OCTOBER 31: While Hart may avoid disciplinary action, that does not necessarily mean he’ll simply carry forward in his existing position. Both Mark Bowman of MLB.com (Twitter links) and David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter links) suggested today that Hart’s president of baseball operations job is likely still in play.
Indeed, O’Brien noted over the weekend that there’s still some possibility of Royals GM Dayton Moore being a candidate to run the Braves’ baseball ops department, despite the fact that the Royals initially declined to allow him to interview. Other names potentially under consideration (as PBOp and/or GM) include Ben Cherington, Jim Hendry, Doug Harris, and Dan Jennings, O’Brien also tweets. (Bowman tweeted yesterday that Hendry could be a candidate.)
Needless to say, there’s still quite a lot of uncertainty surrounding the Braves’ front office situation. In all likelihood, that will remain the case until after the World Series has concluded.
OCTOBER 30: ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that Major League Baseball will not punish Braves president of baseball operations John Hart as part of the investigation into the Braves’ violations on on the international free agent market and in the June amateur draft. Per Crasnick’s report, the league’s investigation found that Hart did not play a role in the violations committed by former GM John Coppolella and international scouting director Gordon Blakeley (the full extent of which remain unclear).
Crasnick adds that Coppolella and Blakely acted “without knowledge or approval” from Hart or team president John Schuerholz, but the league is still looking into other lower-level Braves employees to determine whether they played a role. Hart, at one point, was reported to have played some role in the Braves’ violations, though there’s yet to be any reported indication of evidence found against him. Crasnick quotes a source that called Hart’s management style “disengaged.”
The outcome of the investigation, particularly the fate of Hart, is of particular intrigue given the uncertainty that presently permeates the Atlanta front office. Crasnick reported over the weekend that the Braves were denied permission to interview Royals general manager Dayton Moore, but even before they were denied, there’d been widespread speculation that Moore would not abandon his post with the Royals to work underneath Hart. If Hart is indeed retained and holds onto his title, that could limit the field of candidates with interest in the job. Certainly, any current general manager would be unlikely to jump ship, as executives will typically only move to a new organization (or even be granted permission to interview) if the move results in a clear promotion. Furthermore, some non-GM execs may not be interested in joining what looks to be a tumultuous front-office structure without the promise of baseball operations autonomy.
The Braves could, of course, still lure a younger exec to work under Hart, as was the hope with Coppolella. Speculatively speaking, it also seems possible that the Braves could yet orchestrate a more dramatic set of changes to the top levels of their baseball operations hierarchy. Hart’s contract, after all, was set to expire upon completion of the 2017 season. And ownership presumably wouldn’t be thrilled to learn that its baseball operations president was oblivious to the numerous sanction-worthy actions that were apparently being committed during his tenure. Some reports since Coppolella’s resignation have suggested that Hart will remain with the organization beyond 2017, though one can imagine that ownership will first want to learn the full scope of the results of MLB’s investigation before making any definitive determination.
Thus far, Moore has been the most frequently linked name to the Braves’ GM vacancy, though that match appears decidedly unlikely at the moment. Former Red Sox GM Ben Cherington (currently working with the Blue Jays), Nationals assistant GM Doug Harris and former Marlins GM Dan Jennings (also with the Nats) have all been linked to the opening. Once the league announces its findings and any further ramifications following the completion of the World Series, other potential candidates figure to emerge thanks to the added level of clarity.