On Monday, the Atlanta Braves finally hired a new general manager, more than a month after John Coppolella resigned in disgrace after an MLB investigation of the organization was brought to light. The man tabbed to replace Coppolella was former Toronto Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos, who left Toronto following an AL East title in 2015, perhaps because of the hiring of Mark Shapiro as president and CEO of the club.
Anthopoulos was the best choice the Braves could have made, overshadowing older former executives like Jim Hendry and Dan O’Dowd, who both interviewed for the job. He’s just 40, yet already has six years of experience as a GM, another four as an assistant GM, and another two as a VP, coming over the last two years with the Dodgers.
He walks into an organization with a brand new stadium and the best farm system in baseball. Anthopoulos is no stranger to trading stars, dumping seemingly immovable contracts, and dealing prospects for veterans. He was the one responsible for trading Roy Halladay to the Phillies (which didn’t work out for the Blue Jays), unloading Vernon Wells’ contract on the Angels (which worked splendidly, except for the whole “immediately trading Mike Napoli” part of the deal), picking up RA Dickey from the Mets for Noah Syndergaard and others (which he probably doesn’t want to talk about in public), and taking on a bunch of newly-signed contracts from the Marlins in exchange for prospects (which was a pretty amazing flop for both teams).
Anthopoulos also isn’t afraid to make the big move in order to bring his team closer to contention, which we saw during the 2015 season when the Jays dealt prospects to acquire David Price and Troy Tulowitzki, which came on the heels of the acquisition of Josh Donaldson that offseason.
The Braves are a 90-loss team without much of an identity. They have a franchise cornerstone at first base in Freddie Freeman, a pair of potential building blocks up the middle in Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson, a solid outfielder in Ender Inciarte…and not much else at the major league level. Atlanta has a pair of veteran catchers than have value now, but perhaps not for long. They have a pair of veteran corner outfielders making far too much money for their level of contribution to the team. They have a pitching staff that struggles with consistency and will bring back one starter with an ERA+ of at least 100 – rookie swingman Max Fried, who threw just 26 innings on the season.
If the Braves want to shake up their roster, they have just the executive that can do that. If they want to move on from Matt Kemp and Nick Markakis, Anthopoulos seems like the man that can trade them (and their contracts) to new organizations without the Braves taking much of a financial hit. If they feel the need to deal prospects for a top-tier starting pitcher or hitter, Anthopoulos definitely has experience packaging them (for better or worse). If they simply want to stay the current course and infuse their farm system into the major league team, he can do that as well.
Atlanta won’t be an easy job for Anthopoulos, especially with sanctions looming over the organization. But the Braves needed to bring someone in that was completely disconnected from their previous culture, and they brought in someone with as few ties to the organization as possible. Will he succeed? It’s anyone’s best guess – but at least the Braves aren’t trying to beat the “Braves Way” drum over and over again.