The Braves in 2018: Snitker could return, but much will change

A young arm for next year: Luiz Gohara. (AP Photo/Tami Chappell)

First things first: The Braves are believed to be leaning toward keeping Brian Snitker as manager for next season. No final decision has been made, but Saturday’s luncheon meeting between Snitker and upper management generated, in general manager John Coppolella’s description, “productive conversation.”

Beyond that, Coppolella declined public comment about Snitker’s status. And there’s thought that, even if the manager is retained, the coaching staff will see changes. The GM again offered a no-comment.

(As noted recently, I believe retaining Snitker would be a mistake. Then again, I wasn’t invited to lunch.)

Coppolella was more forthcoming on other matters. He spoke Sunday, before the Braves’ final home game of Year 1 in SunTrust Park. Seated alongside in the executive box was Adam Fisher, just hired as assistant GM from the Mets, where he was director of baseball operations. Fifteen minutes before the first pitch, Bobby Cox ambled in. But enough scene-setting. Here’s Coppolella on …

How next year won’t be like this year: “I think we’re going to see a younger team. We’ve got arguably the best prospect in the game (outfielder Ronald Acuna) pushing his way up to Atlanta. He’s going to be given every opportunity in spring training. When he’s ready, nobody’s going to stand in his way. I said the same thing about Ozzie Albies this spring, and it’s the same way. You saw where we moved Brandon Phillips to third base. We will move other people to make way for this young player because he is that special.”

On whether the Braves feel comfortable with in-house rotation options for 2018: “It’s safe to say we won’t be playing in big free-agent pitching waters. We need to make a decision on R.A. Dickey’s option; he needs to make a decision on whether he’s coming back. He’s had a great year for us. He’s a great person. Out of respect for him, I think we have to see what happens on both sides. I don’t think we’re locked in either way. But we’re going to see our young players make their way up to Atlanta, and they’re going to be given opportunities.”

On whether the youngish infield seen in September could become an STP staple: “It could certainly factor in. You could have a great defensive infield with some good hitters who are going to get better. The way (Dansby) Swanson has come back since he was optioned has been very impressive. He’s got off-the-chart makeup. It’s tough to play in this market with the amount of pressure that’s been put on him, and the way he conducted himself, especially after he’s come back, speaks to the kind of person he is, which is really impressive.”

On Jim Johnson, defrocked closer: “You might think I’m crazy, but I think Jim Johnson is going to have a big bounce-back year. Jim was really good up until around the break, and then he started to struggle. Jim’s in great shape. He’s got great stuff. He’s a good person. … We think he’s going to have a much better season next year.”

On the biggest offseason need: “I think we need bullpen. For sure one viable piece, possibly two.”

On his catchers: “We’re more than likely to pick up the option for (Tyler) Flowers. By bringing back Kurt Suzuki, you feel good about that position.”

On trading Matt Kemp and/or Nick Markakis to clear room for Acuna: “We’re open to any possibilities to improve our club.”

On the Braves’ lack of power – 13th among National League teams in home runs – in a park that plays small: “Power’s nice. (Braves president) John Hart’s Indians had as much power as any team in baseball. It’s something we’re trying to find. We’re still searching. Part of what we want to do is grow with our kids. We love the kids in our farm system. We have faith in them. We want to give them opportunities. We don’t want to be the team that gets the big-name player as a free agent. We want to be the team that grows the players from the farm system, that builds the Braves the way they were built in the 1990s.”

On front-office changes: “We’re trying to get better on the field. We’re trying to get better in the front office. With both Adam and Perry (Minasian, imported from Toronto as director of player personnel), these are guys who are really good. They’ve helped build teams that have done really good things and were in one place for a long time. Both their teams did not want to lose them. Both of them showed faith in the Braves and in me, coming here being a part of this. I’m thrilled we were able to add two guys of their quality to our group. We’re just trying to get better. These guys make us better.”

On this season, which has a week to run: “A word for the year? I would say ‘improving.’ We’re going from 67 wins to 68 wins to 70-something wins. We’re seeing us do it with young players. A big point for me is that you’re not seeing starts go to Joel De La Cruz. You’re not seeing innings go to Jake Brigham or Ryan Kelly. We’re doing it with kids. In the game last night, all four runs were driven in by guys in their first season. We’re seeing kids every day. Whereas we were trying to hold on and build up the minor leagues in years past, now we’re seeing them play up here and doing better than the castoffs, for lack of a better term, that we filled in with the last two years.”

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27 comments
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BoyHowdy
BoyHowdy

I remember seeing Pat Travers at Harlow's on Memorial Drive back in 1983.  Great show.  Jerry Riggs played in PT's band that night.

