The news came on a day when Liberty Media, which owns the Braves, announced the Braves now will be a separate publicly traded company. Liberty Media said its board of directors has authorized management to pursue a split-off of the Atlanta Braves and The Battery Atlanta into a new trading stock, which will be known as Atlanta Braves Holdings. The move is pending approval from the current Braves Group holding and MLB.
Maffei’s quote about payroll is good news for Braves fans. It’s also consistent with the current trend of the organization.
In an interview conducted in October, Braves chairman Terry McGuirk called his organization’s cycle a “virtuous circle.” The Braves are making more money nowadays, which allows them to have higher payrolls, which usually translate to better teams, which then means people are buying more tickets.
“My goal now is to get to be a top-five (payroll team),” McGuirk said at the time.
The key phrase in Maffei’s quote might be this: He said the expects the Braves to be in the top five in payroll “in the next few years.” That could mean at any point in the next few years. For Braves fans, it’s encouraging that he followed that by saying, “we can afford it.”
Over the past few years, the Braves’ payroll has increased steadily – other than for the 2021 season, though that reduction was because of the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic. The Braves ranked eighth with a payroll around $188 million in 2022. FanGraphs, which takes into account arbitration salaries, estimates the Braves’ payroll will rise again for 2023.
President of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos, the man tasked with making the most of the resources he’s given, has praised McGuirk for the chairman’s willingness to do what’s best for the organization.
“From my standpoint, it’s a huge part of why I chose to be here,” Anthopoulos said when asked about McGuirk at the General Managers Meetings in Las Vegas. “Don’t get me wrong: We’re looking at the city and the ballpark. I’m a huge believer in this: I believe any job is who you work for and with, above everything else first. You could have the best city, best ballpark, best roster – if you don’t connect with who you’re working with, it’s not worth it.
“For me, (McGuirk is) an ideal partner, boss – amazing on all levels. He supports everything that we’ve done. I mean, I have not gotten a ‘no’ from him literally in the five years I’ve been here. I know how good a setup I have. I don’t think I’ve ever taken for granted and I don’t think I will. But now he’s been phenomenal.”
Shortstop Dansby Swanson is the Braves’ highest-profile free agent this winter. The Braves re-signing him seems to make the most sense for both sides, if the deal benefits both.
Trea Turner, Carlos Correa and Xander Bogaerts are viewed as the top three shortstops on the market, but it’s logical to ask this question: Theoretically, if the Braves don’t meet Swanson’s price, would they be in play for a shortstop who likely would cost more?
Jacob deGrom and Justin Verlander are the top two starting pitchers on the market. Carlos Rodón is another.
Will the Braves make a huge splash? It remains to be seen.
But Thursday provided the latest indication of the Braves’ financial health, which should make fans encouraged about the potential for continued success in the future.