Atlanta Braves Rumors

Atlanta Braves trade and free agent rumors from MLBTradeRumors.com.

Emilio Bonifacio Changes Agents

Super-utility player Emilio Bonifacio has decided to change agents in advance of his coming free agency, MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes reports on Twitter. Bonifacio has moved from Paul Kinzer to Gene Mato, according to Dierkes.

The 29-year-old switch-hitter delivers much of his value through baserunning and defensive versatility. A consistent threat to swipe thirty bags, Bonifacio ranks 12th in all of baseball since 2011 in the baserunning component of Fangraphs’ WAR calculation. In his eight seasons of MLB action, Bonifacio has seen extensive time at both middle infield spots, center field, and third base.

Bonifacio is somewhat less accomplished with the bat, of course. His 2014 production — .259/.305/.345 over 426 plate appearances — is not far off from his career line of .262/.319/.341, which is approximately 20% below the league average rate. Bonifacio put up a .753 OPS in his best season as a hitter, his 2011 campaign with the Marlins, though that was fueled by a .372 BABIP. (His career mark is .331.)

Mato will face an interesting challenge in finding Bonifacio a new home. In the aggregate, he seems likely to draw wide interest given his age and broad skillset. It is easy to see any number of expected contenders seeking to add Bonifacio as a bench piece, while other clubs may want to move him around as they introduce young players — with the added bonus that he could once more be a summer trade chip.

As always, be sure to reference MLBTR’s Agency Database for the most up-to-date information on current player representatives. If you see any errors or omissions, please let us know via email: mlbtrdatabase@gmail.com.


Cafardo On Moore, Hart, Wotus, Hughes

In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe looks at nine managers and GMs to watch. The Braves search for a new GM features prominently on the list. While Royals owner David Glass won’t prevent GM Dayton Moore from pursuing the opening in Atlanta, the matter of compensation could still complicate a move. When the Red Sox traded Theo Epstein to the Cubs, they only acquired an unaccomplished reliever in Chris Carpenter. The Royals would want more in return for Moore.

  • If Atlanta’s interim GM John Hart decides to pass on the permanent position, he’ll be heavily involved in picking his successor. Hart helped groom several future GMs like Ben Cherington, Neal Huntington, and Mark Shapiro. Assistant GM John Coppolella could be next on the list.
  • It’s surprising Giants bench coach Ron Wotus isn’t connected to more managerial searches. Wotus is Bruce Bochy’s right-hand man and a former PCL manager of the year. My personal observation: the trend of hiring recently retired players has hurt the visibility of Wotus.
  • A poll of 12 GMs found in favor of paying Phil Hughes the $500,000 bonus for reaching 210 innings. He fell one-third of an inning short due to a rain delay. He also had another start affected by rain earlier in September. Eight GMs were in favor of paying Hughes with four opposed. Those against the idea cited contractual reasons. As we learned earlier this week, the CBA prevents the Twins from simply paying the bonus to Hughes without restructuring his contract.

NL East Notes: Phillies, Gattis, Marlins

The Phillies are expected to add depth this offseason in the hopes that increased rest will help the production of Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Carlos Ruiz, and Marlon Byrd, writes Matt Gelb of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Both manager Ryne Sandberg and interim team president Pat Gillick have hinted that more rest could help the performance of their elder statesmen. The team has received almost no production this month from it’s aging core. The club is also eager to add younger players.

  • Utley is disappointed with his year, according to Todd Zolecki of MLB.com. He also seems to imply that the daily grind of the season is to blame for the club’s disappointing finish. He points to full seasons from Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, and an elite bullpen as reasons for optimism in 2015. On the subject of a Hamels trade, he’s firmly against the idea.
  • Today might be Evan Gattis‘ last game with the Atlanta Braves, says David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Christian Bethancourt is viewed as the catcher of the future in Atlanta and appears ready for regular work. Since Gattis is not yet arbitration eligible, the Braves could keep him to split time with Bethancourt and serve as a cheap outfielder. Any outfield with Gattis would be a defensive liability since either Justin Upton or Jason Heyward would need to man center field. Gattis is thought to fit best with AL clubs.
  • The Marlins have added two experienced scouts in Dominic Viola and David Keller, writes Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. Since the front office was reorganized following the 2013 season, the club has focused on adding experience to its scouting department. Those moves helped to shape two midseason trades which netted Bryan Morris, Jarred Cosart, and Enrique Hernandez.


