Here’s a Christmas gift from the Atlanta Braves to … well, themselves. They just re-upped Ender Inciarte for five seasons at $30.525 million, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. The numbers ascend season over season, but what’s noteworthry is that the Braves have bought up Inciarte’s arbitration years, plus the first season after he could have become a free agent, for an average of $5.087 million.
The latest sabermetric estimate — this from Nicholas Stellini of FanGraphs — holds that the ever-escalating value of 1.0 of WAR (wins above replacement) is roughly $8 million. Over three big-league seasons, Inciarte has averaged a 4.2 WAR, per Baseball-Reference. If he were a free agent today, that would put him at $33.6 million per year. The Braves have bought five years of Inciarte for less than that. Clark Howard would be proud.
Oh, and there’s also this: The Braves hold a club option for 2022 at $9 million. If that day arrives and they don’t like him anymore, they can pay him $1.025 million to go away. Chances are they’ll still like him. He’s a very good player. He was third among center fielders in Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved. Also according to FanGraphs, he was 21st among all players in baserunning. And, not incidentally, he hit .341 with an OPS of .836 after the All-Star break.
In the two-plus years since they took over, roster-building was the second-biggest concern (after farm-restocking) for John Coppolella and John Hart. That roster has been largely rebuilt, making roster maintenance a bigger deal going forward. This is a deft bit of roster maintenance. The Braves have locked up a 26-year-old center fielder who merits locking up, and they haven’t broken the bank.