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Plenty of intrigue in latest AskCoppy session

Once again, Braves GM John Coppolella took to Twitter to answer questions from fans, and gave us plenty to chew on.

San Diego Padres v Atlanta Braves Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Once again, John Coppolella has taken some time off from swindling the Diamondbacks and general GM-ing to answer fan questions on Twitter. There was a lot of intriguing stuff on display, and to catalog the more thought-provoking answers, I’m going to attempt to do something different. Twitter embeds are nice, but they’re also relatively giant and there are a few issues with showing the question that Coppy responded to. So, to that end, I’m going to attempt to replicate them below without the embed, while also adding Ivan’s Hot Takes along the way. (Also, I grouped them by topic, because that just seems to make sense.)

Trades & Roster-Building

Question: Do you regret the Grilli trade? We released the guy we got back, sent TOR money, and he’s pitched well since he left.

Answer: No. Grilli trade about providing opportunity for young arms who factor into 2017 like Mo Cabrera, Jose Ramirez, etc.

Ivan’s Hot Take: This is the pickiest of nits, but there would be an opportunity for those guys whether or not Grilli was traded. And I think the question was more about who we got back, and when we traded Grilli, than anything else. Grilli’s spot, if you recall, was taken by Ryan Weber and then a revolving door including Casey Kelly and John Gant, so it wasn’t really freeing up a spot in a crowded bullpen until much later down the line. Kind of irrelevant in the grand scheme, though.

Question: What will it take for the Braves to overcome numerous playoff disappointments and the pressure of playing in Oct.

Answer: Talent. The best way to advance is impact talent, and the best way to get impact talent is through draft & trades.

Ivan’s Hot Take: This shouldn’t really be surprising to anyone at this point, and I really only note it here given the other item that you’ll see later on. Coppy is likely well aware that there’s a winner’s curse for free agency, which is an important consideration for a budget-conscious franchise.

Question: Do you have any regret not trading Jim Johnson before the trading deadline?

Answer: No. Jim has been terrific for us. If we don’t get what we want we will not trade players.

Ivan’s Hot Take: This is interesting to me not in and of itself, but I think this is a case where Coppy’s public statement directly aligned with folks’ speculation on why he didn’t trade Jim Johnson in the first place. Sure, it’s really the Occam’s Razor explanation, but I think it’s still interesting. Everyone who felt that that was the reason for a lack of moving Johnson, give yourself a pat on the back.

Question: What are you happiest about so far this season?

Answer: Positional improvements that can carry over in 2017 like Inciarte, Kemp, and, potentially Swanson.

Ivan’s Hot Take: It’s hard to gauge the baseline for improvements, but while Inciarte has definitely been an improvement (best CF season for Atlanta since Michael Bourn’s 2012, where he put up an elite 6 fWAR), Kemp has been an improvement over a mess of the FO’s own making (Olivera to LF, not really signing any reasonable LF backup plans, and no, Francoeur doesn’t count), and Swanson is definitely an improvement over Aybar/Castro/d’Arnaud/Beckham (or will likely be an improvement imminently), but it’s not clear whether/when he will be an improvement over the shortstop situation before that. It’ll be fun to find out, though.

Question: What are you most disappointed with this season?

Answer: The progress, or lack thereof, of our starting pitchers.

Ivan’s Hot Take: This is some combination of honesty or a similar “get your hinies in gear, guys” public motivational statement, I suppose, though I think the disappointment is genuine. The question this raises for me is: these same guys that haven’t progressed (I’m guessing this is specifically Wisler and Foltynewicz here, perhaps throw in Blair and Jenkins with less exposure, too) are the ones that Coppy and the team targeted in trades. So is this just a case of a bad break, or is this a worrying sign for the how organization evaluated players when trading for them? (Counterpoint: Shelby Miller, who developed a lot and became awesome in Atlanta.)

Question: I’m sure you can’t say names, but any early trade targets for the offseason?

Answer: Starting pitching (at least two) and catching will be our focus.

