Anthopoulos says he’ll stick with new-look coaching staff
Talent throughout Braves organization impresses new GM.
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.”
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.