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Roundtable: What qualities should the Braves look for in their next general manager?

With John Coppolella resigning yesterday, the Talk Chop Chop staff chimes in with their thoughts on what qualities we want in the next general manager

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Atlanta Braves Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

With the resignation of general manager John Coppolella yesterday, the Braves are now in search of a new general manager. There are names that are already popping up in connection with the Braves search including Dayton Moore who is currently with the Royals and Dan Jennings who has seen time in the front offices of the Marlins as well as the Nationals.

That said, the Braves’ GM position should be and is a highly sought after one. It seems probable that, despite MLB’s investigation, there will be a lot of interested parties that would love the chance to run a team that has new revenue streams and a gaggle of talent down in the farm system. So this begs the question: What qualities should the Braves look at in a new general manager? Some of the Talking Chop staff got together to answer that question and their responses are below.

Demetrius Bell: In the same way that I’d prefer to see the Braves go outside the organization for their managerial spot (should it open up), I’d prefer to see them go outside of their close network and bring in an outsider who isn’t rooted in “The Braves Way.” I’m saying this knowing full well that they’ll probably just go ahead and bring in Dayton Moore. That wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, but it would be a sign that they’re willing to stick to the old way of doing things.

Now, it’s obvious that we don’t need a guy who’s out here trying to push all sorts of boundaries and break all sorts of rules in the pursuit of winning like the former GM was, but we do need someone who’s not steeped in the old guard of building a team. The new GM should be one who understands how to build a team in this current era, and someone who knows how to walk the fine line between analytics and traditional scouting. We don’t need someone who’s going to throw away all of the scouts in favor of trusting what the “spreadsheets” say, but we also don’t need someone who’s coming in here and saying that “we don’t need these new-fangled statistidoodles and whatnot.”

Lastly, we need someone who can keep the farm system strong. There’s a chance that a few of these prospects could be on their way out if the investigation turns really sour for the organization, but the new GM would still be stepping into a lovely situation as far as prospects are concerned. If the GM can keep the rebuild on track and also make astute signings for the major league squad, then that would be ideal.

It’s anybody’s guess as to whether or not anybody outside of the people who were already connected with the Braves would come to the organization with this black cloud hovering over it at the moment, so that may limit the Braves. Then again, you could see potential candidates overlook the past issues in an effort to get their hands on one of the best farm systems in baseball. It’s all up in the air at the moment, and hopefully the Braves will make the right decision amidst all of this scandal.

P.S.: Please add someone who knows that sending 2,000 word text messages is not okay. It’s called “e-mail,” my dude.

Ivan: I see three important qualities. Anything less than meeting all three of these goals is kind of an issue, and I hope that the Braves understand this and actually do something about it. Otherwise, this disaster-turned-opportunity can just turn into a real disaster.

First, the new GM needs to understand that for better or worse, the previous regime started the Braves on a process. Interrupting that process would be disastrous. Now, that isn’t to say that the new GM should not trade any prospects, or even that he should not trade any specific prospects. It’s just that the Braves are going into 2018 and beyond with a very specific set of assets (Ender Inciarte, Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies, a lot of payroll flexibility, a deep farm system, etc.). To try and build a winning team that isn’t cognizant of this unique position would be ridiculous, and rendered even moreso by the fact that Braves fans have already had to wait three-plus years for the team to be good. I was (and am) a huge critic of the rebuild decision, but doing something that ignores that decision at this point would be even worse.

Second, the new GM actually needs to apply some kind of rigorous methodology, idea, or strategy to their moves, focused on the eventual major league team. The strategy can be as simple as “get the most WAR” or “get the lowest $/WAR” or “hey our park plays like a launching pad so let’s get a bunch of groundball pitchers that can potentially defeat the rise in HR/FB% and launch angles and then a bunch of good infield defenders.” It doesn’t really matter what it is, so long as it’s a reasonably sound strategy that can be executed reasonably well. But a strategy consisting of “ayup, those are some good MLB players, real grinders, know the game well” without anything behind it is going to fall flat on it’s face with the spending constraints the franchise currently feels.

Third, the GM needs to be an effective communicator with their coworkers, specifically as to the value and meaning of their strategy. As Ted Leo sings in “Under the Hedge” -- you can’t teach what you can’t sell -- and the GM is going to ultimately be selling their vision and plan for the team to both the fans and the Schuerholz/McGuirk brass, and needs to be able to teach it as well. I don’t know how much credence to put to the rumors that part of the negative vortex swirling around John Coppolella in his final days was a backlash against analytics from the Schuerholz-led wing of the Front Office, but if there’s any truth to that, that’s both a failing on the part of said Front Office dinosaurs, but also on Coppolella and his staff for failing to educate their coworkers and get their buy-in. To this same end, it would be fantastic of the new GM could simultaneously teach and sell this vision to the fanbase -- being a fan can be about learning as much as it can be about cheering, and such a GM could elevate the fanbase to be the “City Upon a Hill” of baseball fandom by showing that there’s a path forward to baseball management that isn’t shrouded in nepotism and old-boy handshakes but rather with reasoning and data.

