Atlanta's costly payroll problem

Updated: March 8, 2012, 10:44 AM ET
By Buster Olney

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Cardinals' signing of Yadier Molina to a $75 million deal changes the landscape for the Atlanta Braves, as the possible free agency of Brian McCann looms at the end of 2013. The cost of high-priced catching just went up dramatically.

Atlanta holds a $12 million option on McCann for next season, and then the Braves must decide whether to invest an annual salary in the catcher that might absorb somewhere between 15 percent and 22 percent of their entire budget.

And keep in mind: The Braves' payroll is not growing. All around baseball, new TV contracts are filling the bankrolls of the Los Angeles Angels, Texas Rangers, San Diego Padres, etc. But Atlanta's television contract is locked into place for the next generation, and its payroll has remained stagnant.

2001: $92 million
2002: $94 million
2003: $106 million
2004: $90 million
2005: $86 million
2006: $90 million
2007: $87 million
2008: $102 million
2009: $97 million
2010: $84 million
2011: $91 million

Payrolls are growing all over baseball, but not in Atlanta. Salaries are climbing, but the Braves' budget is not.

Another way to look at the Braves' glacial drift is to consider their payroll standing relative to the rest of the majors.