The Braves have come under quite a bit of fire, with many stating that the team is tanking in order to accelerate its rebuild in the wake of last week’s Andrelton Simmons trade. Freddie Freeman’s name has come up in frequent trade speculation over the past week, Braves GM John Coppolella adamantly denied to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale that the Braves will even entertain the notion of trading their first baseman.
“I cannot make it any more clear: We are not trading Freddie Freeman,” Coppolella said. “We are not. I’d give my right arm before we trade Freddie Freeman. It is not happening.”
While Twitter skeptics will undoubtedly have their fun by responding to that quote saying Freeman will be traded by this coming weekend, that type of on-record, absolutist statement is rare for a top-ranking baseball ops exec to make. (For instance, there’s a misconception that A’s president Billy Beane said last offseason that he wouldn’t trade Josh Donaldson, but the comments pertaining to Donaldson were made by an anonymous team official.)
Of course, a team could still completely bowl the Braves over with a trade proposal for Freeman that would put Coppolella and president of baseball operations John Hart in a tough position, but the strong likelihood in light of a statement of this magnitude is that Freeman will indeed remain in Atlanta. The reason for hanging onto Freeman, Coppolella explains, is that the “tanking” crowd has a fundamental misunderstanding of the Braves’ intentions.
“If we truly were going to tank, we wouldn’t have had [Erick] Aybar come back in the [Simmons] trade,” said Coppolella. “If we were trying to tank, we wouldn’t have signed A.J. Pierzynski. If we were trying to tank, we would have traded [Cameron] Maybin at the deadline last year, and we had plenty of offers.”
Coppolella maintains that the Braves strongly want to win in the near future and urges critics not to judge the results of the trades immediately upon their completion but rather to wait a couple of years. The Atlanta GM acknowledges that his club won’t win 100-plus games in 2016 but voices a strong belief that the team can win more next season than it did in 2015.
While Coppolella is adamant that there’s a method to all of the Braves’ perceived madness and staunchly rejects the idea of trading Freeman, Nightengale does write that further trades from Atlanta could be on the horizon. The team still hopes to shed the contracts of Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn — two players acquired to accelerate the alleviation of the financial burden that Chris Johnson’s contract had presented — and a strong offer for Maybin could pry him away from Atlanta as well.
Likewise, Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reported tonight that the Diamondbacks and Braves had discussions about Shelby Miller, but the D-Backs balked at the asking price, which Rosenthal says would’ve come from Arizona’s big league roster and could have been standout center fielder A.J. Pollock (links to Rosenthal on Twitter).