Braves GM John Coppolella took over his club’s Twitter account today to address the organization’s direction. While he expressed disappointment that the win-loss record hasn’t shown much improvement, the focus obviously remains on the future for Atlanta. Still, he continued to suggest that the expectation is for the on-field product to begin improving in the near term … and also left no doubt that he follows Braves fandom rather closely on social media.
Here are some of the key points, with all links to Twitter:
[Related: Braves Depth Chart]
- Coppolella predicts that the Braves will be quite active in free agency, saying that the team has “more money to spend than in the past 10 years.” Atlanta has never been one of the biggest spenders around, so it’s not exactly a lofty bar, but with only $50MM on the books for 2017 (before arbitration raises) there ought to be some added freedom this winter. Coppy adds that he’s interested in making “major [free agent] signings” to bring in “impactful” players, with a focus (whether in free agency or trade) on adding “at least two” starters and bolstering the catching unit. The latter area, at least, is one of some depth on the coming market.
- The upcoming crop of open-market starters, of course, is about as thin as we’ve ever seen. But that remains a need for the Braves, with Coppolella saying he was disappointed in the lack of progress from the club’s young rotation members. He adds that “opportunity time is over in 2017” for those pitchers, who will “have to earn a rotation spot once [the Braves] add free agents.” One still-youthful staff member, Julio Teheran, has turned in an outstanding year. While Coppolella did not address the topic, I’d note that it’ll be interesting to see whether there is any chatter regarding the talented righty, whose stock is firmly on the rise. He has often been mentioned as a trade candidate, but with Atlanta looking to add at the major league level, the time for a deal may have passed.
- There isn’t a general need for arms, Coppolella insisted. In addition to noting the many minor league talents who are in the pipeline, he says that the “bullpen is likely the least area of concern” entering the winter.
- Looking back, Coppolella acknowledges that acquiring Hector Olivera “still haunts me.” That deal obviously did not pan out on or off the field, and Olivera’s contract was sent to the Padres in the deal that netted Matt Kemp. The Braves GM copped to being “shortsighted” in commenting recently on Kemp’s poor conditioning, saying the veteran has been “terrific” in all regards since coming over. As for a trade that has gone in Atlanta’s favor, Coppolella expressed surprise at Shelby Miller’s struggles with the Diamondbacks and said that as many as twenty teams attempted to acquire him last winter.
- The Braves did not promote young infielder Ozzie Albies to the majors this year because they “didn’t feel Ozzie was ready,” says Coppolella. But he notes that the youngster “will get an opportunity to fight for a [major league] job” this spring despite being passed over. Generally, Coppolella added, the organization expects to “continue to push players and provide opportunities.” He hinted that service time won’t be a factor in determining when the club’s touted minor league assets make it to the bigs.
- With a laundry list of interesting young arms on the farm, Coppolella singled out towering, 22-year-old righty Patrick Weigel, who he says has a “chance to be a frontline starter.” The 2015 seventh-round draft pick has posted 149 2/3 innings of 2.47 ERA ball at the High-A and (briefly) Double-A levels this year, with 9.1 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9, leading Coppy to name him the most improved minor league pitcher in the organization. The GM cited outfielder Dustin Peterson as the recipient of that honor on the position-player side after his .282/.343/.431 batting line and 12 home runs over 578 plate appearances at Double-A. Peterson came over as part of a group of increasingly interesting prospects in the Justin Upton trade, with lefty Max Fried also drawing praise from the organization’s baseball operations triggerman.
- All said, it promises to be another interesting winter in Atlanta. It’s generally a quiet time right now on the rumor front, but Coppolella says the club is already holding talks on prospective offseason trades. Primary attention seems to be going to the major league roster at present, but Coppolella suggested that he will continue to focus on infusing young talent to the system, writing that the organization “will always try to trade for draft picks” when possible.