ATLANTA -- Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos and manager Brian Snitker met with media members on Thursday afternoon, less than 24 hours after having to face the reality that their promising season unceremoniously concluded with a lopsided loss to the Cardinals in Game 5 of the National League Division Series.
“There wasn’t a guy in that room just glad to be [in the postseason],” Snitker said. “Everybody in that room expected to win that first series and for us to be sitting here right now talking about playing a game tomorrow. It’s not going to happen and I don’t think anybody feels good about it.”
Is there a chance Donaldson returns?
Anthopoulos: He’s a key part of our team. He’s a great offensive player who has on-base skills. He’s a great defender. He’s intense and a great competitor. He fits us in every way we want. That being said, when we entered into this (one-year, $23 million) agreement with him, the hope was he would be in a position to rebuild his value. I believe we positioned ourselves that if all things are equal from a contractual standpoint -- I haven’t had this discussion with him or his agent -- but I believe this would be where he wants to be. I know he enjoyed it here. But it’s free agency, it’s not salary arbitration. So, there’s no way to tell. Your value is what that free agent market will give, what the needs are and supply and demand. We will definitely talk. We will definitely have interest in trying to sign him back. We will engage. To handicap our chances, it’s just too hard to tell. The only thing I’d say is when both sides have interest, that’s a great starting point.
Less than 24 hours after the completion of the NLDS, is there anything you would have done different with your rotation?
Snitker: We had everything planned the way we wanted it. It was working well. We didn’t discuss yesterday’s scenario (Wednesday’s 10-run first inning) in the meeting before the game. I don’t know that anybody saw that coming. It happened so quick, there was nothing we could do. I don’t think there was anything we did with our roster or anything we did with our rotation that was wrong. The biggest thing is we lost one of our top relievers (Chris Martin) the first game of the series.
Why was it better for Soroka to make one start (Game 3) on the road, instead of potentially being available for two starts during the series?
Anthopoulos: Prior to Game 5, we were in position to win games late. That’s not to blame anybody or point fingers. But as I sit here, as I think most people would from the coaching staff to Snit to the players, the natural reaction is what could we all have done better? As a general manager, what would have happened if we had gotten another player or tweaked this or that? We were in a position to win those games, whether it’s not getting a big hit or soft-contact balls falling in and so on. But at the end of the day, even with Dallas (Keuchel) coming back on short rest (for Game 4), Snit got him out of there. He wasn’t sharp to start that game and still we were in position to win that game.
We talked about in our (pre-series) meeting, if we leave Atlanta 1-1 with Soroka going in Game 3, we’d feel pretty good about it. That worked out. We took a 2-1 (series) lead. We get it to Game 4. We had a lead late and obviously Paul Goldschmidt broke his bat with a bloop over third base. That’s an extra-base hit. (Marcell) Ozuna strikes out. (Yadier) Molina 66 miles-per-hour off the bat or whatever it was (62.1 mph) over first base. Give them credit. They got it done. They put the bat on the ball. It happens. That’s not an excuse. It doesn’t feel good. We’re not glad that we’re here. But things lined up the way we wanted. It just doesn’t always work out.
What’s it going to be like watching the NL Championship Series?
Snitker: It’s not good sitting here right now. I woke up this morning. I didn’t sleep last night. I don’t feel good right now. It’s not going to be fun watching that series. I’m not going to lie to you, I don’t know that I will. I’ve got a pretty big pit in my stomach right now because we were a really good team.
Beyond Donaldson, do you think you will be in the market for any of the other big-ticket free agents?
Anthopoulos: Generally speaking, the free agent market is not how you want to build your roster. Clearly, players who get to free agency have accrued six years of service. They might be older. To likely be the winning bid, you’re paying a few more million per year or giving them a year or two more than you want to get them to sign. I think it’s been shown that’s not the way to go about it. It’s case specific. From a rotation standpoint and so on, we all know with the rate of injury there is certainly greater risk. But that’s specific to each person. I don’t think there’s a hard-and-fast rule. There’s no blanket policy. We take all those things into consideration. But it’s case-by-case. If we like the player and we like the makeup and the performance and the fit in the clubhouse, we’ll be aggressive. But there’s a lot that goes into that. The player has to have interest in being here as well. We’re not going to shy away from any demographic at all.