Chuck Herendeen
Chuck Herendeen

Mark, Love your reporting and agree with you most of the time. However, you are dead wrong in wanting to see Snitker fired and I will give you some very valid and sound arguments as to why he should be retained. You mention Bud Black and the Rockies. Before the season started, would you not have said that Colorado had a better team than the Braves (Yes,especially on the offensive side)? Are the Rockies playing over their head or is it a surprise that they probably will be a wild card team? (No) Would Bud Black gotten the Braves to the playoffs this season? I think we all know that the answer is no. When the Braves opened the season in 2016, just 18 months ago, they basically had a triple A team or lineup. It was truly pathetic and Fredi Gonzales didn't stand much of a chance in keeping his job. When they did fire him, their record was 9-37 after almost a third of the season had been played. They were on pace for 31 wins and 131 losses, or the worst win lost record in ML history, or at least since the 162 game schedule in 1962. Even the hapless Mets of 1962 didn't loose that many games, loosing 120 instead. Again, let that sink in. They were on pace to loose 131 games after almost a third of the season had been played. They were also on pace to hit about 30 to 35 home runs. That is beyond terrible. After Brian came on board they were something like 55 and 60. They didn't loose 100 games which seemed like they easily would. That is quite an impressive turn around by a team in the same season. The front office has to be given some credit for the turn around as well, but Snitker is the glue that kept that team from destructing in what could of been one of (if not the) worst seasons in baseball history. The Matt Kemp trade and the trade with the Dodgers last year during the season were big reasons why the team played much better as the season progressed. A couple other big reasons were the bright play of Dansby Swanson when he got called up and the hot bat of Freddie Freeman in the second half. Their wasn't a better in hitter than him in the Major Leagues during the second half last year. This year, most of the "experts" and baseball publications had the Braves finishing 4th in the East and some even in last place. As of this writing, with one week in the season left, they have a very realistic chance of finishing 2nd in the division as they are only 2.5 games behind the Marlins and have 4 games left with them at the end of the year. The Braves were 45-45 at the third week of July, or past the half way point this season. That was a minor miracle in of itself, especially after Freddie injured his wrist in May. In fact, the team played at a better than .500 clip in his absence which was quite remarkable. They should finish with about 75 wins. Before the season started, you and most people would of taken that and been very pleased. Has he made mistakes and some questionable decisions, yes. I'm sure that Bobby Cox did as well during his 30 plus years as a Major League Manager. Brian is very well liked by the players which to me is huge and can't be over estimated. He seems to have a quite yet confident demeanor as a manager which is important over a 162 game schedule. You can't get too high or too low and seems to have a very even keel during good times and bad. In some ways his personality reminds me of another Manager who did fairly well. I'm sure this Manager wasn't too popular with the press at first and some were probably calling for him to be fired after his first year or two. He had exactly one career at bat and struck out. His name, Walt Alston and he signed exactly 20 one year contracts with the Dodgers and is in the Hall of Fame. He won 7 NL Championships (at least one in each of the 3 decades he managed) and 3 World Series in 7 appearances. If Brian can half of the ML Managerial Career that Alston had, he will of had a very good one. After 41 or more years in the organization, I believe that the Braves need to reward him for his loyalty. I realize that it all comes down to winning, but I have no doubt that in a few years that he can lead the Braves again to World Series appearance with the talent that the organization has.

ATLFAN44
ATLFAN44

Buy your 2018 Season Tickets before Nov. 3rd, and you will lock in 2017 price. What !!!! You finished 3rd in the worst division in baseball, and you are raising prices ?!!!!!!!!

joedavis
joedavis

 Snit's a great guy, but let's move forward.  How about a younger, dynamic manager who will stand up to veteran players.  Don't let them choose their positions, make out the lineup card, and gain 25 pounds during the season.  Don't accept a 73 win season and call it a success.  Let's bring the excitement back to Braves baseball.  If we're going to report attendance figures of 35,000, let's see more than 15,000 in the seats.  Make people want to come again.


And as for Jim Johnson, Coppy is living on Fantasy Island.  Like Kemp, Markakis, and the rest of the Braves former closers, he peaked around 2011.

TideDawg
TideDawg

@joedavis  I'll take that remark from Coppy about Johnson for what I think it is. Trade talk bait. You don't talk down a player you want to get  off your roster and unload $5 million. Right now Tattoo is a better closer than Johnson.

LarryHayes
LarryHayes

Can't agree more with issue of calling this season a success. That just compounds the problems for me, and makes me less likely to renew my season tix. Seeking results, not pats on the back.

