Tuesday, October 29, 2013

So You Want An "Ace"???

OK, OK, OK. Like tons of fans around the country, we Braves faithful have been screaming for years that the one thing that separates our favorite team from that next World Series is having that true "Ace" sitting at the top of our rotation. Many times that simply hasn't been the case since there have been other holes - whether we were willing to admit them or not. Heading into 2014 however, I completely agree with those who think that if we had that ONE guy, this will be our year. The 2013 version of Tomahawk Choppers was close - so close that everyone (not just Braves fans) could feel it. The players could taste it too...the squad battled through multiple injuries that would've been crippling to most organizations - the loss of BOTH Eric O'Flaherty and Jonny Venters before the opening gun went off, Brian McCann's April lost to shoulder rehabilitation, Brandon Beachy's struggle to get back following Tommy John surgery, Freddie Freeman's stint on the DL (that may very well have cost him an NL MVP award), Tim Hudson's broken ankle that ended his season just as he was looking as good as he's ever looked in a Braves uniform, and the stray Jon Niese fastball to Jason Heyward's jaw that was likely the final straw - yet somehow this team was still locked in a battle with the Cardinals for the best record in the NL right down to the last weekend of the regular season. Someone different seemed to step up in a big spot every night. The Braves had the best home record in baseball as well as winning records against EVERY other NL playoff team with entirely lost seasons from its two highest paid players - Dan Uggla and B. J. Upton were two of the worst hitters in the league among players with qualifying ABs.

So let's fast-forward to 2014 - every important piece of last season's successful campaign is likely returning other than Brian McCann. I hate it just as much as everyone else, but it's simple baseball economics. Mac signed a team-friendly extension a few years back, and he deserves to get paid for the player he's been and still is - one of the most elite hitters as a Catcher in recent memory. While having him in the clubhouse both to be the face of the franchise as well as help with the transfer of leadership from Chipper Jones was terribly important in 2013, he's over 30 with a lot of innings crouched behind the plate. The free-agent "perfect storm" for someone like Brian has arisen - EVERY big market contender is looking for an offensive-minded Catcher just as THE guy they'd all love to have becomes available. Add to that the fact that the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rangers are AL clubs with the ability to extend Mac's value by utilizing him as a DH at times to help with the wear and tear, and there's going to be some kind of bidding war for his services. Some estimates I've seen are in the 5 year - $100 million range, and I think that might even turn out to be a little less than he ultimately commands. Even at a 25% discount, the Braves simply don't have the flexibility to offer one of their most-liked players that kind of contract - the last 2 years could be financially disastrous for a mid-market club. (Side note - if anybody other than John Smoltz or Chipper Jones ever deserved the opportunity to "cash-in" and set up his family for generations to come WITHOUT one ounce of blowback from fans, that guy is Brian McCann.)

Will Mac's numbers and presence be missed? Of course. That said, this team has begun to develop it's own identity with Freeman, Heyward, the Upton brothers, and Andrelton Simmons as its core, and Brian's production will arguably be replaced (and even potentially exceeded) with a full compliment of ABs for Evan Gattis and just an average B. J. Upton season at the dish. Offense, while at times inconsistent, is far from the top of the list of concerns the Braves have moving forward. Freeman will be a perennial MVP candidate, Justin Upton could be with a little more consistency, and Heyward, Gattis, B. J. Upton, and Simmons are all capable of igniting an offense when needed - and all should be even better in 2014.

