandez signed minor-league contracts and will make $1 million each if placed on the major-league roster.)