Ivan’s Hot Take: So, two rotation spots (if this statement is taken at face value) taken up by outside acquisitions, leaving two spots for Wisler, Foltynewicz, Blair, Jenkins, Gant, and anyone else that can challenge for a spot in 2017 Spring Training. The heavy cynic in me is really perturbed by this because the idea was to trade for young arms so that then we didn’t need to trade for or sign established arms. If we reverse the course, it just makes those early rebuild trades somewhat problematic in retrospect, because either the strategy whiffed or the player evaluation did (or both). I’m just going to continue to hope that the young arms the Front Office targeted pay dividends sooner rather than later, moreso than hoping that the team cobbles together a halfway decent rotation for big bucks that saddles them with debt later on.

Question: How do we require two [pitchers] and still provide opportunities to the young guys?

Answer: We don’t. Opportunity time is over in 2017. You have to earn a rotation spot once we add free agents.

Ivan’s Hot Take: If taken at face value, this is worrisome along the lines I expressed above, because it’s basically saying that the Braves are considering moving on from their “avoid paying free agent prices for starting pitching” strategy, which was really the ostensible hallmark of the initial wave of rebuilding trades. As some have expressed, though, this could just be a bit of posturing, driving up free agent pitching prices and therefore ennobling the market for one of Atlanta’s young pitchers with plenty of team control.

Question: How important is adding a mentor for the young guys in the big league rotation next year?

Answer: Extremely important. We miss guys like Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe, and Javier Vazquez more than numbers can quantify.

Ivan’s Hot Take: Aaron Harang confirmed for 2017 roster. I’m kidding. I hope. Maybe? In all honesty, unless you’re keen to expect the opposite of Coppy’s statements, I’m guessing at least one veteran starter is signed this offseason.

Question: Is Matt Kemp here to stay?

Answer: That’s our goal. He’s played great & helped so many others in the line w/ protection & putting them in rt spot.

Ivan’s Hot Take. Aaarghhhhhhhhhhh. (Of course, the whole thing about keeping Kemp could just be a patented Coppy Smokescreen. Who knows.)

Question: Is Adonis Garcia a legitimate candidate to play third next year or will you look to add someone via trade or free agency?

Answer: Adonis has been very good for us this year. Credit to Gordon Blakeley & Alex Cotto for signing him.

Ivan’s Hot Take: Note that Coppy didn’t technically answer the question here. Doesn’t really mean anything, but not a ringing endorsement of Garcia for me here.

Question: How are we going to strengthen the bullpen in the offseason?

Answer: Bullpen is likely the least area of concern. Lots of promising things from our young arms with more on the way.

Ivan’s Hot Take: I think most folks would agree with this. It’s not too hard to cobble together a good bullpen, and the Braves likely won’t need to do even that, as they have some intriguing names for bullpen roles. Ian Krol, if he can replicate his 2016 success, should go a long way towards stabilizing both the middle relief and lefty relief corps.

Question: Is there a team in the bigs that you would consider a “model” for what you’re trying to accomplish overall?

Answer: Yes. The Atlanta Braves from 1991-2005.

Ivan’s Hot Take: Better start raising that payroll, pronto.

Question: Great job so far, I’m excited about the future. Do you foresee any major FA signings over the offseason or role players?

Answer: We will have the money for major FA signings and we are planning to sign impactful players who can help us win.

Ivan’s Hot Take: Given the sorry state of the 2017 free agent market, this is an interesting response. Of course, maybe it will just result in driving the price up to harm competitors while the Braves avoid that avenue of roster construction.

Question: Do you plan to be as aggressive with prospect placement in 2017 as you were in 2016?

Answer: We will continue to push players and provide opportunities. We don’t hold back or try to manipulate our players.

Ivan’s Hot Take: This is pretty consistent with how the Braves have and continue to operate. It’ll be fun to see how the roster shakes out and whether injuries or ineffectiveness early in 2017 force some other call-ups of highly touted prospects.

Player (E)Valuation

Question: Do you think Andruw Jones is a HOF player?

Answer: Yes I do. Defensive metrics and totals like WAR make him a HOF player. He was one of the best for at least 10 yrs.

