Thursday afternoon, the Braves made their first front office signing in what promises to be an eventful offseason. However, it wasn't the position of General Manager, but rather that of the Special Assistant to the General Manager, that the Braves filled.
Baseball America is reporting that longtime Yankees scout and farm director Gordon Blakeley has left the Bronx to accept the position of Special Assistant to the GM with the Braves. From the BA report:
Blakeley has been with the Yankees for more than two decades and assumed the role of farm director in 1998. Three years later he became vice president of pro scouting, with a focus on the international market, and he is credited with helping the Yankees sign Robinson Cano, Orlando Hernandez, Jose Contreras and Hideki Irabu.
It seems somewhat odd the Braves would sign a Special Assistant to the GM before, you know, having an actual GM. Forming a staff for an incoming executive is meddlesome at best, as opposed to letting the new GM bring in his own people. That this should happen after Atlanta already declared Fredi Gonzalez safe should not be a complete surprise, however.
It does suggest one of two things.
1. The Braves have already basically decided on a General Manager. If Atlanta has a GM in the wings who is signing off on these moves, they suddenly make more sense, and don't seem as meddlesome. Were this the case, I would bet that John Hart or John Coppolella was the one for the job. Hart is obviously helping to make these hiring decisions in his current capacity as a search committee member, so that would make sense. As for Coppolella, he likely worked with Blakeley during his time with the Yankees, so a good word from him would undoubtedly go a long way.
2. The Braves continue to put "The Braves Way" over finding an excellent GM. This option is by far more worrisome, as it would suggest the Braves are assembling a front office staff that they will foist on to any incoming GM, consequences be damned. Any incoming leader wants to be able to hire his own people. If he is instead given a staff, this would suggest that the micromanagement Frank Wren was accused of is still alive and well in the Braves system.
I don't claim to have any evidence to support either of these two theories, just that they are, in my opinion, the two most likely, given what we know so far about the move. We should know more in the days and weeks to come.