Braves name Alex Anthopoulos as next general manager, executive VP
ATLANTA — The Atlanta Braves named Alex Anthopoulos as their new general manager and executive vice president on Monday afternoon — a masterstroke hire for an organization looking to climb out of offseason turmoil and rejoin Major League Baseball’s upper echelon.
Landing the former Toronto Blue Jays general manager and Dodgers vice president of baseball operations ends the search for John Coppolella’s replacement and installs long-term leadership in Atlanta, answering waves of offseason question marks surrounding the front office.
Anthopoulos, 40, will take over baseball operations with “full control” of baseball operations. He signed a four-year contract through the 2021 season.
“I view this as one of the premier jobs in all of sports,” Anthopoulos said at his introductory news conference with Braves executives and manager Brian Snitker sitting in the front row. “With the young talent that we have here … certainly expect big things going forward.”
— FOX Sports: Braves (@FOXSportsBraves) November 13, 2017
John Hart will transition away from his role as president of baseball operations and into a senior adviser role alongside Hall of Famers Bobby Cox and John Schuerholz.
After working his way up through the Expos and Blue Jays’ front offices — literally climbing the ranks from the mail room to the board room — Anthopoulos, a Montreal native, served as Toronto’s general manager from 2009 to 2015, piecing together a roster that posted a 489-483 record in the competitive American League East. Anthopoulos was instrumental in acquiring the likes of 2015 American League MVP Josh Donaldson, David Price and Troy Tulowitzki; the franchise also brought in José Bautista and Edwin Encarnación during his time as assistant GM to mentor J.P. Ricciardi.
A panel of 47 major-league executives tabbed him as Sporting News‘ Executive of the Year in 2015.
In October 2015, he declined the Blue Jays’ five-year contract extension and eventually landed in Los Angeles, where he helped build the 2017 National League champions while working under Andrew Friedman.
Though Kansas City Royals general manager Dayton Moore, a John Schuerholz protégé, was linked to the GM vacancy from the very beginning, Atlanta was never granted a formal interview. Anthopoulos interviewed with Atlanta at SunTrust Park on the off day between Games 5 and 6 of the World Series and called his wife, Cristina, afterwards to say, “This is as good a job as I’m ever going to find.”
Anthopoulos steps into the position vacated by Coppolella, who resigned in early October amid MLB’s investigation in player acquisition practices both domestic and international. Hart and Coppolella built arguably the top farm system in baseball — a deep well of young talent, including consensus superstar outfield prospect Ronald Acuña, that made the job opening appealing for a wide range of candidates.
Even with possible sanctions stemming from the MLB investigation pending, it’s unlikely a well-established name like Anthopoulos leaves his high-level position in Los Angeles without inheriting a wealth of talent (and front-office control.)
“The talent level, the work that’s been done here is tremendous. And that’s certainly a credit to all the administrations that have been here before over the years. You can look at the roster at the big-league level, at the minor-league level,” Anthopolous said. “I can’t give them enough credit for the talent that they have. … The minor leagues’ (talent) right now are as good as you’re gonna find in baseball. To have a head start like that is an outstanding opportunity.”
— FOX Sports: Braves (@FOXSportsBraves) November 13, 2017
Trading away Noah Syndergaard in the R.A. Dickey deal stands as his high-profile misstep on the trading block, but Anthopoulos has demonstrated the ability to identify amateur talent and build through the minors. From 2009 to 2015, Baseball America tabbed the Blue Jays with a top-10 farm system four times — highlighting the likes of top prospects Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Kevin Pillar, Roberto Osuna, Daniel Norris and current minor-league standout Vladimir Guerrero Jr., among others. (Fun fact: Anthopoulos’ Blue Jays also drafted Kris Bryant and Aaron Nola out of high school, though the future big-leaguers did not sign with the organization.) Jonah Keri described Anthopoulos’ approach for Grantland back in 2013:
“His approach to collecting young talent is pragmatic, targeting the best talent regardless of whether they’re from the international, college, or high school pools. He trusts his scouts to make the best decisions on all those fronts, making one of his first moves as GM the expansion of the amateur scouting ranks, from 28 to 54. He routinely goes over slot for premium talent in the draft. He’ll re-sign some veteran stars (Jose Bautista for five years, $65 million) and trade others (Halladay for Travis D’Arnaud, Kyle Drabek, and Michael Taylor). Any chance he gets, he tacks on club option years to long-term deals, giving the Jays potential bargain seasons for players who retain their effectiveness all the way through.”
Atlanta owns a 207-278 record since hitting the reset button following the 2014 campaign. The franchise opened its new ballpark, SunTrust Park, last season and features a burgeoning major-league core centered around star first baseman Freddie Freeman and two-time Gold Glove center fielder Ender Inciarte. Still, the franchise continues to search for its first playoff series win since 2001, a far cry from the organization’s mid-1990s heyday.
With top prospects Ozzie Albies, Dansby Swanson, Mike Foltynewicz, Luiz Gohara, Sean Newcomb and Max Fried already joining the parent club — and more top-100 names right around the corner with Acuña, Kolby Allard, Mike Soroka, Kyle Wright and Austin Riley — rapid improvement is the ground-floor expectation as Alex Anthopoulos steps in.