10 Best Decisions of the Hart/Coppy Era

10 Best Decisions of the Hart/Coppy Era

Yesterday was part one of the series, looking at the 10 worst decisions in the John Hart-John Coppolella era. It wasn’t all doom and gloom though. There were some really good decisions made. Today we’re looking at the 10 best. You can click over to part one if you want to see the intro and stuff. We’re just diving right in today.

 

  1. Deciding to Rebuild

The decision that was made before all other decisions sometimes gets overlooked. Given the state of the major league team after the 2014 season, the players about to reach free agency, the bad contracts, the state of the farm system, and the rising monster that was the Washington Nationals, rebuilding might have seemed like an easy call. But tearing down your team for the next 5+ years is never an easy conclusion to reach. Remember how long it took the Phillies to admit they were done? Look at the Giants now. Or the Orioles. Far too often, when facing the certainty of needing to blow it up, teams try to hang on for one more year. The Braves didn’t. They probably could’ve justified keeping Heyward, and Justin Upton, and Gattis, and Kimbrel and making one more run at it. The team had just won 96 games in 2013. It wouldn’t have been that crazy of a notion. But it would have set this rebuild back another 2 years at least. Maybe more. Credit to them. They made the hard call and ultimately what I believe to be the right call. And it wasn’t as easy or obvious as it may have appeared.

 

  1. Getting Shelby Miller

Once the decision to rebuild was made, it then became all about the deals. And basically, the first deal out of the gate was a good one. Jason Heyward was one year away from free agency and no long-term deal was coming. For a rebuilding team, this meant he had to be dealt. But trading a 1-year rental is always tricky and it’s very easy to end up with 60 cents on the dollar. But Atlanta got strong value. Getting 4 years of a talented pitcher like Shelby Miller for 1 year of Heyward can’t be considered anything but a win. Shelby would go on to pitch the best season of his career for the Braves in 2015 and then would help the organization out even more in a deal that’s coming later on this list. But even if he hadn’t, the logic and process of this deal was sound. It couldn’t have been fun or particularly enjoyable trading away a fan favorite like Heyward, but once they decided to do it, they moved quickly and did well. That was a good trade.

 

  1. Tyler Flowers/Kurt Suzuki

After the first year of the rebuild in 2015, it was pretty clear there was an organizational hole at the catcher position. In December of 2015, the White Sox non-tendered Atlanta native Tyler Flowers and Atlanta immediately jumped on the opportunity. They signed him to a 2-year/5.3 million-dollar deal with a club option in 2018 for $4M. Tyler has responded by producing a 115 wRC+ the last 2 years to go along with elite level pitch framing and making that contract look ridiculously team friendly. Similarly, last January, the team was looking for a solid backup to go along with Flowers and signed Kurt Suzuki to a 1-year/1.5 million-dollar deal. All he did was post a 2.7 WAR season in just over 300 ABs with a 129 wRC+ and 19 HRs. Braves were so impressed with Suzuki, they re-signed him for the 2018 season with a 1-year/3.5 million-dollar deal. This means the last 2 years, Atlanta has gotten 6.3 WAR out of there catchers and paid a total of $6.8M. And they have both locked up next year for a total of only $7.5M. Creating this type of surplus value, for a team on a budget and at a scarce position, was tremendous work by the front office and they need to be acknowledged for it.

 

  1. Getting Alex Jackson for nothing

Sticking with the catcher theme, Atlanta took another step in potentially filling that hole at the end of the 2016 season. The Mariners had fallen out of favor with former number one pick, Alex Jackson, and were looking for some rotation depth. One thing the Braves have had in spades ever since this rebuild got going is an army of arms to deal from and in November of 2016, the Mariners and the Braves completed their deal. Its final form was C Alex Jackson for SP Rob Whalen and SP Max Povse. Even if Jackson hadn’t turned his misfortunes around, this is a deal I would’ve loved. Consolidating lesser pieces together from a position of strength to get a potential star at a position of weakness is just good business. Atlanta was also banking on a change of scenery helping jump start a still young and talented prospect and so far, that’s what has happened. Jackson has done nothing but impress since he arrived in Atlanta and even if he can’t stay at catcher, LF power is another area of need for them. Whalen and Povse were never going to be anything more than 5th starter/AAA types for Atlanta and getting a potential middle of the order bat for them was impressive work.