John Hart On Braves’ Offseason

John Hart has taken over for Frank Wren as the Braves’ GM and is currently serving on an interim basis. The Braves have reportedly offered Hart the job on a permanent basis as well, although it’s not clear whether he’ll accept it. Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has recent comments from Hart that offer insight into how his tenure might go, however long it lasts.

  • Don’t expect a complete rebuild, Hart says. “We don’t need an overhaul. It’s not a disaster. But there are certainly some things we need to take a look, although I’m not at liberty to discuss names right now.”
  • To the extent that the Braves do make high-impact moves, they will likely come through trades rather than the free agent market. “There are economic challenges,” Hart says. The Braves have significant commitments in place for 2015 for Dan Uggla, B.J. Upton, Justin Upton, Craig Kimbrel, Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman.
  • Hart adds that the Braves lack speed and veteran leadership.
  • Schultz notes that since Hart is currently only working on an interim basis, the team’s first key orders of business will likely be to find a new GM and to decide whether Fredi Gonzalez will stay on at manager. Then, Schultz opines that the Braves should remove B.J. Upton from their roster and should trade Justin Upton and Evan Gattis.

Braves Outright Ryan Buchter, Carlos Perez

Here are the day’s minor moves:

  • The Braves have outrighted Ryan Buchter and Carlos Perez off the team’s 40-man roster, according to the International League transactions page. Buchter, a 27-year-old lefty, has just one career MLB outing but worked to a 3.29 ERA over 63 frames this year at Triple-A. Perez, also a southpaw, has yet to advance past the Double-A level (where he struggled mightily this year) as a 22-year-old.

NL East Notes: Phillies, Mets, Hand, Braves

Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins tells Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com that he isn’t sure when his team will contend again, but he’d like to see the club spend to work toward that in the offseason. Rollins has a specific target in mind, as well, having read up on Cuban slugger Yasmany Tomas. Rollins feels that if Tomas is the next slugger to follow in the footsteps of Jose Abreu, Yasiel Puig, Yoenis Cespedes and Jorge Soler, then “We’ve got to get our hands in that market.” Rollins continued, speaking more generically about spending to improve rather than just spending on Tomas: We have enough money so you can’t say we don’t. … We’re in a big market, a big-market payroll. So you have to go out there and make it happen.”

Here’s more from Salisbury and more from the NL East…

  • Jonathan Papelbon didn’t appeal his seven-game suspension because he didn’t want it to carry into next season, the closer tells Salisbury. Papelbon maintains that the crotch-grabbing gesture he made toward the fans was simply an adjustment: I truly feel like if the fans really got to me and they wanted something I would have given them a little bit more than that.” Papelbon isn’t sure if the Phillies will try to limit his games finished to prevent his $13MM option (2016) from vesting, but he expects to be on the mound in save situations “regardless of what team” he is on.
  • While there’s been plenty of speculation about the Mets trading Bartolo Colon this offseason, ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin wouldn’t be surprised to see the team trade Jon Niese or Dillon Gee instead (Twitter links). While neither would save the Mets as much as shedding Colon’s $11MM salary, Niese will earn $7MM in 2015 (and is guaranteed $16.5MM through 2016), while Gee’s arbitration salary could clear $5MM. Rubin feels if the Mets do indeed make trades to shed salary and free up room for free agent pursuits, the most likely candidates are those three pitchers and second baseman Daniel Murphy.
  • Marlins lefty Brad Hand has made a good deal of improvements in terms of strike-throwing, writes Christina De Nicola of FOX Sports Florida, and he’ll enter 2015 with another chance to compete for a rotation spot. The out-of-options hurler and 2008 second-rounder finished the season with a 4.38 ERA in a career-high 111 innings. However, he was better in the second half, posting a 3.89 ERA over his final 13 appearances (11 starts). I’d imagine that, given the Marlins’ pitching depth, Hand could face an uphill battle in securing a rotation spot.
  • While he didn’t elaborate much, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution gets the sense that there will be significant roster turnover for the Braves this offseason (Twitter link). The Braves have struggled as a whole in 2014, but particularly at the plate, where the team has batted a combined .241/.306/.360. Each of those rate stats ranks 24th or worse in Major League Baseball, and the team’s 562 runs are 29th in the Majors, leading only the Padres.

