Who Will replace Wren as Braves GM?

Could Dayton Moore or J.J. Picollo be the next general manager for the Braves?

Here are a few candidates to replace Frank Wren as the Braves general manager:

John Hart - The former leader of the Cleveland Indians and Texas Rangers is on the three-man panel to lead the transition team for the Braves. It was clear by listening to the press conference Monday that team president John Schuerholz would love Hart to take the GM’s job. But Hart is on MLB Network as an analyst. It’s a cushy gig and he may simply not want to give that up. He’s 66 years old, so does he want the rigors of a full-time, demanding job like this compared to a consulting role? While the door doesn’t seem completely closed on the matter, Hart seems like a longshot. Schuerholz will probably still try to talk him into taking the job, but it would only be for two years. You could see Schuerholz saying to Hart, “Look, just give me two years as the GM and get us into the new stadium.” Schuerholz and Hart are great friends, and that might work if Hart is tempted enough. Hart would give the Braves instant credibility and even if it was for a short period of time, he would give the Braves a great chance to restore “The Braves Way” that Schuerholz said had eroded under Frank Wren.

John Coppolella - Wren’s assistant general manager the last two years, “Coppy” as he is called is considered a future general manager. He has assisted in the scouting of free agents, arbitration preparation, trade discussions and general roster construction. Coppolella has also worked closely with the Braves scouts on the pro side and has a good relationship with many in the front office. Coppolella was hired by Schuerholz in his last year as the general manager, so Coppolella was able to gain valuable experience there by watching a future Hall of Famer do his job. He’s also seen a lot first-hand of how Wren and Bruce Manno, Wren’s assistant who was also fired, handed things the wrong way. This guy is going to get a GM job at some point, and it doesn’t seem like Schuerholz wants it to be anywhere else. That’s why the scenario of Hart being the mentor to Coppolella is so popular among the options. He’s older (36) than some of the other young executives that have been in that role, like Jon Daniels when Hart mentored him in Texas. Coppolella knows the organization. He knows what’s right and what’s wrong and what needs to be fixed. That might give him an edge over others who will have to learn everything about the personnel. There is little doubt Coppolella will have a larger role in the new front office.

Dayton Moore- Schuerholz’s assistant before he left for Kansas City in 2005, Moore has the Royals on the cusp of their first playoff appearance since 1985. He has been there for nine-and-a-half seasons, so he’s invested a lot into the job. Why after all that time would Moore leave to come back to the Braves? If it was a few years ago, when the Royals were struggling to find their way under Moore’s plan, you could see it happen. But it just seems unlikely Moore would get them to the playoffs and then take off. The Atlanta organization has changed dramatically since Moore left, and many wonder if the franchise would be in the shape it’s in today if Moore had replaced Schuerholz instead of Wren. There are still many in the Braves organization that worked for Moore, and they would all be thrilled if he returned. Moore treated people with respect and was looked at as a Schuerholz clone. Would Moore think he could have more long-term, consistent success if he returned to the Braves?

J.J. Picollo- Moore’s assistant in Kansas City was also his assistant in Atlanta. He was the farm director for the Braves and has continued to gain valuable experience the last nine years with the Royals. Picollo started as a scout and moved into player development when Moore got more power in the Atlanta front office. Picollo was a candidate for the Astros GM job a few years ago, so he’s in the mix to be considered a possibility for any such opening. Schuerholz admired Picollo when he was with the Braves and did not want him to leave for the Royals, so Picollo’s name will probably be on the list. He was well-respected when he ran the farm system, so that might be important considering the lack of respect people had for the recently-fired general manager. Picollo should get an interview. Like Coppolella, he is considered a future GM.

Gerry Hunsicker- This surprising name has surfaced the last few weeks, as he is evidently respected by Schuerholz and former manager Bobby Cox. Hunsicker was the general manager of the Astros for nine seasons and they won four division titles and reached the World Series in 2005. Hunsicker then spent seven seasons with the Rays before joining the Dodgers two years ago. Hunsicker mentored Andrew Friedman, the young executive with the Rays. Hunsicker is 64, and he hasn’t been the man in charge for over a decade, so would his role be more as a mentor to Coppolella than a full-time general manager? Hunsicker would be someone with no ties to the Braves – a completely different outlook and fresh perspective. He’ll be considered, but Hunsicker seems like a longshot.


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So what’s likely to happen? If Schuerholz can’t convince Hart to take the job, he’ll move on to others. It’s hard to imaging he’d not want Coppolella for the long-term, so that’s why the scenario of an older executive being with Coppolella for the first couple of years is talked about so much. Schuerholz will probably talk with Moore. If that’s his guy, it will be interesting to see if Moore bites at an offer to return to the Braves. He is still a Brave at heart. But most just don’t believe he would leave the Royals after getting them close to a playoff spot. If Moore says no, Coppolella would seem to be the top candidate. Schuerholz probably cannot convince Hart to take the full-time job, but Hart would probably enjoy being a bit more involved as a mentor to Coppolella. Which candidate wants to keep Fredi Gonzalez as manager moving forward? Whoever does will probably get Bobby Cox’s vote. Picollo deserves an interview, but if the Braves can’t get Moore they may be more likely to stick with someone who is already here and knows what’s going on with the organization.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and e-mail him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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