Ivan’s Hot Take: Andruw was great, and it’s just kind of sad that we didn’t get the good BIS data on which DRS/UZR are based to see just how great he was until the latter half of his career. Of course, you could use this opportunity to jump into a debate about why Coppy is bringing up WAR here when casting some slight aspersions on it earlier, but really, I’m just happy when Andruw gets some love.

Question: Are you surprised how bad Shelby Miller has been since you traded him away? Great trade

Answer: Yes. I thought Shelby would be a top of the rotation SP & so did the 20 other teams that tried to trade for him.

Ivan’s Hot Take: Me too. Although, perhaps in retrospect we should be less surprised since it was the Diamondbacks who acquired him, but Coppy can’t really come out and say that. Still a shame for Shelbs, though.

Question: Is there one prospect who you feel that has improved the most this year & has a shot at a starting job [for] the big club in 17?

Answer: Biggest improvement in stock for a pitcher was Patrick Weigel and for a hitter was Dustin Peterson.

Ivan’s Hot Take: I’m curious whether you guys agree with Coppy or have alternate suggestions. Both seem right to me, but I don’t know anything about prospects.


Question: If you could sign Harambe or Jynx (the Pokemon), which would you choose?

Answer: My son Edric loves Pokemon Go! so I am going with jynx, but obviously much love for Harambe. RIP Harambe.

Ivan’s Hot Take: I don’t really know what’s happening here, but I find it interesting that Coppy’s son is apparently a character (or maybe this one?) from A Song of Ice and Fire. Who knew?

Question: We think Aaron Blair looks like he could be Aaron Harang’s son and should be called Aaron Blairang. Thoughts?

Answer: It’s technically possible and the nickname is catchy.

Ivan’s Hot Take: What is this I don’t even... (For those interested, Coppy did say that Blair will be rejoining the Braves to make some starts at the end of the season.)

Question: Was it weird drafting Brandon White with two picks in a row?

Answer: Totally. I said the same thing to Brian Bridges and he was kind of like “it is what it is” and he’s right.

Ivan’s Hot Take: Sometimes, you gotta just go with it. This is probably one of those times.

Question [shoutout to TC commentariat member K26dp for asking this question!!]: What’s been done to help prevent some of the embarrassing gaffes from the FO (Fredi’s Delta e-mail, Josh Anthony)?

Answer: Live & learn. Some out of our control, some just mistakes. Try to get better each day & always put Braves first.

Ivan’s Hot Take: On the one hand, it’s cool that this question was answered. On the other hand, the actual question wasn’t really answered - especially since the “live & learn” answer suggests there was no real corrective action plan or strategy put in place. Not that there necessarily needs to be, and Coppy couldn’t quite say “nothing” as a response, but it is what it is. I will say that I believe that in the two gaffes mentioned, neither was “out of the control” of the Braves’ Front Office, right?

Question: What is the one thing you will miss about Turner Field?

Answer: Memories more than anything. My favorite was Eric Hinske home run in the 2010 playoffs, house was rocking.

Ivan’s Hot Take: You can’t miss memories, Coppy. That’s not how anything works.

Question [from long-time TCer kingofgames3]: You seem to win most of your trades by a large margin. Does that impact how other GMs work with you? Is that a concern?

Answer: All you want to do is make fair, win-win trades that help both organizations.

Ivan’s Hot Take: Maybe that’s all you want to do, but when you end up ripping Dave Stewart off a few times, you’re not exactly sad about it, either.

Question: How receptive has Matt Kemp been to the comments about needing to get in a little better shape?

Answer: Matt has been terrific here, on and off the field. It was shortsighted of me to make comments about Matt to others.

Ivan’s Hot Take: Aside from this season being a bit of the ol’ “The Education of John Coppolella” from a public relations perspective, the guy is awesomely honest and willing to acknowledge mistakes.

Question 1: u sold this yr as being much betr than last in the Sp and it has bn a train wreck, why should we believe u for next yr

Answer 1: All I can do is try to build the best club for the present and the future given opportunities

Question 2: Do you and Hart even believe what you tell fans anymore?

Answer 2: I believe it. I believe we are in a much better spot than we were two years ago and are primed for great things.

Ivan’s Hot Take: Dangit, Cshivers, I’m going to owe you a hat unless the Braves somehow pull out seven more wins.

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