John Coppolella has been one of baseball's busiest individuals, as he has engineered the massive rebuilding process the Braves began after the 2014 season. Since being named the club's general manager in October, Coppolella has remained aggressive in his attempt to fortify the farm system and set up the Braves
John Coppolella has been one of baseball's busiest individuals, as he has engineered the massive rebuilding process the Braves began after the 2014 season. Since being named the club's general manager in October, Coppolella has remained aggressive in his attempt to fortify the farm system and set up the Braves to begin experiencing longstanding success within the near future. The 37-year-old Notre Dame graduate recently talked to MLB.com about a few topics, including some of the moves he made this offseason.
MLB.com: Has the offseason evolved much like you had anticipated after meeting with all of your scouts and staff members in October?
Coppolella: Yes and no. Our goals were to improve our Major League club for the 2016 season and continue to add young talent to our farm system, both of which we feel we have accomplished. Specifically, we targeted upgrading our offensive production and the quality and depth of our bullpen options. We feel that, through these additions and the improved health of some players, we will have better offense at every single position in 2016 than we did in 2015. Similarly, the bullpen has a chance for three impact relievers all pitching at the same time with Arodys Vizcaino, Jason Grilli and Jim Johnson, not to mention the returns to health of Shae Simmons and Chris Withrow, as well as the potential upside that exists with non-roster invites like David Carpenter, Alexi Ogando and Alex Torres.
MLB.com: What would you regard as the most surprising development?
Coppolella: Trading Andrelton Simmons and Shelby Miller. We didn't want to trade either player, but we also felt that the talent we received back in those deals made it too good to pass up those opportunities. The other surprising development was the hyperinflation associated with the free-agent market. We feel this development further underscores the importance of having young talent in your system, because you cannot simply go out on the free-agent market and buy talent.
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MLB.com You're handling many of the same responsibilities that you did last winter. But now that you have the general manager title, has this offseason felt different?
Coppolella: I am very fortunate to have two great mentors above me supporting me in [team president] John Schuerholz and [president of baseball operations] John Hart. I have the title, but everything we do here is as a team, and the synergy that exists within our front office, coaching staff, scouting and player development is really exciting. That being said, it is a little bit different when you are a GM, and you definitely gain a better appreciation for what Schuerholz and Hart have done, because there are so many parts to the job, including media awareness and fan relations.
MLB.com: As your three kids get older, have you enjoyed the opportunity to see them start to gain a greater appreciation for baseball?
Coppolella: It's funny, because the three kids are at such different stages. My oldest son, Edric, is 7 years old, and he follows it so closely he's memorized each of our players' numbers and has even made unsolicited trade suggestions to me. My daughter, Reese, is 4 1/2 years old, and she's more supportive of the team, but she doesn't really understand the game or know the players, she just says "Go Braves!" a lot. My youngest son, Dean, is 2 years old, and he loves to play baseball, and he's a lefty.
MLB.com: How much did you benefit from being motivated by George Steinbrenner's presence during the early portion of your career with the Yankees?
Coppolella: My mother was born and raised in the Bronx, N.Y., so I had always been a Yankees fan and had a great admiration for Mr. Steinbrenner. Working at the Yankees' scouting and player development complex in Tampa, Fla., Mr. Steinbrenner was in the office at least five times a week. There were some crazy stories for sure, but everything was a function of his intense desire to win -- and we won a lot, with seven AL East titles in the seven years I was there, including three World Series appearances and a championship -- and he did so much to help less fortunate people, inside and outside of the organization. He was a great man.
MLB.com: We know you're always talking about potential deals. Should we expect to see any more significant moves before the start of Spring Training?
Coppolella: The answer to that question is more a function of what we are offered than it is our desire to make more significant moves. It feels like we are ready to head to Orlando, but if somebody blows us away with an unbelievable opportunity, like with the Simmons and Miller trades, we have to consider it. I consider John Schuerholz the greatest GM of all time, and 14 straight division titles may never happen again, and those teams on average had 10 new players each season. It's like the one-liner from one of my favorite movies: "We're like 7-Eleven. We're not always doing business, but we're always open."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com.