On Sept. 28, the Atlanta Braves finished their worst regular season since 2008, ending the year with a 79-83 record. Six days prior, the organization announced that general manager (GM) Frank Wren, had been dismissed from his position, and named current Senior Advisor for Baseball Operations, John Hart as the interim GM.
Hart had previously been the GM for the Cleveland Indians and the Texas Rangers, and was the GM for the Indians when the Braves beat them in the 1995 World Series. Team president, John Schuerholz announced the move, and also announced that the Braves have formed a three-person team to head the search for a permanent GM. The team is made up of Shuerholz, Hart and former manager, Bobby Cox.
“What we will do as our transition team is take our time and evaluate the organization from top to bottom,” Shuerholz said at the press conference announcing the move.
Nothing official has really come out about the job since the announcement, but fans assumed that Hart was the leading candidate for the job. Unfortunately, all indications are that Hart seems content at his current role and has not shown any interest in taking the job. This leaves fans pondering whom the leading candidates are to fill the role permanently. Rumors have circulated that the two leading candidates for the job are John Coppolella, the Braves current assistant GM, and current Kansas City Royals GM Dayton Moore.
Moore worked for the Braves until 2006, when he left Atlanta for Kansas City. Moore is currently occupied with the Royals playing in the World Series, so the Braves would not be able to contact him until the Royals season is over.
Moore is obviously a qualified candidate, but the question is if he would leave Kansas City to make a lateral move to another team. Coppolella, on the other hand, is already working in the organization, and is much younger and is considered by many in baseball to be an up-and-coming star.
Most of the heat on Frank Wren came from questionable signings, notably the expensive contracts given to Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton.
Uggla was signed to a 5-year, $62 million contract and was released from the team earlier this season because of poor performance. Uggla is no longer playing for the Braves, but the Braves are still on the hook for the remainder of his contract.
Upton was signed to a 5-year, $72.25 million contract and was one of the worst players in baseball this past season, ending the year with a .208 batting average and 12 home runs. This was actually better than his first season with the Braves when Upton hit .184 and had just 9 home runs.
A lot of blame has also been placed on manager Fredi Gonzalez. For now, Gonzalez is still the manager, but depending on who is hired as the GM, that could change.
“I think it’s common practice that the general manager has a big say in who the manager of the major league team will be,” said Shuerholz. “We’ve all three been general managers, and two of them have been managers and so it is appropriate that that happens.”
The Braves have not announced anything substantial since the firing of Wren, and there is speculation that Shuerholz, Hart and Cox are waiting for Moore to be available. Regardless, fans should expect an announcement in early November at the latest so the new GM can be in place for the beginning of the Major League Baseball winter meetings.