BOCA RATON, Fla. -- As this year's General Managers Meetings began on Monday, a veteran reporter playfully said Braves general manager John Coppolella should be deemed Executive of the Year because he had actually managed to trade the contracts of both Melvin Upton Jr. and Chris Johnson.
In order to rid themselves of these ugly contracts, the Braves had to bid adieu to closer Craig Kimbrel and lessen their financial flexibility for the 2016 season. But both of these trades were completed with a long-term focus that has given Atlanta reason to be optimistic about how successful it might be in 2017 and beyond.
Because the Braves received $15 million via the Aug. 7 trade that sent Johnson to the Indians, they ended up adding approximately $7.5 million to the 2016 payroll via the roster additions of Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn. But at the same time, this was an immediate cost they were willing to assume in order to rid themselves of the $9 million owed to Johnson in 2017.
As things currently stand (without accounting for arbitration costs), Atlanta owes approximately $54 million to six players in 2017. This figure would have looked far less manageable had the Braves not moved the $25.45 million owed to Upton and Johnson in 2017.
Still, while the Braves have improved their financial future, they are currently in a position where they do not know how they will utilize Swisher or Bourn, a pair of veterans who would be best suited in backup roles.
Swisher and Bourn both spent time in left field for Atlanta this past season, but it now appears that position is designated for Hector Olivera to handle on an everyday basis. This creates the possibility that Bourn could continue to back up center fielder Cameron Maybin until Mallex Smith, No. 13 among Braves prospects, according to MLB.com, is deemed ready at some point next season.
But Atlanta will likely attempt to cut some of its outfield surplus via trades this offseason. It appears the Braves would be willing to eat some of the money owed Swisher ($16 million) or Bourn ($14 million).
If they find difficulty in finding suitors for Bourn or Swisher, the Braves may have to move Maybin, who enhanced his value significantly with a strong first half this season and then battled a variety of ailments during a disappointing second half.
With the expectation that Smith will likely be in Atlanta by at least the All-Star break, the Braves have some extra motivation to get some value for Maybin, who will make $8 million in 2016 and then become eligible for free agency.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.