Atlanta Braves Rumors

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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


NL East Notes: LaRoche, Papelbon, Tomas

If you had to ask me now, I would assume that I would have to move on, unfortunately,” Adam LaRoche told CSN Washington’s Mark Zuckerman about his future with the Nationals.  Though LaRoche is having a strong season and is well-respected within the Nats’ clubhouse, the team may need to create a spot at first base for Ryan Zimmerman next season since Zimmerman is no longer able to play third.  If the Nationals do decline their side of LaRoche’s $15MM mutual option for 2015, expect the veteran to draw interest from several teams on the free agent market.  LaRoche will turn 35 in November but he’s still playing well enough to help any team in need of left-handed pop.

Here’s some more from around the NL East…

  • The Phillies haven’t had much success in trying to trade Jonathan Papelbon over the last year and releasing him would be a waste of an asset, CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury writes in an analysis of the team’s options with the controversial closer.  Papelbon’s no-trade clause and 2016 vesting option make it complicated to either deal him or demote him from the closer’s job, so Salisbury notes that the team could just bring him back next season and hope to swing a trade next summer.
  • Also from Salisbury’s piece, he notes that the Phillies were willing to eat $13MM (of half) of Papelbon’s remaining salary in negotiations last offseason.  The Phillies shopped Papelbon to the Tigers but Detroit wasn’t interested due to concerns that Papelbon wouldn’t be a fit in the team’s clubhouse.
  • The Phillies will conduct a private workout with Yasmany Tomas today in the Dominican Republic, Baseball America’s Ben Badler reports, and GM Ruben Amaro will be in attendance.  The Cuban outfielder’s open showcase on the weekend attracted scouts from several teams, and Tomas is expected to have private sessions with multiple teams in the near future.
  • Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez had had his leadership questioned by some members of the organization during the team’s September collapse, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports.  Along those same lines, Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC subscription required) thinks the Braves’ woeful performance over the last week has the appearance of a team that has quit on its manager.  The Braves seem on the verge of making a GM change, and while Gonzalez’s job may not be in as much jeopardy, obviously he’d be on the hot seat unless the club improves in 2015.
  • David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution believes (Twitter link) that the contract extensions signed by Gonzalez and GM Frank Wren last February ran through the end of the 2016 season.  Gonzalez and Wren’s previous contracts were both set to expire at the end of the current season.


Braves Front Office Move Coming “Very Soon,” Frank Wren Likely Out As GM

The Braves’ rumored front office changes could quickly become a reality, as David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link) reports that a “move is going to happen very soon.”  This move will likely be the removal of Frank Wren from the general manager’s job — O’Brien would be surprised if the move is anything besides Wren’s firing and FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal (Twitter links) that Wren is gone “barring a last-minute reversal” from upper management.  Wren could be fired as early as today, Rosenthal reports.

A 4-14 record in September both ended the Braves’ postseason hopes and generated speculation about Wren’s job security.  The most heavily-rumored scenario would see team president John Schuerholz or senior advisor John Hart take a larger role in the team’s baseball operations department, with assistant GM John Coppolella promoted to the general manager’s job on at least an interim basis.  (If Wren is indeed ousted today or before the season ends, Coppolella seems like the obvious candidate to be in the interim GM anyway.)


Frank Wren’s Job Possibly In Jeopardy

Nearing the end of a disappointing season, the Braves could fire GM Frank Wren, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman writes, noting that the Braves’ collapse appears “sure to lead to some sort of significant change.” Manager Fredi Gonzalez’s job does not appear to be in danger at this time, Heyman adds.

These aren’t the first rumblings that the Braves’ front office might be in for a shakeup. Earlier this week, it emerged that the Braves might have either senior advisor John Hart or president John Schuerholz take an increased role in baseball operations. There have also been indications that, if Wren loses his job, the team might look to former Braves assistant GM and current Royals GM Dayton Moore, although Heyman suggests that’s unlikely. Earlier today, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman wrote that the Braves could consider dismissing Wren and/or Gonzalez “within the next few days.”

If the Braves were to fire Wren, they would likely turn to assistant GM John Coppolella, who would take the job on an interim basis and be mentored by Hart. Bowman writes, however, that Hart enjoys working as an MLB Network analyst and would not be interested in taking a full-time role with the Braves.

It’s been a tough September for the Braves — they’re currently 4-14 for the month and have fallen three games below .500. After spending much of the year in playoff contention, they were mathematically eliminated from the race today. Over the course of the season, the Braves have struggled with a weak group of position players, getting little from hitters like B.J. Upton, Dan Uggla, Ryan Doumit and Tommy La Stella, the first two of whom Wren signed to expensive long-term deals. If the Braves were to dismiss Wren, he would be the third GM fired or reassigned this year, following Josh Byrnes of the Padres and Kevin Towers of the Diamondbacks.


