LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – New Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos likes to take into consideration the opinions of others in his organization before making big trades, particularly with young players and prospects.
With that in mind, and considering his relatively late hiring (Nov. 12), Anthopoulos indicates he’ll take a more cautious approach this winter than he’s been known for in the past when it comes to entertaining trade proposals involving any of the Braves’ considerable young talent. He first wants to get familiar not just with those players but also the Braves evaluators and player development officials who’ve seen them the most.
“As much as I’m soliciting opinions, not everybody is unanimous on every player,” Anthopoulos said Monday on the first day of baseball’s annual Winter Meetings. “There’s an old saying, you can have a vote, but everyone’s vote doesn’t count the same. Knowing which votes to value -- I’m not there yet. One person might be great (evaluating) shortstops, another person might be great with bullpen guys.
“I don’t know who they are yet, so to make real significant decisions, especially with young players – unlikely. Not impossible, but unlikely, unless there’s real conviction amongst everybody in the organization. And with young players you’re not going to have that, you’re always going to have debate and split camp. So I think it’s just important to be thorough.”
Anthopoulos showed during his six years as Blue Jays GM that he wasn’t afraid to pull the trigger on a deal to get a veteran who could fill a need and help put the Blue Jays over the top, even if it meant trading away multiple prospects. But the Braves aren’t there yet and besides, he doesn’t feel familiar enough with their young players and the prospects in their talent-rich farm system to start trading a bunch of them in his first months on the job.
“It’s hard to be aggressive when you’re not completely comfortable with information yet,” Anthopoulos said, referring to both the scouting reports on Braves prospects and those who wrote up the reports or have opinions about those players. “Look, we’re still trying to do some things, but it’s a more cautious and measured approach is probably what I would say, because of the newness to the organization….
“I don’t know the evaluators yet. I don’t know the quality of the international analysis that we have, so that’s just going to take some time. I’m discovering that there’s some really talented individuals in baseball operations but I’m getting to know them. I would say at least my thought right now, for Year 1, is probably going to be, for lack of a better term, a more cautious approach. That doesn’t mean we don’t want to be active, we don’t want to do things. But you’re not comfortable when you don’t have comfort with the information yet, and that’s just going to take some time.”
Some other observations from Anthopoulos after his first four weeks with the Braves since being hired away from the Dodgers:
On helping out young pitchers the Braves will be counting on: “Behind the plate, I think with guys like (Tyler) Flowers and Kurt Suzuki, the way they receive the ball and (pitch) framing numbers – especially with Flowers – that’s certainly going to help a lot. What I know about (the catchers) in terms of trying to lead a staff, game-planning, clubhouse, that sounds like it’s great. So I think we’re in great position. The strength of this team and the depth of this team is on the mound in terms of long term, so again, from afar, it looks like there may have been some (pitchers) that underachieved that are capable of more. Whether it was execution, what they threw in terms of the mix…
“But I do think just looking at the club from a defensive standpoint, if we can tighten it up – again, it’s something we’d like to do; I’m not sure it’s going to happen, but if we can tighten it up that would go a long way in terms of the on-field product and (pitchers’) development. You look at the success this organization’s had in the past, they caught the ball, they pitched, it was built that way. Doesn’t mean it’s the only way to win, but the model’s pretty good.”
On whether young pitching makes it more likely to have eight-man bullpen instead of seven: “I think there’s a decent chance that that happens, but that evolves over the course of the year. It might be that the bullpen’s taxed and we’re going with eight, then maybe our starters are doing really well and we’re down to seven (relievers) and so on. Maybe we have some guys on the bench that we want to carry who are out of options and we go with seven (relievers). We’re not locked into anything. As a general feeling is there a chance because of the youth? Sure. But I don’t think we’re going into spring training counting on seven or eight.”
On whether he’s been surprised by anything in his first weeks on the job in Atlanta: “You knew there was a new ballpark and so on, but I didn’t appreciate how special The Battery was (referring to the dining and entertainment and retail area adjacent to SunTrust Park). And I still marvel all the time – you go to lunch (there), you go grab dinner. I think it’s the best-kept secret in baseball right now. I talk about it all the time with any baseball-operations staff, I say when we get to the point where we’re winning, this place is going to be incredible to see. You look at great areas like San Diego – the ballpark, the hotel, that (downtown) area there is great. Atlanta’s even better. The way it was designed, I don’t think people in the industry realize how unbelievable it is. I know the ballpark’s really nice, but the surrounding area and everything else.
“And also, I’m starting to discover how much players like playing here. It’s an attractive place to play, and that’s pretty exciting from my standpoint – when the time comes, free agency, knowing that the city sells itself, and now you start factoring in the ballpark and everything else. And then if we’re doing our job from a baseball operations standpoint, putting a good team on the field, I mean you just get more excited about the upside. We’re not there yet, but I felt like there was upside and it’s probably even greater than I realized. From being around it the last few weeks.”