In a surprising move, Braves general manager John Coppolella resigned Monday amid a breach of Major League Baseball rules regarding the international player market.
Coppolella, who’s been in the Braves organization since 2006, officially took over as general manager in 2015. He operated as the de facto GM the year prior. He spearheaded the organization’s rebuild and orchestrated some major trades and moves that composed it.
Under Coppolella, the Braves turned a barren farm system into a consensus top two in baseball.
In November 2014, the Braves dealt outfielder Jason Heyward to the Cardinals for Shelby Miller and Jordan Walden. Miller had a breakout season in Atlanta and became the key piece of Coppolella’s most impactful trade.
The Braves flipped Miller to the Diamondbacks for Ender Inciarte, Dansby Swanson and Aaron Blair. Inciarte has become one of the team’s best hitters in recent memory, while the former No. 1 pick Swanson is the team’s starting shortstop moving forward. Swanson, a Marietta native, is one of the faces of the rebuild.
A month after trading Heyward, the Braves moved Justin Upton to the Padres for Max Fried, Jace Peterson, Dustin Peterson and Mallex Smith. Fried made it to Atlanta this season and showed promise. Jace Peterson has split time between the major and minor leagues. Dustin Peterson has yet to crack the bigs. Mallex Smith was traded to the Mariners last winter for Luiz Gohara, who may have the most ace potential of all the current Braves starters after a rapid rise through the minors.
In January 2015, the Braves traded fan-favorite Evan Gattis to the Astros for Mike Foltynewicz, Rio Ruiz and Andrew Thurman. Foltynewicz is one of the Braves’ better starters with room to grow and Ruiz has proven at least a capable bench player.
To rid the Braves of Melvin Upton’s contract, Coppolella sacrificed All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel in a trade with the Padres. Atlanta acquired Matt Wisler, Jordan Paroubeck, Cameron Maybin, Carlos Quentin and the 41st pick in the 2015 draft that ultimately became Austin Riley.
Wisler is a bust, but Riley will determine how that deal is viewed in the long run. The goal was to shed salary, which they did, but little became of the money saved. Consider that the Padres received building block outfielder Manuel Margot when they traded Kimbrel to the Red Sox and one can’t help but to wonder what the Braves could’ve received for Kimbrel alone.
Despite signing Andrelton Simmons long-term, the Braves traded him to the Angels in November 2015. They received Sean Newcomb, Chris Ellis and Erick Aybar in return. Newcomb is the only piece left, though he’s shown signs of a rotation fixture moving forward.
Aybar was a disappointment and traded to the Tigers last season. Ellis was included in the Jaime Garcia deal from last offseason.
The worst trade Coppolella agreed to was a three-way deal in which the Braves acquired Hector Olivera, Paco Rodriguez, Zach Bird and the 40th pick of the 2016 draft (Joey Wentz). Atlanta relinquished Alex Wood, Jose Peraza, Jim Johnson, Bronson Arroyo and Luis Avilan.
Olivera was a complete misfire, as Coppolella has admitted publicly, and after a domestic violence incident, was traded to the Padres for outfielder Matt Kemp. Kemp, who’s had trouble staying healthy and managing his weight, is still a negative asset to the Braves, who will attempt to trade him this offseason.
Making matters worse, Wood has blossomed into a frontline starter for the Dodgers. Avilan has been an up-and-down piece of the best bullpen in baseball.
The early returns on Wentz have been positive, so there’s still a salvageable piece of that deal. Regardless, it was a questionable deal then and looks worse as time goes on.
Most recently, Coppolella signed aging starting pitchers Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey as innings eaters. Colon was a failure and released on July 4. Dickey has proved a wise signing and Garcia was flipped to the Twins for upside arm Huascar Ynoa.
Coppolella acquired Brandon Phillips upon Sean Rodriguez’s injury, one of his better think-on-your-feet moves. He flipped Rodriguez and Phillips in August. He also swung a midseason deal for Matt Adams which turned out better than anyone could’ve expected.
In all, Coppolella’s tenure was a mixed bag. However, it resulted in perhaps baseball’s best farm system, which was the team’s mission from the get-go.