While the Braves' pitching staff was among baseball's elite in 2013 even with all the injuries, the overwhelming feeling was that it was that one DOMINANT arm that would allow everyone to slip down one notch and make it truly overpowering. Mike Minor and Kris Medlen made huge steps forward in their development, Julio Teheran had the kind of rookie campaign everyone had hoped for (and many naysayers had given up hope for), Alex Wood delivered on his promise (even if for just a short time - which was really all one could expect), and Paul Maholm was...well, Paul Maholm. The what-if crowd will say "yeah, but if Hudson hadn't gone down or Beachy would've made it back that would've made a huge difference", and I don't entirely disagree with them. While I've long trumpeted Huddy as an "Ace without being a true Ace" and Beachy showed so much promise before his injury, I have to agree that neither of them is that guy that scares other teams in a short series. To be completely honest, no one on the Braves current staff has the potential to develop into that kind of pitcher other than Teheran, and the next two with that kind of upside spent their 2013 seasons in Rome (Lucas Sims and Mauricio Cabrera). I can't escape the feeling that the pundits (as well as the competition) would've viewed last season's squad in an entirely different light if Minor and Medlen would have been Game 2 and Game 3 starters in the postseason.

So what to do? With a minimal number of question marks and no gaping holes to fill heading into the Hot Stove season, Frank Wren is at a crossroad - do you gamble and take one or two shots at winning a Championship by mortgaging a portion of the future or not? Given the current makeup of the rest of the roster and the financial situation, my answer would be "yes". Most of the early buzz from Atlanta fans is that they'd like to see him put together a package to try to land David Price (who the Rays are all but certain to move this winter). In a perfect world, I'd love to see that too. Any "Ace" is going to cost a substantially significant package to land, and Price is going to get the Rays the biggest return of all since he's got two years of control remaining. Finances aren't going to be an issue for once - the commitments to Mac, Hudson, and Maholm are over, and each MLB club will be gaining roughly an additional $28 million in revenues from the new national TV deal. The money is available to add a significant piece without spending a large chunk of the new revenue or gaining additional flexibility by moving Dan Uggla for a little salary relief. Price should receive around $14 million in arbitration, grew up a Braves fan, and is the obvious choice. I asked a couple of the Baseball America guys (Jim Callis and J. J. Cooper) about a potential package of Alex Wood, Christian Bethancourt, Lucas Sims, and Jose Peraza (4 of the Braves' Top 10 prospects) for Price, and both felt that wouldn't be enough for Tampa in their opinion. Their feeling was that Sims and Peraza are just too far away from contributing at the MLB level for them to pull the trigger. Even though I think that'd be one heck of a return, I tend to agree with them - Tampa's not looking to completely rebuild these days, they're trying to remain competitive in the tough AL East as well. Would substituting Teheran and Gattis for Wood and Bethancourt make enough difference to get Andrew Friedman to say yes? Maybe, but then you're left without a Catcher.

After thinking through the above offer, I backed away and wondered "if an offer like that won't get you David Price, who might it get?" The answer hit me like a ton of bricks. You want to target an Ace that is "expendable" (if there is such a thing). That Pitcher is Max Scherzer. The Tigers are a contender with a pretty weak farm system that already has an Ace and several significant financial commitments. They're already committed long-term to Justin Verlander, Prince Fielder, and Anibal Sanchez and are soon going to have to extend the best hitter that baseball has seen in generations in Miguel Cabrera. While Scherzer and Verlander are 1A and 1B, Sanchez is a legitimate #2 on any contender pitching as a #3. Would they be that much worse without Scherzer? On paper, maybe a little, but Wood or Teheran would more than hold their own if slotted into Detroit's rotation. However, they have very few impact arms in their system, none with the upside of Sims, and Bethancourt and Peraza would give them huge upgrades over anyone in their system at their positions as well. Offer Wood first, but be willing to substitute Teheran if that gets it done. Is it a gamble? Sure, but the money and talent to make it happen is available, AND you have the increased revenue coming for future seasons to utilize in trying to lock up Scherzer beyond next season. If I can't get Price, he's definitely my guy.