Cafardo On Hellickson, Gardenhire, Ramirez

In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes looks at six teams that badly need some fixing this offseason.  The list starts with the Braves, who have been held back in part by B.J. Upton‘s five-year, $75MM deal.  The Rangers also need some serious help in the form of two starting pitchers, a right-handed power bat, and possibly a catcher.  The Phillies are in the toughest spot of all, Cafardo writes, as they are overloaded with older players on bad contracts.  Here are some of the highlights from today’s column..

  • As teams start putting together lists of pitchers who could be had in trade this offseason, Jeremy Hellickson’s name has been surfacing.  One AL team believes that the Rays could make another Wil Myers-Jake Odorizzi for James Shields-Wade Davis type of deal centering around Hellickson, who is still just 27 and inexpensive.
  • It looks more and more like Twins manager Ron Gardenhire will return next season.  A Twins executive said he would be “surprised” if Gardenhire didn’t come back based on his young team playing hard and having fun playing the spoiler role down the stretch.
  • Even with Alex Rodriguez coming back, Cafardo sees the Yankees as a possibility for Hanley Ramirez if the Dodgers don’t retain him.
  • The Red Sox haven’t committed to bringing David Ross back next season but it doesn’t appear he’ll have to worry about finding a job.  A few teams have privately discussed Ross as a backup/mentor.  If Boston moves on from Ross, there aren’t many clear-cut alternatives on the open market.
  • Red Sox vice president of player personnel Allard Baird had a very good interview for the Diamondbacks‘ vacant GM job, but Tony La Russa is still leaning towards Dave Stewart or Gary LaRocque, according to a source. Baird, of course, was the GM of the Royals from 2000-06.
  • Red Sox third base coach Brian Butterfield is beginning to receive more interest as a managerial candidate.  Don’t be surprised to see his name mentioned more often for openings, Cafardo writes.

Rosenthal On Scherzer, Braves, Melvin

Here’s the latest from Ken Rosenthal, via a video on FOX Sports:

  • Gossip within baseball suggests that James Shields will likely go the Red Sox this offseason, with Jon Lester heading to the Cubs. That could leave a variety of teams competing for Max Scherzer, with agent Scott Boras “waiting it out,” as he often does to try to get teams to meet his price.
  • If the Braves decide to part ways with Frank Wren this offseason, they could promote assistant GM John Coppolella to the GM position and have senior advisor John Hart serve as Coppolella’s mentor. Rosenthal also suggests the possibility that the Braves could bring back Royals GM Dayton Moore. (We noted earlier today that the Braves could make front office changes this offseason.)
  • Fredi Gonzalez of the Braves and Ron Roenicke of the Brewers could be on the hot seat this offseason, but Bob Melvin of the Athletics likely will not be, Rosenthal says.

Braves Could Make Baseball Operations Changes

It appears the Braves are considering an expanded role for senior advisor John Hart within their front office. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets that the Braves could consider having Hart head their baseball operations department, while David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution clarifies that either Hart or John Schuerholz could have an expanded role in baseball operations, regardless of whether the Braves end up keeping or replacing current GM Frank Wren. Peter Gammons wrote earlier this week that the Braves could consider making Hart their president of baseball operations.

The Braves hired Hart in November for his current senior advisor role. Schuerholz is currently the team’s president. Both, of course, have distinguished track records as GMs. Hart presided over the Indians’ very successful run in the 1990s, and Schuerholz was his peer in Atlanta. (Hart also preceded Jon Daniels as the GM of the Rangers before serving as an advisor in Texas.)

The Braves have struggled down the stretch and are now 76-77, on the verge of missing a winning season for only the third time since 1990. They extended Wren and manager Fredi Gonzalez in February, but there have since been indications of trouble within the organization. MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reported earlier this week that former minor league pitching coordinator Dave Wallace took a position with the Orioles in part because of disagreements with the Braves’ front office. Bowman also notes that it was Schuerholz, not Wren, who stepped in to stop pitching coach Roger McDowell from taking a job with the Phillies.


