The driving force behind many of the Atlanta Braves’ rebuilding moves over the past year has been promoted to the franchise’s general manager position.
John Coppolella, who has served as Braves’ assistant general manager since October 2012, was named the club’s GM on Thursday, team president John Schuerholz and president of baseball operations John Hart announced.
Though Coppolella will still serve under Hart, the move guarantees Coppolella will be a part of the organization’s long-term plans after multiple teams expressed interest in his services this season.
The two sides agreed on a four-year deal that runs through the 2019 season. Coppolella’s contract keeps him in place for the first three seasons of Atlanta’s new SunTrust Park, which opens in 2017.
"When John Schuerholz took over as GM here 25 years ago, we won 14 straight (division) titles. And it’s been nearly 10 years since he has been out of the GM chair and we’ve won only one (division) title," Coppolella said at Thursday’s news conference. "What we need to do is get back to young, winning, upside players. We took the first step toward that this year. We want to get back to where we can go to five World Series in nine years."
Hart alluded to interest from other MLB clubs — the Brewers and Mariners reportedly had Coppolella on a short list of GM candidates — but said that outside interest did not affect the decision-making process nor the promotion’s timing.
This was the plan all along.
"Over the years I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by a lot of young executives that have gone on to become general managers — seven or eight, not sure. Lost count somewhere. But (Coppolella) certainly fits into that bill," Hart said. "He’s one of the bright and creative minds within our game."
Hart has served as the face of the front office since the firing of former GM Frank Wren, but Coppolella was a key component in the blockbuster trades involving Jason Heyward, Shelby Miller, Justin Upton, Craig Kimbrel, Evan Gattis, Alex Wood and Hector Olivera — moves that helped replenish the franchise’s farm system and financial flexibility despite the parent club’s struggles in 2015. The Braves enter Thursday night’s game at 64-94 overall, the third-worst record in the majors, but the franchise’s braintrust remains undeterred in its evaluation of its new general manager.
Essentially, Coppolella, regarded as "Coppy" within the organization out of both affection and necessity (there’s a surplus of men named John in the front office), was already exercising many GM duties.
He’ll now have the title to go along with it.
Coppolella, 37, joined the Braves in 2006 after working for the Angels and Yankees. The Notre Dame graduate then worked his way up from Atlanta’s director of baseball operations (2006-10) to director of professional scouting (2011) before making the jump to the assistant GM job in 2012.
"When we interviewed Coppy about, what, nine years ago now in Orlando, Fla., he stood out of all the interviewees we talked to. He separated himself. He’s a brilliant guy. He’s got great academics. But he’s got a love for this game that you can’t help but notice," Schuerholz said. "There are a lot of smart guys, a lot of brilliant guys, a lot of well-educated guys that want to be into baseball. And Coppy is that.
"But he also has this natural instinct and love for the game of baseball that makes him dig into it.”