 

  1. Drafting

This is cheating a bit as it’s not one decision but a series of decisions. Drafting under the Frank Wren regime had become a nightmare, and for a small-market team, at least in terms of payroll, you can’t be swinging and missing in the draft. For all their faults, Coppy, Hart and company drafted really well. Granted they were picking a little higher than Wren was, on average, but you still have to pick the players. In the rebuilding years, the Braves have drafted Kyle Wright, Ian Anderson Mike Soroka, Kolby Allard, Joey Wentz, Austin Riley, A.J. Minter, Bryse Wilson, Kyle Muller and more. Yes, it’s more pitchers than I would like but if you’re going to pick pitchers, at least pick good ones. And Atlanta seems to have done that. You could argue the greatest contribution Hart and Coppy made to this organization was the accuracy in which they drafted.

  1. Buying Touki Toussaint

This move was made possible by a front office in Arizona that was in over its head and a front office in Atlanta looking to be creative with some payroll space. Arizona decided it needed to shed salary and Bronson Arroyo and his $10M commitment was the piece chosen to be moved. Atlanta, having a surplus of payroll space at the time, decided to facilitate the transaction for a fee. That fee:  Touki Toussaint. Touki was a recent a first-round pick with some of the nastiest stuff in the minors and someone the Braves had being eyeing for a while. Hilariously, Arizona said yes to this deal trading away 40-50 million in value to save 10 million in salary. This was just another example in a long line of instances when Arizona’s front office showed they had no idea how to properly value players or assets and Coppy swooped in to take advantage. And not for the last time. Touki himself, is a bit of a mystery as a prospect but still has immense talent. And when the acquiring cost is $10M, what’s there to lose?

 

  1. The J-Up deal

After they moved Heyward, the next piece Atlanta needed to move to kick off it’s rebuild was Justin Upton. Upton was in a similar position has Heyward, one year away from free agency and zero chance at re-signing. Atlanta made the correct decision in dealing him, but this meant yet again, they had to make the best of trying to deal a 1-year rental. Considering those parameters, I was impressed with deal they made. San Diego, in the midst of ‘going for it’ decided to pony up the best offer. The final deal end up being Upton, and SP Aaron Northcraft to SD for OF Dustin Peterson, OF Mallex Smith, INF Jace Peterson, and SP Max Fried. With 3 of those guys already making the majors and the other, D. Peterson, not far away, it looks like Atlanta got 4 major league players for 1 year of Justin Upton. It’s really hard to complain about that. But the jewel of the deal was Max Fried. One of the best pitching prospects in the game at the time, the only reason he was available was because he just had Tommy John surgery. Braves took advantage of a guy’s market dropping because of injury and got a player they never would have otherwise. Making the definitive call to move Justin and then making the deal they did, considering their lack of leverage, was about as good as you could’ve hoped for as a Braves’ fan.

 

  1. Luiz Gohara

I think Jerry Dipoto, the GM for the Seattle Mariners, is actually a really smart dude, but he probably needs to stop dealing with Atlanta. A few weeks after giving the Braves a former first round pick for a couple back-end starters, Dipoto doubled down by moving one of the highest ceiling arms in his system. It was actually a 3-team deal and a little complicated, so I won’t go over it all, but from Atlanta’s perspective, they traded OF Mallex Smith and RP Shae Simmons for SP Luiz Gohara and RP Thomas Burrows. This was a really good move. Mallex was a fun player and I still hope nothing for the best for him, but his most likely outcome is still a 4th outfielder. Gohara on the other hand, can legitimately be an ace. In fact, if you told me the best pitcher from this entire rebuild ended up being Luiz Gohara, it really wouldn’t surprise me. And we aren’t talking 4 or 5 years down the line. He could very easily be Atlanta’s best starter this year. And oh, by the way, Thomas Burrows posted a 2.16 ERA, a 2.49 FIP and a 32% strikeout rate in Rome last year. For a 4th outfielder and an injured reliever. Good shit Coppy.

