The Braves are likely to retain injured lefty Mike Minor for the 2016 season, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports (links to Twitter). He cautions that it’s not yet certain how the team will proceed.
Minor, 27, can be controlled through arbitration for two more years. Since agreeing to a $5.6MM salary for the present season, a figure which was elevated by his prior Super Two qualification, Minor has accrued a full year of service time on the DL after undergoing shoulder surgery. Even before his lost 2015, Minor had followed up an outstanding 2013 campaign (204 2/3 innings, 3.21 ERA) with an injury-shortened disappointment last year (145 1/3, 4.77).
While Atlanta would undoubtedly prefer to keep the rights to the talented southpaw, and will have the benefit of watching him begin to throw in the coming weeks in assessing its position, that high salary starting point poses an issue. The CBA provides that teams “may not tender, sign or renew a Player under reserve to the Club” to a contract with a salary “that constitutes a reduction in excess of 20% of his salary for Major League service in the previous season.”
Salaries are rarely reduced through arbitration regardless, but that rule creates a firm $4.48MM floor if Atlanta tenders Minor a contract. The very same consideration led Atlanta to non-tender pitchers Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy last offseason. But in Minor’s case, O’Brien suggests on Twitter, there may be greater team interest in trying to strike a deal in that range if one can be had.
Of course, tendering a contract would not only make for a firm commitment but would open up the possibility of being forced to pay more money. The Braves could instead look to work something out before the non-tender deadline in early December. Particularly given that Minor will still be a full season away from qualifying for free agency through accumulation of service time, he could presumably also be approached with some kind of multi-year arrangement (as both Medlen and Beachy ultimately landed as free agents) that provides him with some guaranteed money while giving the club a chance to participate in the upside through cheap future guarantees and/or option years.
It will certainly be interesting to see how things proceed, given that the Braves have been actively investing in fairly risky pitching talent. On the other side of the equation, as Minor and his representatives will be well aware, clubs around the league have shown a good deal of willingness to spend on injured pitching on the free agent market in recent campaigns.