When Sid Slid's Proposed 2014 Braves Roster:

RF- Jason Heyward
LF- Justin Upton
1B- Freddie Freeman
C- Evan Gattis
3B- Chris Johnson
2B- Tommy La Stella
CF- B. J. Upton
SS- Andrelton Simmons

SP- Max Scherzer
SP- Mike Minor
SP- Kris Medlen
SP- Julio Teheran or Alex Wood
SP- Brandon Beachy

CL- Craig Kimbrell
SU- Luis Avilan
SU- Jordan Walden
RP- David Carpenter
RP- Jonny Venters
RP- David Hale
LR- Anthony Varvaro or Cristian Martinez

BENCH- Gerald Laird, Dan Uggla, Jordan Schafer, Elliot Johnson, Joey Terdoslavich

When reading between the lines of the statements the organization has made so far, I have to believe that Uggla will be moved if someone's willing to pay $6-8 million of what the Braves still owe him and that he HAS to produce, meaning that they'll consider 2B an open competition if he's still on the roster come February. La Stella's doing everything possible to make the brass feel confident that he's "ready" in the Arizona Fall League, but you also have Johnson and Tyler Pastornicky as fallback options. Johnson will be kept around until Ramiro Pena's ready to return. That buys even more time. Given the potential hole the Tigers could have at 2B with Omar Infante's pending departure, I'd even offer to extend the potential Scherzer deal to include Uggla and cover his salary IF they'd take Wood rather than Teheran. I've referenced MLBTR's salary projections in the construction of my Braves' salary spreadsheet, and the above roster would come in at right around $100 million in 2014 commitments even if the Braves pay Uggla's full salary, re-sign Schafer (projected $1 million), take a chance on bringing Venters back (projected $2.3 million) instead of cutting costs with a less-expensive arm and pay the $150,000 buy-out due Reed Johnson. If the Tigers would take Uggla and eat around $3-$4 million, you'd even have the option of offering contracts to both Venters and O'Flaherty - talk about a dominant bullpen if they were both healthy, wow!!! Terry McGuirk, John Schuerholz, and Frank Wren have all been consistent in their stance that they have the go-ahead from Liberty Media to expand payroll if needed, and that projected $100 million figure isn't even really a bump in salaries when you factor in the additional $28 million in TV revenue.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Post-2013 Braves' Minor League Depth Chart

As the 2013 Minor League regular seasons draw to a close, it seems like a pretty good time to take a look at Atlanta's "feeder" depth chart going forward. Below is When Sid Slid's take on the kids Braves fans may be getting to know much better in the near future. Everyone should notice a handful of these names as several have gotten their feet wet with the big club this season. You'll likely notice a few more of them mentioned during game telecasts in the coming days as the big league roster expands for the last month of the regular season.

Each player's highest completed minor league level is noted, as well as WSS's expected ETA for them. Pitchers' ceilings are also noted (potential future MLB rotation slots for SPs as well as potential future pen roles for RPs) - as always, these are to be taken as "soft" expectations since it's typically much tougher to project their capability to adjust and develop...PARTICULARLY the younger ones.

We'll name our Braves' MiLB Pitcher and Hitter Of The Year soon as well as take a closer look at quite a few of these kids in the coming weeks.

(Players in bold are already on the MLB 40-Man Roster, and Constanza, Gattis, Pastornicky, Terdoslavich, Cunningham, and Gosselin each have accrued MLB Service Time.)

Starting Pitchers
1. Graham, J. R. (AA) (1-2) (2014)
2. Sims, Lucas (A) (1-2) (2016)
3. Cabrera, Mauricio (A) (1-2) (2016)
4. Hursh, Jason (A) (2-3) (2015)
5. Gilmartin, Sean (AAA) (3-4) (2014)
6. Northcraft, Aaron (AA) (3-4) (2014)
7. Schlosser, Gus (AA) (3-4) (2016)
8. Ubiera, Andry ® (1-2) (2016)
9. Thomas, Ian (AA) (3-4) (2015)
10. Hale, David (AAA) (3-4) (2014)
11. Martin, Cody (AAA) (3-4) (2014)
12. Otero, Andy ® (2-3) (2016)
13. Salazar, Carlos ® (2-3) (2016)
14. Torres, Yeralf ® (2-3) (2016)
15. Jones, Jesus ® (2-3) (2016)
16. Grosser, Alec ® (3-4) (2016)
17. Silva, Aldo ® (2-3) (2017)