 

2. Ender and Dansby

The best trade made in the Hart/Coppy era was easily the Shelby Miller trade made with the Diamonbacks before the 2016 season. Arizona’s front office had already shown themselves to be incompetent and you can believe Coppy’s eyes lit up when they showed serious interest in Miller. For most of the conversations, Atlanta insisted on A.J. Pollock being the return but Arizona balked, insisting that was too much. That’s a pretty ironic little fact if you think about it. Had they just made that deal, it probably would’ve received a fraction of the criticism. Instead the landed on Ender Inciarte, #1 pick Dansby Swanson, and Top 50 pitching prospect Aaron Blair as the return. Just an insane haul for 3 years of Shelby Miller. If you had to pick the brightest day of this rebuild amidst all the dark ones the last three years, the day this trade happened was probably it. And it was far and away Coppy’s best deal.

 

Ok, so you’re probably wondering, if that was Coppy’s best deal, then why is it #2 on this? Well because far and away the best decision of the rebuild was…

 

 

1. Not Trading Freddie Freeman

The house was being torn down to the studs. It made all the logical sense in the world to finish the deed and trade their first baseman. I campaigned for them to do it. Back then, Freeman was more of a good player than a great player and I really didn’t see the upside in getting rid of everyone else and keeping him. (And Teheran) But to their credit, they saw more. They believed he could be the cornerstone of this franchise when it wasn’t clear that was true. The player Freddie Freeman has become since then has done nothing but confirm those beliefs. Every bit of hope Braves’ fans have about the team starts with Freddie Freeman. We have a superstar. Guys that are almost impossible to trade for and who you just have to hope your system produces. Coppy saw that and absolutely refused to part with him. Imagine had they traded Freeman and he became what he is for the Red Sox or something. It’s terrible to think about. But they could’ve done it. They could’ve been absolute in the tear down, traded Freeman, and been completely justified in doing so. But they didn’t. They kept him. And it’s the best decision they made. It wouldn’t have been hopeless without Freeman. But there’d be a lot less hope.

8 Comments

Watched the 1st two Braves Spring Training Games online….our offense has A WAYS TO GO!

Acuna pressed in his 3 at bats today.

Rio Ruiz (despite the one single) has looked LIKE SHIT at the plate the 1st 2 games. He’s gotten some hittable pitches (he’s whiffed through some fastballs that looked right down the middle). I simply DO NOT see him being able to have any sort of MLB career! I’d rather see Carmago get elevated to full time 3rd baseman..and see Ruiz demoted to Triple A (he either works on his issues..or we eventually dump him when he runs out of options).

Alex Jackson and Austin Riley are both ringing up the strikeouts…although Jackson looked decent in his game behind the plate today.

The one offensive ‘bright’ spot…has been Ozzie Albies (he’s gotten a couple of hits leading off the game).

Newcomb needed 20 something pitches to get out of the 1st today with only 1 run (if by August, Newcomb hasnt worked through his ‘needing 100 pitches to get to/through the 5th inning each start’ issues…then he should lose his spot in The Rotation).

Soroka, despite giving up a homer to Gurriel…looked good in his inning. All his pitches had movement, decent location (except the hit by pitch on an 0-2 pitch after he gave up the homer).

Wright looked good today. Allard didnt exactly blow anyone away yesterday…however I would rather see how he ‘gets acclimated’ after a few more appearances…before ‘buying into’ the ‘he’s a bum because he isnt routinely hitting mid-90’s anymore on the radar gun’ rhetoric.

