September 26, 2018

Rebuild Mindset May Have Kept Talent in Braves’ Org

The Braves’ rebuild has been one of the most fascinating of all the recent rebuilds (Cubs, Astros).  For one thing, the Braves famously focused on pitching while the Cubs and the Astros focused on hitting.  For another, the Braves haven’t relied on any top draft picks of their own this season.  But, the craziest thing is that four GM/Presidents of Baseball Ops (Frank Wren, John Hart, John Coppolella, and Alex Anthopoulos) had a hand in constructing the current roster and as recently as this past offseason, there was all sorts of turmoil and a shake-up of the front office.

It’s ironic that Frank Wren was fired for getting away from The Braves Way of finding and developing young talent, yet plenty of key young players were signed during Wren’s tenure (Ronald Acuna, Johan Camargo, and Ozzie Albies).  Freddie Freeman was drafted while John Schuerholz was still the GM.  Mike Foltynewicz and Ender Inciarte were acquired by the Coppy/Hart front office.  Nick Markakis was also acquired by Coppy/Hart but was seen as more of a bridge between the Wren Braves and the rebuilt Braves, and wasn’t expected to be a key piece of a contending Atlanta team.

So, a lot of the best players on the 2018 team are attributable to Wren and his scouting staff.  However, we’ll never know if Wren would have kept all those prospects had he been allowed to stick around after the 2014 season.  What the front office changes of the post-Wren days brought was a green light to rebuild.  The lesson of the 2018 Braves may be that a rebuild mindset allows a team to keep potential talent rather than trading it away in an attempt to win now. During a rebuild, the talent a team keeps can be as vital as the talent they draft or trade for.

Frank Wren’s core had at least one more season to go when the Braves let Wren go.  Jason Heyward and Justin Upton weren’t free agents until after the 2015 season.  Several other core players had some years left on their contracts, though they would get more expensive in arbitration.  It’s possible keeping Wren around and staying the course would have tempted Wren to deal some prospects, like Acuna, Albies or Camargo, in some win-now moves.  So, while quite a few of the key players on the 2018 N.L. East Champs were in the organization before the rebuild even started, the rebuild may have kept those players in the organization and given them a chance to play for the team that signed them.



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