Relief Pitchers
1. Graham, J. R. (AA) (CL) (2014)
2. Buchter, Ryan (AAA) (CL) (2014)
3. Simmons, Shae (AA) (CL) (2015)
4. Harper, Ryne (AA) (CL) (2014)
5. Hursh, Jason (A) (2015)
6. Cornely, John (A+) (SU) (2015)
7. Hale, David (AAA) (SU)(2014)
8. Obispo, Wirfin (AAA) (SU) (2014)
9. Lamm, Mark (AAA) (SU) (2014)
10. Jaime, Juan (AA) (SU) (2014)
11. Merejo, Luis ® (SU) (2014)
12. Perez, Carlos (A+) (SU) (2015)
13. Pfisterer, Eric (A) (SU) (2015)
14. Gilmartin, Sean (AAA) (SU) (2014)
15. Northcraft, Aaron (AA) (SU) (2014)

1. Gattis, Evan (AAA) (2013)
2. Bethancourt, Christian (AA) (2014)
3. Sanchez, Carlos ® (2016)
4. Murphy, Tanner ® (2016)
5. Martinez, Carlos ® (2016)

First Basemen
1. Terdoslavich, Joey (AAA) (2013)
2. Gattis, Evan (AAA) (2013)
3. Mejia, Ernesto (AAA) (2014)
4. Elander, Josh (AA) (2015)
5. Beckwith, William (AA) (2015)

Second Basemen
1. LaStella, Tommy (AA) (2014)
2. Pastornicky, Tyler (AAA) (2012)
3. Gosselin, Paul (AAA) (2013)
4. Peraza, Jose (A) (2015)
5. Monasterio, Luis ® (2016)

Third Basemen
1. Salcedo, Edwin (AA) (2015)
2. Kubitza, Kyle (A+) (2016)
3. Caratini, Victor ® (2017)
4. Camargo, Johan ® (2017)
5. Azuaje, Franklin ® (2017)

1. Peraza, Jose (A) (2015)
2. Reyes, Elmer (A+) (2015)
3. Reynolds, Mikey ® (2015)
4. Castro, Daniel (A+) (2016)
5. Camargo, Johan ® (2016)

Left Fielders
1. Terdoslavich, Joey (AAA) (2013)
2. Constanza, Jose (AAA) (2012)
3. Elander, Josh (AA) (2015)
4. Hefflinger, Robby (AA) (2015)
5. Estevez, Kelvin ® (2016)

Center Fielders
1. Cunningham, Todd (AAA) (2013
2. Wren, Kyle (A+) (2015)
3. Lipka, Matt (AA) (2015)
4. Reyes, Victor ® (2016)
5. Sanchez, Fernelys ® (2016)

Right Fielders
1. Cunningham, Todd (AAA) (2013)
2. Wren, Kyle (A+) (2015)
3. Hefflinger, Robby (AA) (2015)
4. Rohm, David (A+) (2015)
5. Morel, Jose ® (2016)

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Reading The Tea Leaves

Seventeen days until Opening Day and counting quickly. While many questions have been answered, several interesting ones have arisen as well. We'll address the three that most followers felt were the most important first because at least two that have developed since camp opened have the potential of being those "franchise-shaping" types.

1.) Has Julio Teheran's time finally come, and can he "hold down the fort" until Brandon Beachy's healthy? 

