An­thopou­los says he’ll stick with new-look coach­ing staff

Tal­ent through­out Braves or­ga­ni­za­tion im­presses new GM.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - FANS EXTRA - By David O’Brien do­brien@ajc.com

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLA. — While still a rel­a­tively young gen­eral man­ager, Alex An­thopou­los is ex­pe­ri­enced, sharp and con­fi­dent enough to know he needn’t come to his new Braves or­ga­ni­za­tion and im­me­di­ately start mov­ing the fur­ni­ture around, much less toss­ing pieces into the street as if he knows best or to show he’s The Man.

He’s not chang­ing the man­ager for 2018, af­ter the Braves an­nounced last month they would pick up the op­tion on Brian Snitker’s con­tract, and he plans no changes this win­ter to the re­vamped coach­ing staff an­nounced last week.

An­thopou­los made those points and oth­ers Tues­day, a day af­ter he was in­tro­duced as the Braves’ gen­eral man­ager and upon join­ing his in­dus­try col­leagues on the se­cond day of baseball’s GM meet­ings at the Wal­dorf As­to­ria Or­lando.

“No, you’re not go­ing to see (coach­ing staff changes) at all,” said An­thopou­los, who signed a four-year con­tract that came with full con­trol of baseball op­er­a­tions and the ti­tle of ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent in ad­di­tion to gen­eral man­ager. “The staff ’s in place, the work’s been done. I want to get ev­ery­body an op­por­tu­nity, too.”

The last time baseball’s GM meet­ings were in Florida was 2015, when An­thopou­los re­ceived Sport­ing News’ Ex­ec­u­tive of the Year Award.

An­thopou­los, 40, served six years as Blue Jays gen­eral man­ager and built that team into an Amer­i­can League East divi­sion win­ner in 2015 be­fore turn­ing down lu­cra­tive ex­ten­sion of­fers and leav­ing when Toronto hired Mark Shapiro as team pres­i­dent, a move that would

have re­duced An­thopou­los’ con­trol over baseball op­er­a­tions de­spite the raise he would have re­ceived.

He went to the Dodgers in a newly cre­ated po­si­tion as vice pres­i­dent of baseball op­er­a­tions, work­ing un­der pres­i­dent of baseball op­er­a­tions An­drew Friedman and with gen­eral man­ager Farhan Zaidi in a crowded front of­fice that was nonethe­less quite ef­fec­tive and con­ge­nial.

Af­ter in­ter­view­ing for the Braves’ job two weeks ago on a day off be­tween games 5 and 6 of the World Se­ries, An­thopou­los was ex­cited about the op­por­tu­nity and hoped he would get it, but said he forced him­self not to think too much about it un­til he got the call Sun­day from John Hart, who was still Braves pres­i­dent of baseball op­er­a­tions at that point — he’s since been shifted to an ad­vi­sory role — and who made the of­fer to An­thopou­los.

“That two-week pe­riod, I didn’t spend any time on the Braves — I didn’t look at At­lanta, I didn’t look at houses or any of that kind of stuff,” An­thopou­los said.

“I talked to them, I thought (the op­por­tu­nity) was great, I told my wife I was pretty ex­cited about the po­ten­tial, but one, I didn’t think it was fair to the Dodgers at the time. I was work­ing for them and we had a lot to do in the off­sea­son. Plus, I didn’t think it would be good for me, for my men­tal state, to even think about it too much.”

By Tues­day af­ter­noon it had been Braves im­mer­sion for about 36 hours for An­thopou­los, with a cou­ple of flights — Los An­ge­les to At­lanta at 6 a.m. Mon­day and to Or­lando on Mon­day night — and not much sleep. But if he was ex­hausted, he didn’t show it. And if he was tired of talk­ing about the Braves, he cer­tainly didn’t seem that way. He’s been given the keys to an or­ga­ni­za­tion that has the toprated farm sys­tem in baseball, and even pend­ing sanc­tions from MLB don’t fig­ure to change that or al­ter the Braves’ plans of be­ing a con­tender sooner rather than later.

They’re three years into a ma­jor re­build and have most of the pieces in place for long-term suc­cess. As for the near term, An­thopou­los had dis­cus­sions Tues­day with Hart, as­sis­tant GM Adam Fisher and di­rec­tor of player per­son­nel Perry Mi­nasian about the team’s 2018 needs.

“Yeah, we’ve talked about the bullpen and third base and things like that,” he said. “But it’s still fluid be­cause you’re also try­ing to time it with some of the young play­ers we have. We’re very ex­cited about (third-base prospect Austin) Ri­ley long term. (Ri­ley’s per­for­mance in the Ari­zona) Fall League was great, peo­ple are very ex­cited in­ter­nally about him and what’s the time frame.”

Since John Cop­polella was forced to re­sign Oct. 2 amid the MLB in­ves­ti­ga­tion into nu­mer­ous al­leged in­frac­tions in the in­ter­na­tional free-agent mar­ket and the draft, much of the off­sea­son ground­work — do­ing back­ground on avail­able free agents, find­ing out which Braves play­ers or prospects are most de­sir­able to which other teams, etc. — has been done by Fisher and Mi­nasian, who were hired in Septem­ber. An­thopou­los has known Mi­nasian since both were in Toronto, where Mi­nasian was scout­ing di­rec­tor, but met Fisher on Tues­day.

What An­thopou­los al­ready was aware of was the loads of young tal­ent in the Braves sys­tem, some in the big leagues and much more com­ing up in the mi­nors.

“Lot of young power arms, up­side arms; they just have waves and waves of those guys,” An­thopou­los said. “Ob­vi­ously some im­pact bats with guys like (No. 1 prospect Ron­ald) Acuna, Ri­ley. (Catch­ing prospect) Alex Jack­son has re­ally emerged. That was a great ac­qui­si­tion, a guy who looked like he was go­ing to stall as a prospect. He’s just emerg­ing . ... (Left­hander) Max Fried. I can’t wait to see him. I re­mem­ber out of the draft ev­ery­one was ex­tremely high on him.”

CUR­TIS COMP­TON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

Gen­eral man­ager Alex An­thopou­los (right) joins Braves Chair­man/CEO Terry McGuirk at an in­tro­duc­tory news con­fer­ence at SunTrust Park. Later, An­thopou­los trav­eled to the GM meet­ings.

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