I will say this. Jason Hursh is A FREAKING BUM! How was he ever a 1st round pick, lol (if Frank Wren wants ‘credit’ for signing Albies and Acuna for ‘taking flyer bonus money’…he should also TAKE THE BLAME for drafting Hursh in the 1st round and paying him $1.7 MILLION to sign after The 2013 June Draft. Again, HOW THE HELL did any SANE MOFO ever decide that drafting/paying Hursh $1.7 mil was ‘a good idea’? Albies and Acuna COMBINED cost $400k to sign!). Watching him pitch in the 7th inning today…was a joke!

How about you write an article about the 10 best/worst Frank Wren ‘moves’?

Paul, any of the pitchers could turn into Jason Hursch. The lesson here is not why they drafted him first or if he was worth but let’s hope the same thing doesn’t happen to everyone else who got $1.7M or more. Allard is a prime example of how fast a star can rise and fall. “Acclimated” has nothing to do with the speed on his fastball, which has been falling since mid-last year. The caution is that he’s not recovering that speed. No matter how good a “pitcher” he is, he will not make it without the “stuff” that he was drafted for to begin with. Don’t look now but Gohara’s groin strain is staring you in the face too. This team needs a major infusion of depth to be able to be anywhere near decent this year. Dansby didn’t look great either and Culberson is already on the error train. I think Moose would certainly take a 2-year deal at this point (maybe a 2-year deal with an opt out after one and a team option for a third).

I have been hesitant to comment on this post because, first, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to say or how to say it, but also I wasn’t quite sure which of these moves I wanted to disagree with. The Arizona moves are not shining quite as well as they once did. Touki is not really moving forward. Dansby and Blair are crapping out. If Shelby were actually pitching well then the trade would look pretty good for Arizona (them being in the playoffs and the Braves not). The Touki move is still good because it only cost money, but if you think $1.7M was wasted on Hursch then $10M is quite a bit too high for Touki. I am surprised that some of the smaller deals aren’t praised as much. Cervenka for Seymour, Harrell/Alvarez for Demeritte – these are trades where the Braves got something for basically nothing. Coppy even traded Kelly Johnson TWICE to the Mets for three prospects – Gant, Whalen, Morris. Morris may be the best of the bunch (walks notwithstanding) and Whalen helped get Jackson and Gant helped get J. Garcia. I think the Miller-Hayward deal should be higher on the list, because Miller both performed well for the Braves and got a good return in trade. I also think the J-Upt deal might be ranked higher too especially if Fried pans out. If Gohara is “out” then Fried is “in” and, based upon what I saw in the AFL, that is a darn good thing. I’m anxious to see Peterson, too. If he turns into 2016 Peterson then the Braves will be better off.

Roger…I wouldnt put too much worry in Gohara’s groin strain (it’s the beginning of Spring Training…if it was shoulder/elbow related..I’d be more concerned).

But let’s suppose that Gohara and Allard turn out to be prospects who ‘flame out/deal with injuries throughout their careers’! It would just PROVE my point about NOT trading from our surplus of pitching talent! We’d still have 5-7 potentially high upside starting pitching talent to work with!

Sure, the argument is that ‘we’d risk getting NOTHING in trade value for the prospects who flame out’. However, my question is the following: HOW do you ‘pick’ which ones to trade..which ones to keep? How do you really know FOR SURE which ones could get hurt/which ones WILL NOT flame out?

Look at Tampa for example! Brent Honeywell (who is their BEST pitching prospect)…just tore his elbow the other day! I’d rather just keep our prospects…and see which ones ultimately show that they 1. can adjust to MLB hitters. 2. avoid the injury bug!

Regardless….Allard knows how to pitch. I’d rather have ‘an Allard’ (who may have ‘Tom Glavine’ stuff YET can get hitters out…than a Mauricio Cabrera’ (who has a Nuke LaLoosh brain to go with his 102mph fastball)!

As far as Moustakis, I’d be in favor of The Braves signing him…IF he is willing to take a 1 year $15 mil-ish deal. If anything, Moustakis would be ‘motivated’ to have another good year in 2018 before becoming a Free Agent again in 2019 (or Moustakis could be a ‘fall back option’ should we really not be able to sign Machado).