We always need to be careful about how much weight we put on spring numbers. That said,  I don't feel I'm going out on a limb when I say it absolutely is his time and Brandon can take all the time he needs to make sure he's ready. I'm not talking June - he's got until around July 31st to be ready to go. Brandon doesn't need to rush anything, he just needs to be able to give the team 5-6 competitive innings come the non-waiver trade deadline so Frank Wren can move Paul Maholm for a prospect or two. While Julio's numbers have been impressive (14 IP, 1.29 ERA, 0.57 WHIP, 2 earned runs on 4 hits allowed, .087 Batting Average Against, and an 18/4 K/BB Ratio), it's more about the things you just "see" when watching his starts - how he's carried himself and gone about his work that tells the tale. He faced a Tigers lineup with Austin Jackson, Victor Martinez, Prince Fielder, Alex Avila, and Jhonny Peralta last Thursday and allowed 3 hits (none for extra bases) in 4 IP with 5 Ks. He followed that up by no-hitting a weaker Cardinals lineup for 5 innings two days ago. What the typical box score numbers don't reflect that really speaks volumes is the fact that he's only needed 189 pitches to get through his 14 IP, and 157 of those have been for strikes. He's not nibbling, not wasting pitches, trusting his stuff and just attacking hitters. Not only is he "ready", we may be about to see the Julio Teheran everyone expected two years ago.

2.) Can Andrelton Simmons adjust and be "the straw that stirs the drink" in the leadoff spot?  

While most of his ABs have come in WBC games for the Dutch entry, Simmons will be just fine at the top of this lineup. Through 27 ABs, his line is .370/.400/.704/1.104 with 3 2Bs and 2 HRs amongst his 10 hits, all from the leadoff spot. For all the reservations many have about the tournament, delivering clutch hits (his 2 run bomb tied their last contest in the 8th inning, sparking their surprising elimination of Cuba) while playing in what many foreign players see as their true World Series has to have his confidence at its highest point ever.

3.) How bad will including Martin Prado in the deal to land Justin Upton hurt, and can some mixture of Juan Francisco and Chris Johnson keep 3B from becoming a "black hole"?

While the OBPs are the expected relatively low numbers for each - .324 for Johnson, .316 for Francisco - they're more than acceptable when you consider Fredi hasn't been using them as a strict platoon, rotating their starts regardless of who the opposing SP is every day. Both players are slugging .500 or better, and they've combined for 3 2Bs, 4 HRs, and 16 RBIs in 72 ABs. That should translate to 25+ 2Bs and 20-25 HRs from the 8 hole. Almost as importantly, both guys have played solid defense (particularly Francisco) - Johnson has made the only 3 errors the platoon has been charged with in 143 innings.

 The SPs other than Hudson have picked up right where they left off last season, and while Huddy's struggled a little bit early, March has typically always been more about getting his work in and getting his pitch count up - the numbers on the back of his baseball card have always spoken for themselves, and you know what you'll get from him as long as he's healthy. Eric O'Flaherty and Jordan Walden have been brought along slowly since they were a little nicked up early, but with the extended camp that comes along every WBC year they should be fine. Jonny Venters struggled with his control last night, but he wasn't used as he normally will be - he came in to retire one batter with 2 outs in the 5th inning after Medlen took a liner off his arm, then was sent back out after sitting down. He's got plenty of time left to get that nasty power sinker grooved before anything counts.

This leads us to the two very interesting questions I have for the future. They're not in need of resolution just yet, but they could prove to be serious game changers.

1.) How will the organization choose to handle Tim Hudson beyond 2013, and how does that shape the rotation moving forward?  

