The Braves have until Monday at 11:59 p.m. ET to decide which of their 13 arbitration-eligible players will be tendered a contract for the 2014 season. Players tendered contracts will be given a chance to go through the salary-arbitration process, which begins in January. Those players who are not tendered a contract will become free agents.
Atlanta's talented and abundant list of arbitration-eligible players includes: Craig Kimbrel, Freddie Freeman, Mike Minor, Jason Heyward, Jordan Walden, Chris Johnson, Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy, Jordan Schafer, Cristhian Martinez, Ramiro Pena, Elliot Johnson and Paul Janish. Elliot Johnson, Janish and Martinez appear to be the only players on this list who could be non-tendered.
The Braves already avoided arbitration with left-handed reliever Jonny Venters by signing him to a one-year contract. There is a chance the club will attempt to sign a couple more of its arbitration-eligible players before January.
Elliot Johnson made a good impression after the Braves claimed him off waivers from the Royals in late August. He hit .261 and produced a .676 OPS in 102 plate appearances with Atlanta.
When Dan Uggla was benched in early September, Johnson became the everyday second baseman and kept the role through the postseason. The 29-year-old veteran utility player provides value off the bench with his ability to switch-hit and utilize his above-average speed.
Through arbitration, Johnson could gain a raise of approximately $350,000, which would push his salary toward the $900,000 neighborhood. The Braves must decide whether it makes more sense to pay this salary when they already have some depth at the middle-infield spots.
While the Braves will continue attempting to trade Uggla, they obviously recognize the possibility that they will not find the right suitor. If that proves to be true, Uggla, Pena, Tyler Pastornicky and possibly Atlanta's No. 14-ranked prospect Tommy La Stella will come to Spring Training fighting for one of those roster spots that Johnson could fill.
Janish has proven to be one of the game's most skilled defensive players. But his lack of offensive potential, evidenced by his .572 career OPS, will make the Braves at least think before paying him somewhere in the neighborhood of $725,000 for a second straight season.
Martinez made just two appearances before right shoulder discomfort sidelined him in early April and eventually forced him to undergo season-ending surgery. The 31-year-old reliever compiled a 3.63 ERA while combining to make 100 appearances for the Braves during the 2011 and '12 seasons. It seems highly unlikely Martinez will be tendered a contract that would guarantee him a contract similar to the $749,750 salary he earned this past season.