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#41
#41

Oh my! The Braves are mired deep inside Coppy/Hart's "psychedelic" dreams. Coppy seems to be happy with going from 110 losses to 90. Here are the stats:


Pitching: 24th (ERA)

Hitting:    20th (RBIs), Runs (21st)

Fielding: 15th


First, you must fix the rotation and bullpen or it's another loser season. I don't see three solid MLB quality starters. Then you still have a lot of work to do in the other two areas.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

Braves go younger, Goodbye to Markakis, and Kemp ,Coppy dumps their salaries for not much in return. 

2018 lineup opening day

1. Inciarte CF

2. Albies 2B

3. Freeman 1B

4.Acuna RF

5.Flowers C

6. Camargo 3B

7. L.Adams LF

8. Swanson SS

9. Teheran P


colt07
colt07

Coppy must be on some great drugs. Brought in two folks to help from Mets and Toronto (now there are two franchises that have been beating everyone). He brought in two more 'yes' men. 


To even suggest Jim Johnson is a viable close is ludicrous. I am still not convinced Swanson is the answer at short. He never got over .250 hitting and is second in errors. Albies seems to have potential but we will ruin him. 


Pitching is just terrible. Folty and Tehran are head cases. I think Sims may have potential. Gohara is as fat as I am and I am 59. Not sure he can last an entire season.


As for Snitker I again remind you what Bear Bryant once said, "If you ain't got the horses, you can't ride to the championship."


We have so much to look forward to. NOT!!!

TideDawg
TideDawg

@colt07  I agree with your assessment of the Braves. I would trade Folty and Teheran....or put Folty in the bullpen where he would only have to pitch one inning. Folty thinks he's an umpire and umpires think he is a hothead and he gets nothing from them. Umpires enjoy watching him stew on the mound. It adds fun to their boring jobs. I don't see Folty changing his attitude. He has a cool temperament off the field in interviews but can't handle it in the heat of battle when he thinks he's right and umps think he's wrong. I think most of the Braves young pitchers have been coached to be expressionless on the mound. Evidently Folty doesn't believe in that method of coaching. If he can't see that he's his own worst enemy then coaching isn't going to help.

Toby Allen04
Toby Allen04

Of course they are bringing Snitker back. Lets just say "the price is right" for poor cash strapped Liberty Media. I think the concession fees for 2 familys for a game would cover his salary

TideDawg
TideDawg

@Toby Allen04  If they do bring him back, that's not the reason. I think they figure the Braves to be a .500 team next year...at best. A manager like Washington or any other high profile manager won't change that. The players love Snitker because most of them grew up with him in the minors. However, I still believe Snits is history. Washington will be the next Brave's manager. He's a good choice if they do change. He's building a rapport with this team that will serve him well if he's the manager.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@TideDawg @Toby Allen04 If Snit gets the axe ,I would rather see the Braves go outside the current staff for their manager. Bring in a much younger person and give him enough time to develop the younger players as they come up to the Braves.Wash is a great baseball guy but he is 66 years old next season, I doubt he would be around long enough to complete the rebuild, 2020 may be the earliest the Braves are actually in the playoff picture again.

BobDawg
BobDawg

What if the Angels come to us with Mike Trout for Ender Inciarte and 3-4 pitchers??  Do you pull the string on that one??? 

JeffCriswell
JeffCriswell

Huge mistake if Snit does not return. He's perfect with and for this team. Yes, Swanson is the SS. Albies is the 2nd baseman. Third  is Austin Riley's, even if he is still a year or two away. Acuna, Ender, FF, the team is starting to round into shape. Pitching is a big question mark; Braves should give starts to Newc, Folty, Sims, Gohara. Let's see if any of these guys stick. 

patriotdog
patriotdog

Coppy doesn't mind throwing guys under the bus ( DeLaCruz,Brigham,etc..) for sure.

Fisher is a good addition to the front office. The Mets have been sustaining greatness now for...um...never mind.

DamonH
DamonH

"the coaching staff will see changes"
one would hope so, that pitching staff ... that Coppy said would be better than last year ... is def. not better than last year

mgunter
mgunter

Snit is not the answer for our manager just like you are not the answer as a sports writer and th AJC is not th answer as a newspaper !

adirondackdave
adirondackdave

re: Jim Johnson translation...   Coppy's looking for someone who will take part of that contract.

ronald volz
ronald volz

I feel your coaching staff is good.  Look at improvement.


POV1948
POV1948

Johnson had 7 blown saves before the all star break.  Led the majors. Is Coppollella even paying attention?  Is Bradley?  This is one mysterious reporter-bean counter man crush.