People consistently underrate Tim Hudson. While he's not the prototypical "Ace" with a big fastball and wipeout breaking ball and high K rate, he's Huddy and his contributions reach much further. He's as consistently good as ANY SP in the game. No stage is too big for him, no lineup's too "stacked" regardless of how many lefties they put in the box against him. Quite possibly the most important thing about him is that when other SPs begin running out of gas later in the year when the innings start to pile up, a bit of fatigue often appears to make his sinker even more effective. However, his deal is up following this season, and there's still a glut of MLB-ready SPs in the organization behind him even after shipping Randall Delgado away. Sean Gilmartin is Mike Minor-Lite, and Alex Wood can be pushed at will if the organization decides to replace Huddy with Beachy and still have a second southpaw in the rotation to replace Maholm. J. R. Graham is the "real deal", and could likely leapfrog both of them and force Wren and Fredi to only utilize one LHSP in the rotation sooner rather than later. While it's true that you can never have enough pitching, the only question I feel is worthy of concern is whether Medlen, Minor, or Beachy are ready to assume Huddy's role as the leader of the staff that you can run out there against another team's "Ace" 3 times in a playoff series if needed. I think we'll find out that they are (at least Meds and Minor) by the All-Star Break this year and that Tim's offered a position with the organization to help the young guys if he'd like to stick around, but that the money to extend his playing days will be better spent on extensions for the younger crew.

And, the biggest and most controversial question...

2.) What in the world do you do with Brian McCann, especially if he hits like we expect him to come mid-April?

This year was supposed to mark the transition from "Chipper's team" to "Brian's team". Mac has been steadily assuming the clubhouse leader role more and more over the last 2-3 seasons. He's a "hometown hero", and was always seen as the pretty obvious choice as the new "face" of the organization. Unfortunately as a 30 year old Catcher with a body beginning to slowly break down, it's tough to pay him the money a bat like his commands when you can't play him anywhere else defensively and there's no DH in the NL. Again, I hate putting much stock in spring numbers, but when they're combined with the reviews he's gotten thus far, I'm beginning to believe that the future is "El Oso Blanco" and that future is upon us. I (among many) will be watching closely tonight while Evan Gattis is behind the plate with Minor pitching. Fredi's consistently been quoted as being much more impressed with his defense than he expected, and Eddie Perez has said since day one that he's up to the challenge of being a starter at the MLB level. Recent rumors have surfaced that the Rangers came calling about Mac before the team exercised his option for this year, but FW wasn't interested at that time. What's different now? There are TWO Uptons in the OF to go with Heyward, Freeman, and Simmons, and Gattis' defense seems to be winning over the opinions that matter. If it were up to me, I'd send Evan down to Gwinnett to start the year with the understanding that the only thing I'm interested in him doing is continuing to get better defensively. $12+ million/year would be awfully tough for me to swallow for McCann going forward, and I've consistently been one of his biggest supporters. My hope is that the "perfect case scenario" plays out - Mac comes back on fire for a month, Jon Daniels is still interested because he has the flexibility of giving Mac regular days off as their DH, and FW can convince him to part with our perfect fit (and the guy they simply can't find a place in their lineup for) and swaps Mac straight up for Mike Olt.

It may very well be a pipe dream, but a 2014 and beyond lineup consisting of ...Simmons, Heyward, J-Up, Freeman, Olt, B. J. Upton, Gattis, and Uggla will absolutely cause lots of sleepless nights for opposing GMs,  Managers, Pitching Coaches, and Pitchers, and would leave Frank Wren with LOTS of financial flexibility for the foreseeable future. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Now That The Dust Has Settled

After Frank Wren's masterful winter of dealing to "replace" franchise icon Chipper Jones, the time has come to shift his attention to locking up the current core of youngsters in an effort to begin a ride resembling the amazing one his current boss and Bobby Cox took Braves' faithful on throughout the 90s and early 2000s. The pieces are in place, now the tough work starts - keeping them together for an extended period of time.

As tough a pill to swallow as including Martin Prado in the deal to land Justin Upton was, moving his salary has created significant payroll flexibility for 2013, and with reports that the expected additional revenues (somewhere around $28 million) generated for each club from MLB's new national TV deal that begins in 2014 on the way, it's time to get down to business and see what kind of common ground Wren can establish with the representatives for Upton, Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman, Craig Kimbrel, Kris Medlen, and possibly Brian McCann as well.

