The Atlanta Braves' 2012 payroll was right around $93.5 million. The only significant cash coming off the books in 2013 is the $12 million from Chipper Jones' retirement. There is also a $9 million option for 2013 on Tim Hudson, which the Braves will most likely pick up. Other players like Martin Prado will be due a raise through the arbitration process, adding more money to the payroll.
Which leads to one of the major questions for the Braves this offseason: Can they legitimately make a run at re-signing center fielder Michael Bourn and still fill the other voids on the team?
Bourn is represented by superagent Scott Boras, and everyone around baseball knows that he is going to go after top dollar for his client.
Boras will shop his client as if he is the top center fielder in all of baseball. He will most likely be going after a four- to six-year contract, ranging anywhere from $12 to $15 million per season.
Matt Kemp is the highest-paid center fielder in the game, making $20 million annually. Bourn is no Matt Kemp, but Bourn ranks in the top five at his position, and Boras will want him to be paid accordingly.
When you do the math, it doesn't seem the Braves can afford to pay Bourn, address left field and pay players the raises they are due without significantly raising their payroll.
The Braves payroll would most likely have to exceed the $100 million mark for the first time since 2008. Owners and management would really have to believe in this team to add such a significant increase to the payroll.
In 2012, the Braves only ranked 15th in home attendance, bringing 2.4 million fans through the gates at Turner Field. This ultimately means the Braves are not drawing crowds of a $100 million ballclub, falling right in the middle of the pack.
If the Braves really want to bring back Bourn, their best bet is to let him test the free-agent market and hope teams are not willing to spend what Boras has to offer in the first few weeks of negotiations.
If no team signs Bourn right away, look for his overall price to drop. Then, and only then, might the Braves have a chance of re-signing Bourn.
The overall chances of the Braves re-signing Bourn do not look too good, and they most certainly do not want to overpay for him. All they can do now is sit back and see how the market for Bourn plays out.