Braves Have Offered Permanent GM Job To John Hart

The Braves have offered the general manager job to John Hart on a permanent basis, reports Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. Hart, formerly the head baseball man for the Indians and Rangers, has already been named Atlanta’s interim GM after previously serving as a senior adviser.

Hart is still mulling the offer, according to Passan’s report. Were he to take over, Hart would be expected to “groom” assistant GM John Coppolella. The 35-year-old Coppolella could still be a candidate for the GM position if Hart declines. He remains with the organization after the dismissal of his boss, former GM Frank Wren.

One of the game’s most respected front office men, Hart played a key role in pioneering the use of early-career extensions during his time in Cleveland. He recently discussed the history and future of extensions — including, of course, the handful of significant offseason deals reached by Atlanta. He praised Wren at the time for crafting a strategy that enabled the Braves to lock up multiple talented MLB players for their primes. Of course, as club president John Schuerholz said earlier today, the team’s concerns with Wren’s performance seem to be rooted primarily in the areas of drafting and development.


East Notes: Schuerholz, Alderson, Gibbons, Yankees, Pedroia

It was not easy for Braves president John Schuerholz to dismiss GM Frank Wren, writes MLB.com’s Tracy Ringolsby. Due to a combination of loyalty and good initial hiring decisions, Schuerholz has rarely decided to part ways with top members of his front office. But in this case, the longtime Atlanta executive said that change was necessary, albeit difficult. “It took time for me to get to the point of doing what I did,” said Schuerholz, who also indicated that failures in free agency may not have been the primary source of Wren’s undoing. “It’s not just about success of the club at the Major League level,” he explained, referring to the “life blood” of the club’s scouting and player development. “You have to be cognizant that the strengths of your organization are as strong as they need to be. it is why I used the words ‘cumulative effect’ [during the announcement Monday].”

  • Meanwhile, newly-extended Mets GM Sandy Alderson had a variety of interesting comments today, and Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com provides a transcript. Emphasizing that he does not believe the club needs “a giant leap” to contend, Alderson said he expects the team to be active in free agency while remaining cognizant that the open market is, as he described it, a “crapshoot.” After COO Jeff Wilpon indicated that his GM will have payroll flexibility (as Rubin reports on Twitter), Alderson said that he does not know whether the team will see a spike in payroll. He did note that he does not “feel that we will necessarily be constrained by the payroll next year.” With the team needing to improve by approximately ten to twelve wins, according to Alderson, it is looking to add production in any way possible rather than “get[ting] too bogged down in too much specificity now.” That opportunistic approach may take some time to play out, he suggested: “We’re going to explore all of the options and see where it takes us. It may take us a while during the course of the offseason to fully explore what those options are.”
  • The Blue Jays will retain manager John Gibbons for next year barring some unforeseen change in circumstances, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Though recent comments from GM Alex Anthopoulos led some to believe that Gibbons could be in some trouble heading into the offseason, Heyman says that the team is planning for 2015 without any intention of finding a new skipper.
  • While the Yankees have not played up to expectations after a winter of big spending, the club’s mid-season acquisitions could not have gone much better, writes Dave Cameron of Fangraphs. With the exception of Stephen Drew, all of the veterans added with the hope of a turnaround did just that. contributing far more value in their short stints in New York than they had with their former clubs.
  • As the Red Sox continue to tinker with one of the game’s most fascinating talent mixes, those calling for a trade of cornerstone second baseman Dustin Pedroia may need something of a reality check, writes Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. For starters, Pedroia’s deal contains a full no-trade clause, Bradford notes. And when Pedroia’s glove and veteran role are weighed in the balance, says Bradford, the idea of trading him makes little practical sense.

Reactions To & Fallout From The Braves’ GM Change

The Braves’ offseason has already begun with the firing of general manager Frank Wren earlier today.  Here’s some more about the Braves’ decision and what’s next for the team…

