The Braves went out and made some changes to the front office a couple of weeks ago as the article by Ken Rosenthal over on The Athletic($) pointed out a "power struggle within the front office." No one lost a job, but it was a pretty large internal re-organization. Re-orgs like that within any team, or even any company, don't usually happen unless they're a part of a bigger vision.
Without getting into the truths and myths of the Rosenthal article again, it did at the very least let us all see that there was a series of small moves in the front office and gave indication of something bigger in the pipeline. Well that bigger picture thing finally happened this week, as the Braves announced the addition of two rival front office execs into their own front office.
The two guys the Braves added are Adam Fisher of the New York Mets, and Perry Minasian of the Toronto Blue Jays. On the surface both guys have some similarities- both of them are younger, in their mid 30s, and both have known Braves general manager John Coppolella for a long time. However these guys are actually very different, and both bring interesting backgrounds into the Braves front office.
Adam Fisher is the former Mets Director of Baseball Operations since 2013, a position he earned after starting with the team in 2004 as a Baseball Operations Assistant and working his way up. Fisher joined the organization after graduating from Harvard, so he is a guy with a great pedigree.
Fisher isn’t a guy who gets talked about much outside of the organization, but he was a key player in the Mets analytics department and involved in the amateur scouting as well. He was very involved with the team's analytics and highly respected as a new age free thinker in terms of how he viewed the game- something I see as very important because a front office can't have enough knowledgeable, diverse voices involved in the decision making.
Fisher is coming to the Braves in order to help the team expand upon it’s analytics. In an age where advanced stats and analytical scouting are becoming bigger, this is a quality addition to the front office considering there are some who can see Fisher one day becoming a general manager himself.
Minasian is in some ways the exact opposite of the Ivy League educated, analytic based Fisher. He’s a baseball lifer, son of a former Texas Rangers equipment manager and brother of a former high ranking Brewers exec. Minasian got his start as a bat boy back in the 1980s, moving up to clubhouse attendant, and then into scouting where he rose to Major League Advance Scout with the organization.
Minasian left the Rangers for the Blue Jays to become director of pro scouting when Alex Anthopoulos took over as general manager in Toronto back in 2010. It’s a role he stayed in until the end of last year, when he became the special assistant to new general manager Ross Atkins after Mark Shapiro took over the front office in Toronto.
Not all special assistant roles in a front office are created equally, so you need to learn the responsibilities of the job of a special assistant to understand his role. For a guy like Minasian, that was actually a promotion as he was a very respected voice within the Jays front office and is credited with having a hand in many of the moves which helped turn the team back into a winner.
Minasian was moved because according to Atkins, “we want him touching every acquisition level more frequently from an evaluative standpoint.” That means that they wanted Minasian involved in big league, draft, and international acquisitions, because “he’s exceptional at understanding the industry, knowing every single player that comes in and out of Major League Baseball, has a great feel for amateur, has some feel for international, certainly understands minor league baseball and has a great feel for the talent available. We felt like getting him out more and evaluating more that we could better gather information.”
That quote from Atkins says it all. Minasian’s move was a promotion because of what he brought to the table. He was the guy directly responsible for Rule 5 pick Joe Biagini. He was also the guy who had a key role in identifying Jason Grilli as a trade target last year, and is responsible for getting Joaquin Benoit as well. Those three guys made a huge difference in the Toronto pen down the stretch last year.
That’s not all as Minasian really has had his hand in many of the key Toronto moves. Information isn’t fully available on which moves certain execs did or didn’t have a hand in, but he was the guy the team sent to scout then Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija back in 2014(a trade they did not make), heavily involved in the pursuit of Aroldis Chapman as he defected from Cuba(while they didn’t sign Chapman, they were among the finalists), and he was very key to the large trade which sent RA Dickey to the Jays from the Mets as he knew Dickey from their time together in Texas.
Minasian was also a huge part of the other blockbuster deal that winter which got them Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes from the Marlins. In this must read article it was actually Minasian who suggested the Blue Jays, then flush with prospects stop scouting the minors heavily in late-July and instead focus on big league available talent as the team switched gears to try to contend. That's a few months ahead of those two large trades for Buehrle and Dickey, and moves and a vision which really helped to usher in the most successful era of baseball in Toronto since their early 90s back to back World Series titles.
Considering the Braves are in a similar spot to where the Jays were at that time, it almost seems appropriate that Minasian comes aboard at this time. Just take one look at the 2012 Blue Jays preseason top prospect list from John Sickels at Minor League Ball. The names/grades are very impressive, as is the incredible depth- and this is before adding in 2012 draft choices Marcus Stroman and Anthony Alford. The parallels between the post-2012 Jays and post-2017 Braves are there.
The Braves are bringing Minasian in because they want his scouting/evaluation ability at all three levels. They also want his connections in the game to help the Braves get players. He’s a big addition to the front office as his work in Toronto was significant, and he was also an asset to the Rangers prior to heading to Toronto. The fact he’s already played a big role in turning a team into a contender only enhances his value.
Something that tells you a lot about both of these guys is their general managers. Both of them worked for the same team under multiple general managers, and either kept their roles or received promotions. That’s very telling because usually when a new general manager comes in- especially from outside the organization- they usually want their own guys or guys they know and trust in key positions. That these guys weren’t moved when regimes changed just goes to show you how respected they are and what their value is.
To the casual fan these moves don’t mean much. To even most die hard fans their names aren’t familiar. But these are going to be two guys who could have a significant impact upon the present and future of the Atlanta Braves organization.