The defending World Series champs begin their playoff push on Tuesday against the division-rival Phillies. Here’s what’s on the line for Atlanta.
There’s a reason nobody has won back-to-back World Series titles since 2000 — it’s really, really hard to do. The Atlanta Braves have done just about everything right since hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy last fall, including making big trades, signing free agents, and locking up their young talent. It all resulted in a 101-win regular season, National League East title, and a first-round bye in the postseason.
And Atlanta still enters October as definitive underdogs to make it back to the World Series, let alone win the whole thing again.
That’s because the Los Angeles Dodgers are coming off of one of the best regular seasons in recent memory, complete with 111 wins and about as well-rounded a roster as you can have.
But maybe the Braves have just enough to take them down?
That’s a question Atlanta can worry about later, however. The Braves start their title defense against the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday, and in a best-of-five series, one misstep could put you on the brink of the offseason.
2022 Atlanta Braves Postseason Overview
NLDS Opponent: Philadelphia Phillies
Season Series: 11-8 Braves
Current Payroll: $142,380,980 (No. 8 in MLB)
Luxury Tax Allocation: $233,893,638 ($230,000,000 threshold)
Braves’ Highest-paid Players by Average Annual Salary:
All salary figures via Spotrac.
- Austin Riley: $21,200,000
- Matt Olson: $21,000,000
- Charlie Morton: $20,000,000
- Marcell Ozuna: $16,250,000
- Kenley Jansen: $16,000,000
In the simplest terms, these Braves are a bunch of dudes. No one on this team ranks even in the top 40 in Major League Baseball for salary based on average annual value (you can thank crafty GM Alex Anthopolous’s wizardry for that), and Max Fried is the only one who approached true superstar numbers in 2022.
Instead, it’s just a group of definitive All-Stars. Together, they ranked second in baseball in both team OPS and home runs, and third in runs scored. They were also fifth in team ERA and fourth in batting average against. The Dodgers and Yankees were the only other teams to rank in the top five of each of those categories.
And again, they do it without anyone making more than $21.2M this year. Money well spent.
Braves Postseason Odds
Odds from our friends at FanDuel Sportsbook.
- To win the National League: +200
- To win the World Series: +460
Far be it from me to give betting advice — if you listen closely you might be able to hear my FanDuel account weeping in the distance. But…it seems like the Braves might be a high-value pick to win the whole thing. FanGraphs gives Atlanta a 16.7% chance to repeat, which is even higher than the Dodgers’ title odds (16.0%). This could be because the site actually likes the Braves to win their Division Series a little more than LA to beat the Padres. If the Braves do, in fact, come out of the National League, they would have home-field advantage over any AL team except for the Astros, who have their own potential pitfalls on their side.
2022-23 Braves Free Agents
- Kenley Jansen: $16,000,000 salary in 2022
- Jake Odorizzi: $12,500,000 (player option)
- Dansby Swanson: $10,000,000
- Adam Duvall: $9,275,000
- Robbie Grossman: $5,000,000
Upcoming Arbitration-eligible Braves
- Max Fried: $6,850,000 salary in 2022
- AJ Minter: $2,200,000
- Tyler Matzek: $1,400,000
The list of pending free agents and arbitration-eligible players has some interesting names, but the real story is the guys who are missing. Anthopolous made it a point to sign almost the entire core of the team to long-term deals — even players who were still under team control. Ronald Acuna, Ozzie Albies, Spencer Strider, Austin Riley, Michael Harris II, and Matt Olson now all have long-term deals on team-friendly terms.
Strider was the most recent signing, agreeing to a six-year, $75 million with the club on the eve of the Division Series. The Braves still need to deal with Fried, however, who has far out-earned his (comparatively) meager salary. Fried and the Braves went to arbitration last year after he posted a 3.04 ERA and 143 ERA+ in 2021. He blew those numbers away this year and is due for a mammoth raise, particularly if he can be the team’s Game 1 starter through three postseason series.
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