This one was a no-brainer:
Even as the Braves move ahead with plans to trim payroll, they weren't about to decline a relatively bargain-rate 2004 contract option on 21-game winner Russ Ortiz.The team has already indicated that it has no plans to re-sign Reynolds, and no one believes they're going to go after Maddux, who is both over the hill and vastly overpriced. Especially given the new payroll parameters:
The team exercised a $6.2 million option on the right-hander, who led the National League in wins after coming from San Francisco in a trade for lefty Damian Moss.
The Ortiz option carried a base salary of $5.7 million for 2004, which increased by $500,000 after he met escalator clauses by topping 200 and 210 innings pitched in 2003.
He was 21-7 with a 3.81 ERA in 212 1/3 innings, with 149 strikeouts and a league-high 102 walks. In the division series loss to the Cubs, Ortiz was 1-1 with a 5.03 ERA in two starts.
He's expected to join returning lefties Mike Hampton and Horacio Ramirez in next year's rotation. Starters Greg Maddux and Shane Reynolds are free agents.
Maddux and fellow free agents Gary Sheffield and Javy Lopez had salaries totaling $32.75 million, roughly one-third of Atlanta's $93 million payroll in 2003.Yikes. With the Yankees spending $180 million to lose, one can only imagine what the gap is going to be next year.
That payroll is expected to be cut to the mid-$80 million range in 2004, although team officials won't talk specifics.
"The number will be lower," general manager John Schuerholz said.