The Braves future has already started taking shape

Over the next few days,  countless individuals will be buying Powerball tickets with the hopes of winning a $400 million-plus jackpot.  I would suggest taking a safer bet, like signing up for the Braves file-and-trial program.

When Freddie Freeman, Craig Kimbrel and Jason Heyward exchanged salary arbitration numbers with the Braves on Jan. 17, they were each positioned to have their 2014 salary determined by an arbitration hearing.

The Braves confirmed they would adhere to their file-and-trial philosophy, which calls for teams to immediately end negotiations once arbitration are exchanged with the plan to take any of the unsigned arbitration-eligible players to a hearing.  As these past few weeks have proven, the fine print in Atlanta’s philosophy indicates this does not apply to negotiations involving multi-year deals.

Since these figures were exchanged, the Braves have given each of these three players the a financial comfort they would not have received through the arbitration process.  Hours after Heyward received a two-year, $13.3 million extension nearly two weeks ago, Freeman gained a franchise-record eight-year, $135 million contract.

Instead of going to his scheduled hearing on Monday, Kimbrel will now have time to think about how he can spend the $42 million he is guaranteed to receive over the next four years.   His contract, which was announced on Sunday morning, includes  a $13 million option for the 2018 season and has a maximum value (bonuses and incentives included) of $58.5 million.

If you’re keeping score, the Braves have committed at least $190 million to these three players in the month that has passed since those now meaningless arbitration figures were exchanged.

Braves general manager Frank Wren will continue to stress that his file-and-trial policy is strict in terms of negotiations regarding one-year deals.  But given what has happened over the past month, some agents might be less influenced by the presence of this philosophy and how it might pertain to their clients who play for the Braves.

The file-and-trial policy has been adopted by a number of clubs who want to attempt to prevent agents from submitting an escalated asking price.   If a hearing takes place, the arbitrator simply determines whether the player will get what he requests or what the team has offered.  There is nothing in between.  <p>

With all of this being said, it must be remembered that this year’s events were unique given the caliber of players involved.  In other words, had the agents who represent Jordan Schafer or Chris Johnson opted to test this policy, they were likely going to have been involved with a hearing at some point this month.

With Freeman, Kimbrel and Heyward, the Braves had the comfort and desire to provide these multi-year deals.   The players benefited from the fact that this desire was enhanced by the club’s need to keep a strong product on the field in preparation for the 2017 opening of the new stadium in Cobb County.

Wren has spent the past few weeks building a solid foundation for his future roster and at the same time, given his players reason to believe the organization is committed to extend its recent success.

When the Braves announced the new stadium plans in November, B.J. Upton was the only player signed through at least the 2017 season.  Three months later, Freeman, Kimbrel and Julio Teheran, who signed a six-year, $34.2 million contract on Friday, now know that they are part of the club’s long-term plans.

Andrelton Simmons appears to be the most likely other candidate to become the latest Braves player to receive a multi-year deal before the season begins.  His negotiations are complicated by the monetary value placed on the combination of his tremendous defensive skills and offensive potential.  But it goes without saying that the Braves would like to have him manning the shortstop position for many years to come.

Based on what is seen over the next two years, the Braves will gain a better feel for the kind of commitment they might make to a few members of their rotation, namely Kris Medlen, Mike Minor and Brandon Beachy.   There also could come a point when the club has to decide whether it wants to keep Heyward or Justin Upton.

But for now, Wren has already given his player and Braves fans reason to be encouraged about what the future has in store.

Say what you want about the file-and-trial program.  After what I’ve seen the past few weeks, I just want an application form.

 

 

 

 

 

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