  • Interim GM John Hart, team president John Schuerholz and long-time former manager Bobby Cox met with the media to discuss the move.  Schuerholz said he became concerned about the team’s dysfunction during the summer and felt a change was necessary before the end of the season (tweets from USA Today’s Bob Nightengale).
  • Hart is happy in his interim GM role and he’ll stay as an organizational advisor after a new general manager is hired, though Schuerholz left open the possibility that Hart could still be the Braves’ full-time GM (tweet from David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution).
  • Any decisions on Fredi Gonzalez and the Braves’ coaching staff will wait until after the new GM is hired.  Cox praised Gonzalez’s work and feels he should stay on as the team’s manager (tweets from Nightengale).
  • Bruce Manno, the Braves’ assistant GM and director of player development, was also fired, Schuerholz announced.
  • Jeff Wren, Frank’s brother and a Braves scout and special assistant, has been fired, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports (Twitter link).
  • In a full column, Crasnick writes that the strained relationship between Cox and Wren has been evident since Cox omitted Wren from a list of people he wished to thank at his Hall of Fame induction speech. Cox will likely have a bigger role and voice going forward, Crasnick continues. He also notes that even if Gonzalez survives as the manager, there will assuredly be changes to the coaching staff.
  • Assistant GM John Coppolella seems to be a top contender or even the early favorite to be Atlanta’s next general manager, as cited by Nightengale, Yahoo’s Jeff PassanESPN.com’s Keith Law, and Joel Sherman of the New York Post (all Twitter links).
  • Wren “excelled at the mid-level and low-level decisions but failed at the big ones,” Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes.  While Wren did a lot of good in his time with the club, he could only make so many expensive mistakes given the Braves’ mid-market payroll, and Wren threw away a lot of money on B.J. Upton, Dan Uggla, Kenshin Kawakami and Derek Lowe.
  • Some in the Braves organization questioned the lack of veteran leadership on the current roster, David O’Brien writes in a summary of Wren’s tenure.  Wren also made some questionable coaching hires and allowed some key members of the Braves’ baseball operations staff to leave for other jobs.  Highly-regarded pitching coach Roger McDowell was prepared to leave for Philadelphia last winter before Schuerholz convinced him to stay.
  • Even before the team’s 4-14 record in September, a high-ranking Braves source told Bob Nightengale that Wren and maybe Gonzalez would be fired if Atlanta missed the postseason.
  • There’s already been speculation regarding Royals GM Dayton Moore returning to Atlanta, and Royals owner David Glass tells MLB.com’s Dick Kaegel that he wouldn’t stand in Moore’s way if he wished to leave. However, Glass also says he “can’t imagine” Moore wanting to leave, adding that the organization is committed to Moore, and he feels that commitment is mutual. As Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star points out (on Twitter), Moore has spent eight years with the Royals building toward what could be the team’s first postseason appearance in nearly 30 years, and it’d be a shock for him to leave that behind. He is under contract through 2016.

Braves Fire Frank Wren

The Braves have fired general manager Frank Wren, the team announced.  John Hart, a senior advisor with the club, will become the interim GM and will also be part of a three-man team (along with team president John Schuerholz and former manager Bobby Cox) in charge of finding a permanent general manager.

It was reported earlier today by David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that a front office move was on the verge of happening, and Wren’s firing comes just a day after the Braves were officially eliminated from postseason contention.  The team is in the midst of a dreadful 4-14 stretch and the slump brought with it several rumors that Wren was on the hot seat.  The Braves will also make changes to their international scouting and player development departments, Peter Gammons reports, though manager Fredi Gonzalez’s job appears to be safe according to CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman (Twitter link).

MLB: Spring Training-Atlanta Braves at New York YankeesWren had been a member of the Braves front office since 2000, first serving as Schuerholz’s assistant GM and then taking over the general manager’s job following the 2007 season.  While Wren obviously had a tough act to follow given Atlanta’s string of consecutive playoff appearances under Schuerholz, the Braves “only” reached the postseason three times during his seven seasons as general manager and never advanced further than the NLDS.  The Braves were in playoff contention for much of this season before their September collapse sunk their chances and left the team in danger of only its third sub-.500 record in the last 24 years.

It was just this past winter that Wren received a contract extension and wide praise around the baseball world for locking up several of the Braves’ young stars (Freddie Freeman, Andrelton Simmons, Julio Teheran, Craig Kimbrel and Jason Heyward) and then acting fast to sign Ervin Santana in Spring Training when Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen both went down to Tommy John surgeries.

What ultimately doomed the 2014 Braves, however, was a lack of hitting, which underlined Wren’s two biggest mistakes — signing B.J. Upton to a five-year, $75.25MM free agent deal and signing Dan Uggla to a five-year, $62MM extension after acquiring the second baseman in a trade from the Marlins.  As ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick put it, these two moves alone probably cost Wren his job, since Uggla was released earlier this year and Upton has been a bust since coming to Atlanta.

Photo courtesy of Kim Klement/USA Today Sports Images