LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla – When it comes to paying players who aren’t yet eligible for arbitration, the Braves and many other teams follow a strict salary scale with few exceptions.
Craig Kimbrel was an exception.
Winning the National League Rookie of the Year and receiving votes for Cy Young and Rolaids Relief Man awards lifted Kimbrel’s salary to $590,000, up from $419,000 in 2011.
While still a relative bargain for a pitcher who led major league relievers with 127 strikeouts and tied for the NL lead with 46 saves, Kimbrel’s salary is the highest ever for a Brave with less than two years of service time.
The Braves agreed to terms Friday with all 24 of their ‘zero-to-three” players, the term for non-arbitration players with less than three years of service time in the majors.
To show what Kimbrel’s awards meant in terms of salary: Braves setup man Jonny Venters, another of the league’s top relief pitchers, got a $533,000 salary for 2012 despite having two full years of service time to less than 1-1/2 years for Kimbrel.
Venters made $429,500 in 2011 while posting a 1.84 ERA in a majors-leading 85 appearances.
Salary figures were not immediately available for others who came to terms Friday including outfielder Jason Heyward and first baseman Freddie Freeman, the NL rookie award runners-up the past two years, and starting pitchers Brandon Beachy and Tommy Hanson. The list included all non-arbitration players on the 40-man roster.
Hanson agreed to terms this year after having his contract unilaterally renewed by the Braves in each of the previous two seasons. (Teams can take that step when a player not eligible for arbitration doesn’t agree to terms.)
The major league minimum salary was raised to $480,000, up from $414,000 in 2011. Most on the Braves list with little or no major league service will be paid a prorated share of the major league minimum for any time with the big-league club in 2012, and a significantly smaller salary while in the minor leagues.
The Braves now have all players under contract and the payroll is at approximately $90 million, leaving them with about $4 million or $5 million in the player budget to fill potential needs.