By now, you have probably heard that the Atlanta Braves fired General Manager Frank Wren Monday morning. Special Assistant to the GM John Hart was named interim General Manager. Manager Fredi Gonzalez was retained, although that could change. The general feeling seems to be that since Gonzalez had his one-year option exercised by the Braves, they will give him that year to evaluate him further. Of course, a new GM could decide that he wants his own people, so Gonzalez’s status is tenuous at best.
So who should take over for Frank Wren? Braves Asssistant GM/Director of Professional Scouting John Coppolella has been on several short lists of up and coming GM candidates for a while now. He worked for the New York Yankees from 2000-2006 in the front office and scouting departments, after which he came to Atlanta as Director of Baseball Administration. In 2011, Atlanta named him Director of Pro Scouting, and in 2013 he was also as an Assistant General Manager. Coppolella has a strong background in scouting, and has worked with Atlanta scouting greats Jim Fregosi and Paul Snyder. Coppolella is reportedly the person who identified scrap heap pickup Eric O’Flaherty for the Braves.
In addition, Coppolella has shown a good bit of interest and knowledge in advanced statistical analysis. His awareness of things such as UZR and UZR/150 are good indicators of his willingness to look beyond his scouting specialty for ways to confirm or counter his scouting department’s recommendations. In addition to perusing Fangraphs regularly, Coppolella has assisted the Braves in developing their own metrics for assessing player values.
I think that we use stats as much, if not more, than any team in baseball. We just don’t brag about it really. We’ve come up with our own stats, where we’ve ranked offense and pitching, and we’ve used those stats in conjunction with what our scouts think in order to look at big-league free agents, six-year free agents, and guys that we might be getting in trades. ~ John Coppolella, 12/10/2010 Fangraphs.com
While he has not been named as successor, there is some reason to believe that John Coppolella could be tapped as the permanent replacement for Wren. He has been at the top of fast rising GM candidate lists for several years. He’s familiar with ‘the Braves’ Way’. He knows the scouting department, the front office, and the players/managers/coaches. Having experience in scouting, advanced statistics, and business operations gives him a breadth of knowledge that could frankly make him a very successful option to replace Wren. With an experienced hand like John Hart or John Schuerholz around to lend guidance when needed, Coppolella could be a good fit.
And if he can trade B.J. Upton before a replacement GM is named, he may go down in Braves lore as a miracle worker.