3. What does the payroll look like for 2009?

Here's a look at what the payroll situation for next season.

We've heard a lot of speculation over the past few weeks about exactly how much the Braves will have available this winter. Let's first look at what the Braves paid out for the 2008 season. These figures are estimates, with partial salaries provided for players who did not play the entire 162 game schedule.

Mike Hampton      $08.250
Tim Hudson          $15.500
John Smoltz          $14.000
Chipper Jones          $11.000
Tom Glavine          $08.000
Mark Teixeia          $07.500
Rafael Soriano          $02.650
Mike Gonzalez     $02.3625
Will Ohman          $02.500
Mark Kotsay          $02.000
Casey Kotchman     $00.537
Omar Infante          $01.400
Matt Diaz          $01.225
Jorge Julio           $00.075
Elmer Dessens          $00.075
Brian McCann          $00.800
Greg Norton          $00.800
Vladimir Nunez     $00.075
Jeff Francoeur          $00.460
Kelly Johnson          $00.430
Chuck James          $00.080
Peter Moylan          $00.410
Ruben Gotay          $00.403
Yunel Escobar          $00.4025
Jeff Bennett          $00.400
Corky Miller          $00.300
Buddy Carlyle          $00.375
Manny Acosta          $00.3925
Josh Anderson          $00.075
Gregor Blanco          $00.390
Blaine Boyer           $00.390
Francisley Bueno     $00.010
Jorge Campillo     $00.375
Brandon Jones          $00.075
Jair Jurrjens          $00.470
Brent Lillibridge     $00.080
Charlie Morton     $00.175
James Parr           $00.050
Jason Perry          $00.020
Martin Prado           $00.390
Jo Jo Reyes          $00.350
Jeff Ridgway          $00.075
Clint Sammons     $00.100
TOTAL          $86.1025          

Now let's go ahead and assume that we're off a bit and that the payroll was right near $90 million, even with the money saved when Mark Teixeira and Mark Kotsay were traded away.

Of the totals listed above, $43.575 is coming off the books, which is about half of the total figure.

Braves' General Manager Frank Wren said Monday that the payroll would be going up. So if the payroll was near $90 million, it's probably safe to assume Wren will be working with a budget around $100 for the 2009 season.

Now let's look at the money already allotted for next season:

Tim Hudson          $15.50
Chipper Jones          $10.00
Rafael Soriano          $06.35
Brian McCann          $03.50

That's $35.35 million dollars, or practically one-third of the projected budget. It is not known how much of Hudson's contract will be covered by insurance, which is a wildcard. If Hudson misses the majority of the season, it's possible the Braves could recoup $10 million dollars of his $15.5 million dollar salary.

The Braves have six players scheduled to be eligible for arbitration: Mike Gonzalez, Casey Kotchman, Kelly Johnson, Omar Infante, Jeff Francoeur, and Matt Diaz.

Here are the players, their 2008 salaries, and the projected salaries through arbitration:

PLAYER          2008 SALARY     2009 SALARY
Mike Gonzalez     $02.3625          $3.500
Casey Kotchman     $01.4500          $2.750
Omar Infante          $01.4000          $2.200
Kelly Johnson          $00.4300          $1.850
Jeff Francoeur      $00.4600          $1.500
Matt Diaz          $01.2250          $1.400

If those projected salaries are added to the four top players you will have a total of $48.55 million dollars. So for 10 players that would be about half the projected payroll.

Here are the player that can have their contracts renewed by the Braves: Ruben Gotay, Yunel Escobar, Jeff Bennett, Buddy Carlyle, Manny Acosta, Josh Anderson, Gregor Blanco, Blaine Boyer, Francisley Bueno, Jorge Campillo, Brandon Jones, Jair Jurrjens, Brent Lillibridge, Charlie Morton, James Parr, Jason Perry, Martin Prado, Jo Jo Reyes, Jeff Ridgway, and Clint Sammons.

Most of these players will have salaries under $1 million dollars. But if at least ten are on the 25-man roster, it could total around $6 or $7 million, which would put the total projected payroll at $55 million.

So if these projections are in the neighborhood, the Braves should have around $45 million dollars available to add to the payroll this winter.

Now, one issue is the potential salaries of John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, and Mike Hampton, the three players the Braves have said they want back. Wren said they will have to wait a bit on Smoltz and Glavine, until both are able to prove they can and want to pitch again. Wren has also said the need for two starters will not include Hampton, even though he is wanted back.

All three could get contracts with low base salaries and incentives, and in a way you wonder if they will slide those base salaries into Hudson's slot if that salary is saved by insurance. But it's probable that the base salaries could take up between $6 and $10 million dollars, eating into the $45 million that could be available.

So what's safe to assume here? Well, it's probably okay to believe the Braves have $40 million dollars to add this winter. That should be enough to make things very interesting this offseason.

Bill Shanks hosts The Atlanta Baseball Show on 680 the Fan in Atlanta and The Bill Shanks Show on SportsRadio 105.5 the Fan in Macon. He is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional scouting and player development philosophies. You can email Bill at thebravesshow@email.com.

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