Braves GM John Coppolella discussed the Braves’ recent offseason and long-term plans in a Q+A with David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Here are some of the highlights.
- The Braves’ trades of Melvin Upton Jr. (prior to the 2015 season) and Chris Johnson (during that same season) were done with this month’s opening of Sun Trust Park in mind. Upton and Johnson would have still been under contract at this point and would have affected the Braves’ 2017 payroll had they not been dealt. The Braves offloaded Upton’s entire contract in the Craig Kimbrel deal. The Braves took on salary in the deal that sent Johnson to Cleveland for Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn, although they saved money in 2017, since Johnson was the only player in the deal under contract for that season.
- Coppolella’s reasoning for the Braves’ acquisitions of Bartolo Colon, R.A. Dickey and Jaime Garcia this winter isn’t surprising — he says the Braves needed innings eaters, and notes that the Braves aren’t obligated to pay any of the three beyond this season. “Ideally they will provide us 550-600 innings of quality and certainty,” Coppolella says. “There were so many times last year where our pitcher would be knocked out before the fourth inning and you absolutely decimate your bullpen and end up having to make three or four roster moves each day. We rushed some pitchers up here who weren’t ready and, candidly, some who were just not good.”
- The loss of another recent addition, Sean Rodriguez, stings, Coppolella says. “It wasn’t only our starting second baseman, but like you said a high-level backup at several positions. For us he was a lot like Ben Zobrist for the Chicago Cubs where he would play a lot and play a lot of different positions,” Coppolella argues. Rodriguez, of course, is likely to miss the entire 2017 season to shoulder surgery following an offseason car crash in Miami.
- Yet another offseason acquisition, Brandon Phillips, won’t block top prospect Ozzie Albies when Albies is ready. Albies figures to eventually join Dansby Swanson in the Braves’ middle infield. “Ozzie is a special kid with a really bright future, and when he is ready to help us in the Major Leagues, nobody is going to stand in his way,” says Coppolella. “It’s a great problem to have too many good players and too few spots. Young players with talent and versatility can merge with veteran players on a team looking to win. Ask the Cubs about Javier Baez.”
- Coppolella adds that the Braves were open to trading highly rated prospects this offseason, but never found a trade offer that made them want to do so.