Newly minted Atlanta Braves GM John Coppolella has rubbed plenty of Braves fans the wrong way during his brief time in charge of the team, trading shortstop Andrelton Simmons, reportedly entertaining offers for first baseman Freddie Freeman, and then going on a defiant rant about the Braves rebuilding and/or tanking. However, one thing Coppolella said at the GM meetings last week could bring some Braves fans back into his graces. Coppolella doesn’t exactly seem enamored with Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, who Bobby Cox hand-picked to be his successor following his 2010 retirement.
Here are the key quotes about Gonzalez from Coppolella, via Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports.
“We really like Fredi,” Coppolella said. “We thought it was an extension (in July). We knew we’d probably be selling off at the (2015 trade) deadline. If we didn’t have faith in Fredi, we would have let it play out.
“It’s something where we really like Fredi and his staff. Any contract you do, you want to have flexibility, and we have some flexibility. Fredi’s the same as me, the same as anybody. We’re all here with the Braves. I want Fredi to be here a long time. I hope he is.”
“He’s in the final year, but he has a club option, so it’s not like he’s a lame duck,” Coppolella replied. “We gave Fredi an extension because we want him to be our manager. We like Fredi. The team we gave him (in the second half of 2015), it would’ve been hard for anybody to win with that team.
“We’re hoping to give him a better chance to win this year.”
There’s some reading between the lines that needs to be done here. Gonzalez hasn’t exactly been on solid ground in Atlanta over the last couple of seasons. When he joined the team following the 2010 season, he signed a three-year contract with a club option for the 2014 season. Coming off an NL East title in 2013, the Braves gave him just a one-year contract for the 2015 season, Then this summer, they gave him another one-year deal for 2016 with a club option for 2017.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that if the Braves were willing to commit to Gonzalez as their “manager of the future”, they would have given him more than a one year extension with an option. A one-year deal with an option is what the Phillies did with interim manager Pete Mackanin in September. Even the perennially awful Rockies gave Walt Weiss a three-year deal in 2013 after initially hiring him on a one-year deal. Gonzalez can’t even get that sort of assurance.
With Gonzalez at the helm, the Braves have won just one playoff game in five seasons. His team has also struggled in September in four of his five seasons in charge, with 2012’s 19-8 mark standing out as the one September the team has been above .500 under Gonzalez. For a franchise that coasted through the 90s and first half of the 2000s under Cox, Gonzalez’s struggles have to be getting old. If the Braves turn in another year like they did in 2015, which is widely expected for 2016, I don’t think it would be at all surprising to see Gonzalez’s option declined and the Braves go on the hunt for a new manager.