Gammons’ Latest: Braves, Sandoval, Monfort, Tomas, Padres

Hall of Fame journalist and MLB Network contributor Peter Gammons appeared on MLBN’s High Heat yesterday (video link) and published a full notes column today, both of which have plenty of excellent information. Here are some highlights from Gammons’ latest work…

  • While Braves GM Frank Wren did well to patch their rotation with Ervin Santana and Aaron Harang this season, the team’s offense has been woeful, and Wren has the Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton contracts weighing on him. Former Indians GM John Hart, who was brought on as a senior advisor last offseason, could be moved into a more significant role, such as a president of baseball operations (like Theo Epstein in Chicago) or a chief baseball officer like Tony La Russa in Arizona. Hart served as an overseer to Jon Daniels in Texas, and the Braves do have a prime young GM candidate in the form of John Coppolella.
  • Gammons thinks that Pablo Sandoval‘s days as a member of the Giants are numbered. Sandoval will be one of baseball’s most sought-after free agents this offseason, and the Marlins and Red Sox are both “very interested,” according to Gammons. “The Giants, I don’t think have any chance of re-signing him,” he adds.
  • The Rockies had a July deal agreed to that would have sent Jorge De La Rosa to the Orioles in exchange for left-handed pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez, but Rockies owner Dick Monfort nixed the trade. De La Rosa was eventually extended on a two-year, $25MM deal, while Rodriguez was traded to the Red Sox in exchange for Andrew Miller. Gammons uses this story as a means of illustrating Monfort’s fierce loyalty — a trait that makes him an enigma even to the Rockies’ own employees. No one in Colorado is quite sure what Monfort will do this offseason, Gammons writes, though trying to pluck former Rockies assistant Thad Levine from the Rangers, where he is currently an assistant GM, is one scenario on which he speculates.
  • At least two dozen teams will be on hand to see Yasmani Tomas‘ showcase in the Dominican Republic this weekend, and Gammons hears that the early front-runners to sign him are the Giants, Phillies, Padres, Rangers and Tigers. All of that, of course, could change quickly following his showcase. The Padres might seem a curious fit there, given the team’s typically tight payroll, but I’d imagine that the international focus of new GM A.J. Preller might be a factor.
  • While the common belief is that Padres manager Bud Black is safe even with the GM change, one person who interviewed for the position told Gammons that he was asked by CEO Mike Dee how he felt about the possibility of Jason Varitek coming on board as the team’s new skipper. Dee, as Gammons notes, is quite familiar with Varitek and his leadership from their days together in Boston. This isn’t the first time that Varitek’s name was connected to the Padres.

Olney On Qualifying Offer Candidates

In his latest Insider-only blog, ESPN’s Buster Olney runs down a list of pending free agents that are candidates to receive qualifying offers. Olney spoke with several executives from around the league and is of the mind that James Shields, Max Scherzer, Pablo Sandoval, Melky Cabrera, Russell Martin, Nelson Cruz, J.J. Hardy, Victor Martinez, Ervin Santana, David Robertson and Hanley Ramirez will receive qualifying offers, which should fall between $15MM and $15.5MM.

Here are a few more notes from Olney’s piece…

  • The Giants intend to give Sandoval a QO with the assumption that he will reject the offer and test the open market. San Francisco appears willing to offer him just three years, says Olney, and even going to four years might be too much of a stretch. Such a commitment seems much too light to land Sandoval, who, at 28 years old, will be one of the youngest free agents on the market.
  • It looks like the Dodgers and Ramirez could be moving in separate directions, as rival evaluators anticipate the team will extend a qualifying offer with the expectation that Ramirez signs elsewhere.
  • The value of Martin on a one-year deal, even north of $15MM, makes a QO for the Pirates “an easy call,” one rival GM said to Olney. Some may wonder whether or not Francisco Liriano is a QO candidate, but executives polled by Olney feel that his injury history and lack of innings present too much risk for the Bucs to extend such an offer. I’m inclined to agree; while Martin is a lock to turn down the QO, Liriano would have more hesitancy, and a $15MM salary would represent nearly 21 percent of the Pirates’ Opening Day payroll from 2014.
  • Some evaluators think that Cruz will again find himself with a more limited market than he expects due to his age, 2013 PED suspension and the fact that his OBP and defense are less impressive than his power totals.
  • Many rival executives feel there’s simply no way that the Tigers will let Martinez get away. Olney’s right in noting that a QO is “an easy call” for V-Mart, who currently sports a hefty .333/.401/.567 with a career-high 31 homers.
  • Olney also feels that a QO for Robertson is an easy call. While he notes that teams don’t pay $15MM for closers anymore, one evaluator said to him: “…with any other team, we wouldn’t be talking about this. But it’s the Yankees, and they can do it.” On a somewhat related note, Olney adds that Koji Uehara‘s late-season swoon may be a blessing of sorts for the Red Sox, who can now approach him with an offer much lower than a QO would have been. I noted in yesterday’s MLBTR chat that I’d be more hesitant to give Robertson a QO, but the Yankees could certainly afford to run the risk.