Secret fourth requirement: the GM should not be Dayton Moore, Dan Jennings, or any other old time-y wime-y “baseball Front Office dude” who has had ample opportunity to do something notable and impressive but has utterly failed to do so. And no, winning a World Series doesn’t count. If the Braves are going to hire a retread, I would like them to at least hire a retread that had a greater-than-50% playoff percentage in their GM seasons. Otherwise, what’s the point? Frank Wren likely could have made the playoffs in probably 50% of his seasons, on average; let’s make sure that if we’re not privileging new ideas and ways of doing things, we at least privilege the ability to have a reasonable set of success outcomes. By the way, Dayton Moore’s teams have made the playoffs in just two of his 11 full seasons at the helm. Make any adjustment for payroll, getting his organization up and running, etc., you want, unless you are literally saying that Dayton Moore should only be responsible for, say, his last six or fewer years at the helm, he just comes off looking not-great-to-bad.

Eric Cole - I think there is a fundamental problem throughout baseball and it exists between more traditional baseball men and women who have grown up playing the game and in the game and have very set opinions on what they look for versus those who are more analytical driven and prefer to use data, statistical analysis, and the like to help guide their decision making. I think the ideal GM candidate needs to see the value in both. Real scouting is great. Analytics are great. Good to great players will be agreed upon by both schools of thought. We have seen that part of the negative press from other executives is that Coppy was very firmly in the latter camp (while also seemingly not being likable by executives it seems). I don’t have an answer as to what person meets those criteria as being respected by both schools of thought, but that would be my end goal.

I am also a big fan of the notion of building a team from within through the draft and international signees. The new park and the revenues from that will help the Braves’ sign guys, but it is going to be next to impossible for them to compete with bigger markets with bigger payrolls for the top guys. As a result, someone with experience in scouting and player development would be a big plus for me. Beyond that, I am always in favor of someone who is willing to be bold with moves and to actually engage the fan base while being thick-skinned enough to realize that a chunk of them will hate everything you do no matter what. Also, everything that Ivan said is really sweet so if I didn’t make sense….just go back to what he said and pretend I said it.

Garrett Spain - I trust the Braves can find a specific name that suits them, but for me the most important thing is finding a General Manager who is on board with continuing the trajectory of the rebuild. Making drastic switches in ideology would set the organization back by years, and would be a waste of the prime years of a lot of talented players. It would also be nice to see them pursue someone who combined the Braves classic by-the-book thinking with the sabermetric slant that today's more advanced understanding of the game allows. Getting someone who is able to really work both sides of the fence would allow the Braves to bridge the gap between the old school thinking of the higher ups and the newer methods of the up-and-comers in the sport’s ranks. Alternate answer: Not Dayton Moore.

Sam Meredith - I think when the Braves are searching for a new manager they should consider A. The trajectory of which our system is already on, B. What just happened with John Coppolella and how to avoid that again and C. Possibly cleaning house all together and starting fresh from the top.

For the Braves I think it is very important to continue this path that they have already started by rebuilding from the farm system, not by bringing in a new GM bent on trading the entire farm for Giancarlo Stanton or someone who would overpay on a contract for name value.

Another thing important for the Braves to think about is how to avoid this crisis happening again. The best way is to institute a checks and balances system so that no one person has all the say at the top of the ladder. There should also be more transparency in the GM’s actions so that no one can question the integrity of the new GM.

Lastly, it may be time for a cleansing of the entire front office. Controversies like this can linger and instill doubt if another situation like this ever arises. I know we all talk about the “Braves Way” but I think that phrase is now obsolete because the Braves, as we now all know, do not have some type of higher level moral conviction, and make mistakes just like every other franchise.

As a closing remark I’d like to give my pick as to who I’d like to see become GM, Jason McLeod. After years of advanced scouting for the Cubs and being responsible for the drafting of many Cubs starters like Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, etc. McLeod was promoted to senior VP of scouting and player development for the Cubs. The reason I chose him is because from all reports he is very humble, he is in that age gap that can agree with both the old regime (should they continue to serve) and the newer statistical side and most importantly he has won and knows exactly what it takes to win and build long-term winners.

P.S. I like John Hart in the President of Baseball Ops role.

Mason Wittner - Well if I could have my way, I'd like to see the Braves lure in Theo Epstein from Chicago to fill the void left by Coppolella. Unfortunately, I think he’s pretty content with his five-year deal as the president of the Cubs, so it could never come to fruition. All joking aside, I personally would like to see Dayton Moore, who is currently with Kansas City, replace Coppy as the general manager of the Atlanta Braves. I have faith that the Braves know more than I do about this situation and that they will find the best possible candidate for the job. With that being said, I believe I'm echoing the thoughts of my fellow colleagues when I say that I hope Atlanta finds a GM who can keep with the current trajectory of the rebuild. I would hate to see them hire someone who wants to take the organization in a different direction than Coppy has over the past few years and, as a result, stunt the growth of the ongoing rebuild. I think a GM with similar ideologies would make for a smooth transition. Additionally, I would like to see someone who has experience in the position. While Coppy was often times praised for being one of the youngest general managers in baseball, it seems like the consensus among those I talked to about him was that he needed to be supervised. I would love to see the Braves have a proven veteran in the position. At the end of the day, I’m still very excited about the future of this organization. I hope that whoever takes the reigns as the new GM will continue to help move the rebuild along smoothly rather than setting the whole thing back two or three years.

Dillon Cloud - If the Braves can get their hands on Dayton Moore that would probably be the best route. Moore is a product of the Braves front office, and now that they are in a state of turmoil his experience could be helpful in smoothing the transition. The Braves could look at candidates without GM experience also, which given the advanced stage of the rebuild may not be an issue. Regardless of the choice, it will be important for John Hart to remain active in operations given his familiarity with the farm system and the recent developments in the organization.

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