Multiple sources have led Braves' "insiders" to the understanding that the somewhat flexible salary cap for 2013 was around $98 million. While things don't work in a vaccuum, for the sake of this column let's assume moving forward that the entire $28 million/year in additional revenues generated from MLB's new national TV deal will make future "caps" around $126 million. Following the Upton/Prado trade, my calculations place the current commitments roughly $10.3 million below that figure. Combine that with the additional $6.5 million created when Paul Maholm is either traded at the deadline (if Brandon Beachy returns to health on schedule) or at the end of the season when his contract is up and Wren currently has roughly $45 million to play with. If Beachy proves healthy and Medlen, Minor, and Julio Teheran take the steps forward the organization believes they will, you could conceivably add Tim Hudson's expiring $9 million commitment to that if they feel one of the other young pitching prospects (J. R. Graham, Sean Gilmartin, or Alex Wood) could capably fill the role of 5th starter next season for a total of $54 million to spend on extensions. Picking 2017 as an arbitrary date for our goal of 5 years together (if for no other reason than that's when B. J. Upton's franchise-record deal ends), here's my take on the advice I'd offer if Frank had me on his speed dial...

Using the extensions Upton and other hometown hero Brian McCann agreed to early in their careers as a template, I'd think it would be both reasonable and prudent to approach Heyward's representation first. Providing him with the significant financial certainty a 4 year $38.5 million extension would provide him in exchange for his first two free-agent seasons would seem "fair" for both sides. Following McCann's "schedule" and allowing for some inflation would point to a $2 million signing bonus with salaries of $6.5 million in 2014, $7.5 million in 2015, $9.5 million in 2016, and $13 million in 2017.

Many of the national pundits have argued that Kimbrel is one of the most valuable pieces in baseball today given his age, track-record, and status as THE current best closer in the game. Assuming Kimbrel sees a similar salary bump between his $590,000 renewal salary this season to around Heyward's $3,650,000 number this season, offer the same ladder to him - a 4 year $29 million extension with a $2 million signing bonus and salaries of $3.5 million in 2014, $6.5 million in 2015, $7.5 million in 2016 and $9.5 million in 2017. 

I'd offer Freeman and Medlen the same extensions as Kimbrel. This would bring us to $25 million of the available $45 million (or $54 million) committed to those four players in 2014.

While I agree there's some risk involved in extending aging Catchers, the feeling I've gotten is that most of the players feel that McCann is going to be "that guy" that evolves into the next Chipper in the clubhouse. If he's willing to play out his current deal and test the free-agent waters following this season that's understandable, but it can't possibly be a bad idea to offer him a 4 year $25 million dollar extension with the 4th year being a vesting option based on health/ABs/games played for an additional $8 million with a $1 million buyout.  That's $33 million in commitments.

I'd then approach Justin's representatives and offer a 2 year $31 million extension to his current deal with a $2 million signing bonus, which would give him the same 2016 and 2017 salaries as B. J. to hopefully eliminate any future animosity over their salaries. That's $35 million spent in 2014.

You take the additional $10 million left over and invest it to help pay for arbitration raises for the other players (Simmons, Beachy, Minor, Teheran,) and you're looking at having the entire OF, Freeman, Kimbrel, McCann, Medlen, 3 other SPs, and Simmons locked up through 2017 with Dan Uggla locked up through 2015 and his $13.25 million available to go towards paying for Justin's additional 2 seasons. If next season reveals that neither Chris Johnson or Juan Francisco provides a long-term 3B option, you still have Hudson's expiring money to go towards addressing that potential issue if it arises. 

The overall future salary commitments would then look like this:

2014 - $67,450,000
2015 - $77,200,000
2016 - $70,950,000
2017 - $82,450,000

leaving plenty of "wiggle room" for renewals, arbitration raises, potential future additions at 2B and 3B, potential extensions for Simmons/Beachy/Minor, and even a little money to chase significant rotation or bullpen help via free-agency if needed.