Braves Will Go To Arbitration Hearings With Kimbrel, Freeman, Heyward

Braves GM Frank Wren says that his club will take its arbitration case to a hearing with the club's three remaining arbitration-filing players, reports David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (via Twitter). Wren says that the club will not have any further negotiations with closer Craig Kimbrel, first baseman Freddie Freeman, and outfielder Jason Heyward.

The Braves are a noted "file and trial" club, and Wren's statements indicate that the club intends to stand by its position. "We have an organization philosophy of the filing date is our last date to negotiate prior to a hearing," said Wren. "We're done." None of the other "file and trial" clubs — the Blue Jays, Marlins, Pirates, Rays, Reds, and White Sox — has any players yet to reach agreement. (The Pirates and Reds are new additions to the list, per tweets from MLBTR's Tim Dierkes and FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal.) For the first time ever, no players went to an arbitration hearing last year, but that apparently will not be the case for 2014.

As O'Brien explains, the Braves have not had a hearing since John Rocker back in 2001. The club avoided arbitration in 2009 with Jeff Francoeur just before a hearing, but has adopted its strict negotiating policy since that time.

Needless to say, those three players represent both a critical component of the team's young core and a substantial portion of its current and future payroll. Kimbrel, in particular, represents a fascinating arbitration case given his historic early-career performance from the back end of the pen. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects him to earn a $7.25MM salary in his first trip through arbitration, with Freeman and Heyward projected to take home $4.9MM and $4.5MM, respectively.

Wren discussed the club's negotiations as well, as Mark Bowman of MLB.com reports on Twitter"At the end of the day," Wren said, "we went well above the recommended salary arbitration numbers for all of our players."

The filing splits between player and team show that the Braves' filing numbers were in the ballpark of Swartz's projections. (The club may, of course, have been willing to go somewhat higher to avoid a hearing.) Kimbrel asked for $9MM, with the team countering at $6.55MM, while Freeman ($5.75MM vs. $4.5MM) and Heyward ($5.5MM vs. $5.2MM) also landed right around the projected dollar amounts.


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