Brian Snitker will continue as Braves manager after the team decided to pick up the 2018 option on his contract, a person familiar with the situation said Wednesday.
Coaching-staff decisions are still being discussed, and it’s unclear if there will be changes to Snitker’s staff. An announcement regarding the manager is expected later in the week.
In Snitker’s first full season as manager in 2017, the Braves finished 72-90, the third consecutive season with at least 90 losses for the Braves, a former perennial contender still in a multi-year rebuilding project.
Within the organization, it was expected they would be better by now, but there were extenuating circumstances, including injuries and midseason trades, and Snitker continues to have strong support from players, including vocal veterans.
“I know (the players) want everybody back” on the coaching staff, catcher Kurt Suzuki said after Sunday’s season finale. “I think I can speak for a lot of the guys. Especially Snit -- I mean, the guy’s done everything he can with what he was dealt with. I thought he did a fantastic job. I’ve played for a few managers now, and he’s definitely a good one.
“I think a lot of players would benefit from the whole staff coming back, but it’s out of our control. There’s nothing we can do, we’ve just got to see what happens.”
The Braves had a 45-45 record through July 16 despite slugger Freddie Freeman missing seven weeks in that period with a fractured wrist. But after putting themselves in the wild-card picture at the 90-game mark, the Braves spiraled to a National League-worst 27-45 record the rest of the way, and had a six-game losing streak in the last week of the season before winning the season finale.
“It’s a tale of two seasons, really,” Freeman said Sunday. “We had a good first 90 games, and the last 72 weren’t what we wanted. We saw a lot of guys sprinkle into our clubhouse and into our lineup that are going to be part of the future and go their feet wet. I’m kind of getting tired of saying ‘feet wet,’ so hopefully in 2018 we’re actually playing meaningful games right now.”
Snitker, who’ll turn 62 on Oct. 17, has a 126-146 record as Braves manager since he was promoted from Triple-A manager after Fredi Gonzalez was fired May 17, 2016.
Snitker was named interim manager, took over a moribund 9-28 team and led a dramatic midseason turnaround in his first time managing in the major leagues, guiding the Braves to a 59-65 record over the remainder of the 2016 season including 50-47 after his first four weeks on the job.
The Braves closed the 2016 season winning 20 of their final 30 games and five consecutive series, and Snitker had the interim label removed from his title Oct. 11, 2016. He was hired then as full-time manager over a field of candidates that included veteran managers Bud Black and Ron Washington and three members of the Braves coaching staff – Terry Pendleton, Eddie Perez and Bo Porter.
Washington was hired as third-base coach at that time, supplanting Porter, who was bumped to the front office.
The Braves’ late-season struggles in 2017 season led to speculation that Snitker’s option would be declined and that Washington would be promoted from third-base coach to take over as manager. But Snitker continued to have the vocal support of players and some key front-office officials.
The sudden resignation of general manager John Coppolella on Monday amid a Major League Baseball investigation focused primarily on alleged rule-breaking by the GM and a top assistant in the international free-agent market, might have been a tipping point in deciding to pick up Snitker’s option. The move could allow an incoming general manager to make his own managerial hire beyond the 2018 season.
The Braves haven’t set a timetable for hiring a general manager, but Royals GM Dayton Moore, a former Braves assistant GM under Hall of Famer John Schuerholz, is considered the leading candidate. It’s uncertain if he would return unless he has full control of baseball operations. For now John Hart continues as president of baseball operations and has indicated he’ll stay for 2018, though the team has not announced he’s returning.
It’s unclear if MLB’s investigation could eventually lead to issues with Braves officials other than the two who were already forced to resign, Coppolella and special assistant/international scouting supervisor Gordon Blakeley.
If Moore doesn’t take the job, other candidates are expected to include Marlins GM and manager Dan Jennings, currently serving as a Nationals special assistant.