Anthopoulos getting feel for new staff, markets

Braves GM not ready to wheel and deal just yet on Day 1 at Winter Meetings

December 12th, 2017

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Once Alex Anthopoulos becomes even more familiar with the organization he acquired when he was named the Braves' general manager a month ago, there's a strong possibility he will once again become the aggressive wheeler and dealer he was when he seldom shied away from trading or acquiring top players during his tenure as the Blue Jays' GM.

But the man who dealt Roy Halladay to Philadelphia and brought Josh Donaldson to Toronto has maintained a patient and methodical approach as he has spent a significant portion of the past few weeks developing and familiarizing himself with the front-office staff that will aid him in his attempt to help the Braves distance themselves from their rebuild as soon as possible.

"I don't know the evaluators yet," Anthopoulos said. "I don't know all of the internal analysis we have. That's just going to take some time. I'm discovering there are some really talented individuals in baseball operations. I would say my thought for Year 1 would be a more cautious approach. That doesn't mean we don't want to be active or we don't want to do things. But you're not comfortable if you don't have comfort with the information yet. That's just going to take some time."

Anthopoulos' right-hand man is assistant GM Perry Minasian, a longtime confidant who joined the Braves' organization on Sept. 19, just two weeks before former Braves GM John Coppolella was forced to resign. Anthopoulos added two more former co-workers this weekend when he hired Alex Tamin to serve as his director of Major League operations and Jason Pare to head the research and development department.

As Anthopoulos progressed through the first day of this year's Winter Meetings on Monday, he brought Hall of Fame manager Bobby Cox, current manager Brian Snitker and recently hired bench coach Walt Weiss to his suite to formulate plans and analyze opportunities that could arise during and beyond this four-day event.

Anthopoulos has extended discussions with teams about potential trades and met with player representatives about free agents. He remains thankful the trade and free-agent markets are going slow as he has attempted to make up for the planning time he lost before being named Atlanta's GM on Nov. 13.

"I don't think we've moved the ball forward at all," Anthopoulos said. "We're probably at a similar place to where we were before we came to the Meetings. Clearly, we're not at a place we like yet. But that can change fast."

The Braves haven't provided any surprises, as they have told teams they are possibly seeking a controllable starting pitcher, at least one reliever and a third baseman. But at the same time, they have made it clear they are looking to improve their defense in an attempt to enhance the value of their young pitching staff.

This revelation creates further reason to anticipate that the Braves might attempt to part ways with their two corner outfielders -- Matt Kemp and . Among the 125 MLB outfielders who tallied at least 100 opportunities last year, Markakis ranked 105th with -5 Outs Above Average (Statcast™'s recently developed defensive metric) and Kemp ranked last with -17.

"If we can improve in just one area defensively, we're going to make 12 or 13 guys on that [pitching staff] a lot better," Anthopoulos said. "I can't tell you it's going to get done. There are some hoops to jump through to do some of those things."

It won't be easy for the Braves to move Kemp and his approximate $36 million cost over the next two seasons. But if their efforts to trade him (an American League club seems to be the most likely suitor) are unsuccessful, the club could be forced to at least discuss eating the remainder of his two-year contract.

Anthopoulos did not specifically reveal this year's payroll figure, but he indicated it will likely stand close to the approximate $130 million figure utilized this past season.

"I'm really happy with the resources that we have," Anthopoulos said. "I'm not one to [worry about it]. To me, if this is what we have to work with, we're going to make it work, whether it's a high number or a low number. I'm certainly happy with the number we have to work with. It's plenty to do what we need to do."