Welcome to another installment of Answers On The Fly, where our authors answer questions from you, the reader, on the Atlanta Braves. Answers On The Fly runs on Mondays, and is your chance to get our take on topics of your choice. Feel free to add your questions to the mailbag.
Questions can be submitted the following ways:
This version of the reader mailbag will feature only one of the Nerd Trifecta. The other two are still in a fetal position recovering from the recent trade of Andrelton Simmons, which brings us to our first, and obvious, question. We received so many versions of this question that I’m going to post just one:
Seriously? Andrelton Simmons? WTF?!?
– City of Atlanta
Chris: Unless you have been under a rock or on some secret agent mission in Lesotho, you have heard that the Atlanta Braves on Thursday traded Defensive All-Universe shortstop Andrelton Simmons and catcher prospect Jose Briceno to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim In Southern California In the USA for shortstop Erick Aybar and pitching prospects Sean Newcomb and Chris Ellis.
Let me lead with my reaction, which, I will warn, may contain a naughty word:
Each of us will be giving our own views on the trade in separate articles, because they are just too long for a mailbag spot. But, the short answer is that trading Simmons might make the Atlanta Braves worse in 2016, but it probably made them better for 2018 through 2023. I say ‘might make the Braves worse in 2016’, because Erick Aybar is a decent defensive shortstop who hits better than Simmons. Prospect Sean Newcomb will probably have to pitch like Don Newcombe, though, if he is going to be accepted by Braves fans. And poor Erick Aybar…the first time he hits a cold spell with the bat, fans will eat him alive (conveniently forgetting extended cold spells by Simmons when doing so).
Even if this trade might make the Braves better, it’s still tough to swallow. I understood the Jason Heyward trade and accepted it more easily, since he was gone after this season anyway. But Simmons was locked up for several more years. He was fun to watch. He was what you tell a young, developing baseball player to be. Point to Simmons, and say ‘See that? Do that. Be That.’ Because for all of his talent on defense, two things Simmons did that made him just..well, Simba: he always had fun, and he was always looking to make a play. I’m going to miss watching him roam the left half of Atlanta making plays.
Can you explain the Qualifying Offer process? I don’t think I fully understand it.
– Andy W.
Chris: Sure. Baseball has, for years, had a mechanism in place to compensate teams for losing a star player to free agency. In years past, the stars were given designations as Class A or Class B free agents, and their former teams received a draft pick based on the class. In the 2012-2013 off-season, this was changed to the current Qualifying Offer system. Free agents are no longer given a grade. Instead, their teams have an exclusive period at the end of the season to negotiate with them. Essentially, a team can tender a qualifying offer to a player, who then has seven days to decide whether or not to accept the offer. If the player accepts the offer, then he is just playing on a 1-year contract at the QO rate, which this year is about $15.8M (the QO rate is the average of the top 125 player salaries from the just finished season).
If a player rejects a qualifying offer, then he becomes a free agent, free to negotiate with any team. Any team that signs that free agent player (the one who received and rejected the QO) will lose their first round draft pick, unless it is a protected pick (protected picks are the first 10 picks in the draft). If their pick is protected, then the team loses its next highest pick in the draft. The forfeited draft pick doesn’t go to the former team; instead, the former team receives a compensatory pick that comes after the end of the first round, but before the start of the second round.
No qualifying offer had ever been accepted by a player, until this year. Colby Rasmus, Matt Wieters, and Brett Anderson all accepted their offers. All three are in similar situations, and were the types of players thought to accept an offer. They each had recent histories of injury and/or poor performance that was likely hurting their chances for a larger, multi-year contract. Rather than take their chances on a much smaller 1-year deal in free agency, they accepted the larger QO tender from their teams.
There is some talk that the Qualifying Offer process might be changed in the next CBA. Many believe that the contract values for players who receive qualifying offers is being depressed by having the QO attached to them. Some industry insiders think that a solution may be to push the value of a QO to the average of the top 75 or top 50 contracts in baseball, instead of the top 125. This could affect how many offers teams make, and teams may be more reluctant to offer QOs to marginal players like Rasmus or Anderson (good players, but not stars the system was designed for).
I think I saw on the AJC that the Braves got quite a bump in their TV deal when Fox Sports South gained the rights to the Peachtree TV games. I remember the $500 million number being there. Not sure if that was the total value of the deal, or if it was on top of the previous deal. Have you read anything on that?
– Darren S.
Chris: The Braves original TV deal was signed when Time Warner was in the process of selling the Braves. At the time, the TV deal was actually very good. Few teams had them, and the Braves had one of the higher payouts of those teams that did. And then the market changed drastically. FOX and ESPN began throwing money at baseball, and team after team began signing regional TV deals of their own.
The Braves were not in a very good position to renegotiate the deal, since the original TV package was for 20 years and had few avenues for ending it early. This put the Braves in a pretty tight spot in the marketplace for players, as they didn’t have the waterfall of cash flowing in from TV like other teams with newer deals did. Luckily for the Braves, one of the deals resulted in FOX having to move some Braves broadcasts from FOX Sports to Peachtree TV. Doing that created an avenue for a renegotiation, and the Braves took advantage.
The newly renegotiated deal created about $500M in additional revenue. While details aren’t available, it probably was taken as a small lump sum, with the rest paid out annually over the remaining life of the deal. So, you were correct with the figure you saw, and it is additional money over and above the original value of the TV package.