This season is currently one pace to be the worst for the Atlanta Braves since 1988, but the team’s general manager, John Coppolella, doesn’t think it’ll take massive changes to improve them in 2017: Dipping into free agency, maybe some trades, and continuing to focus on young talent and draft picks.
Coppolella didn’t go on record during an interview. He simply took hold of the Braves twitter account and unfolded his plans for next season, along with some of his thoughts on moves he and the team made this season, like Hector Olivera, Matt Kemp and Shelby Miller.
But the most important piece of information for Braves fans has to be what Coppolella has planned for 2017, and how he sees the team going forward following what will be three consecutive losing seasons, something the Braves haven’t experienced since the 1980’s.
The Braves only have $50 million on the books for next season, before the arbitration raises, which means they’re probably going to be quite active in free agency, with Coppolella saying they have more money to spend than in the previous decade, although the Braves have never been big on throwing away free agent money. The focus will probably be adding two starters to the struggling rotation, and improving the catcher situation. There have been plenty of talks about Brian McCann coming back, but the Braves might be thinking about younger players, with the catchers market being pretty strong.
Unlike the starting pitchers market, which is pretty weak and thin. So think that Rich Hill, all 36 years of him with the injuries to go along, could be the biggest name on it, and someone who could land something along the lines of $45 million over three years. Despite the problems of finding a good starting pitcher, the Braves will have to make the effort, be it by trade or betting on someone who doesn’t seem like a “sure thing” in free agency. Ivan Nova maybe? Coppolella said he was disappointed in the lack of progress from the club’s young rotation members, obviously not meaning Julio Teheran, who’ll remain a name that shows up in trade rumors throughout the offseason.
Coppolella doesn’t think that adding bullpen arms from outside the system is a priority. He likes the young talent they have, he’s confident in the farm system, suggesting that bullpen is the least area of concern in the upcoming offseason. He also regretted making certain comments about Matt Kemp, who has been terrific for the Braves since arriving from the San Diego Padres, hitting 8 home runs while batting .333 since arriving.
The Braves turned out to have almost the entire league going after Shelby Miller in the offseason according to Coppolella, with 20 teams making trade offers. He ended up going to the Arizona Diamondbacks, where he has been awful, posting a 7.12 ERA through 17 starts, looking a shell of his former self.
The Braves finished with a winning record from 1991 to 2013. Jumping from their 60-something wins this season to the playoffs in one year might be a bit of a stretch, but the Braves are expected to start rising. If this season isn’t rock bottom, it’s going to be more and more difficult defending Coppolella’s decisions, along with others in the front office.