Reports are that Moustakas has many one year offers. He will take the first two year deal. Giving him a two year deal takes some pressure off of Riley who can be eased into the position. The deal should have a team option in case Riley is not ready next year or flames out. Waiting for Machado is a fools errand. He is locked in at SS and and locked in on the Yankees. Moustakas is the only bat left on the FA market. After that trades will have to be made. By the end of Spring Training, AA should know who he wants to trade and for what. There are lots of potential hitting options out there available for trade. Phillips, Duvall, Clint Frazier, Cave, McKinney, Alex Dickerson, Domingo Santana……. The Braves will have a roster issue very soon as pointed out here just a couple of days ago. Gotta get on the ball and make some improvements. I honestly don’t understand why the Braves didn’t get aggressive with Corey Dickerson; I think they gambled on him passing through waivers and lost. Bad bet – should have just jumped in. I am not impressed with AA at all yet.

Roger…..3 at-bats for Riley today…3 strikeouts. I’m simply not that impressed with him.

I just dont have it in me…to understand why Braves Management keeps Luke Jackson around. I could probably hit off him. He simply SUCKS! I guess that if you look at his ‘peripherals’ long enough, you can find ‘some stat’ that makes you ‘fall in love with him’ (kind of like how if you drink enough alcohol…a HEFFER can look good to you at 2am in the morning, lol). But really….AA needs to DROP HIS ASS off The Spring Training Roster!

I looked at the stats today….our staff walked 7 hitters today..while ONLY striking out 2 hitters! TWO!!!!!!! WTF? Noodle arms pitched today.

I wonder what is up with AJ Minter. He didnt pitch in any of the weekend games!

Jesus, Paul, Acuna has done nothing but strikeout so far. A. Jackson had three strikeouts yesterday. Riley was just as good as Acuna in the AFL. Don’t give me that crap. The only reason Riley isn’t up this year is to improve his defense. And it makes sense to give more chances early in Spring Training to your most marginal prospects – haven’t even seen Freeman or Flozuki or Markakis in any games yet. The more you know about the bubble guys earlier on, the easier it is to make better decisions later. The truth is that virtually no one is playing well for the Braves yet. So far, the best pitchers have been Kazmir, Anyelo Gomez, Wisler, and Biddle. For hitters, almost none – Albies, Pache, and Preston Tucker. Of course, Pache double-clutched on a throw and allowed a run to score. Defense has been very shaky all around (Kazmar made a nice play today). One can only hope that neither L. Jackson nor Hursch nor Socolovich make the OD roster. And I’m sure they won’t. I do hope Biddle and Anyelo Gomex do make it. If Acuna doesn’t get hot in Spring or early minor league season, he may not come up until June. None of Newcomb, Gohara, or Fried has impressed yet. I hope they do by the end of Spring. As of today (only), I’d have Kazmir and Wisler in the rotation. I think you’re going to have to let the Spring develop before you can make any real judgments although I don’t think (Jackson, Hursch or Socolovich will do any better based upon past performance).

Roger I love what you say. I have to caution you on touki—he really could be special still. People inside the braves and lots of scouts see real discernible improvement. I think touki will be in mlb by 19 and a starter. AA is doing well hanging onto what the braves have and seeing who he thinks is worth keeping and trading. The way the dodgers valued players works. Once he gets a first hand sample, AA will put that same process on our prospects and let the rest go. The future is bright—there will be a lot of great times rooting for the braves this year. They could win a lot more than others think. No one knows—it’s fun to root for. Go braves.

Andy, thanks. I hope so. I want the Braves to win more than anything and would like to see as much effort put into winning this year as any other year. Not gonna make any snap judgments about players 3 games into Spring Training except for those whose past performance warrants it. I hope that Spring Training gets everyone ready to go. The sloppiness and poor play so far are not encouraging. But, like I said, we haven’t seen much of the vets yet.

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