John Coppolella on Trading Andrelton Simmons

John Coppolella has a plan. He also has a goal, which is to help return the Atlanta Braves to prominence. Last week, the 37-year-old general manager – along with president of baseball operations John Hart – made a bold move toward that end. Andrelton Simmons, a gifted and popular shortstop, was traded to Anaheim in exchange for Erick Aybar and a pair of pitching prospects.

The deal wasn’t particularly popular, but that’s not Coppolella’s biggest concern. The Braves are coming off a pair of losing campaigns, and they’ll be moving into a new stadium for the 2017 season. The fan base expects a winner, and that is what Coppolella and Company are working to build.

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Coppolella on trading Andrelton Simmons: “It was a talent-based deal for us. Using scouting and analytics we simply felt the talent level we were getting back in this deal was too good to pass up. We have high hopes, in the short- and long-term, for all three of the players we acquired.

“Everything we do here is as a team, and it starts with John Hart and myself. Many of our top scouts were in the Dominican Republic during the GM Meetings and we did a conference call one morning with Roy Clark, Brian Bridges, Sean Rooney, and Gordon Blakeley, all of whom had a lot of history with the three players we acquired from the Angels. Billy Ryan and Rick Williamswere representing us at the meeting. We also discussed the trade at length with other members of our front office and scouting staff. We all knew it was hard to trade Andrelton, but we also knew this was the right move for our franchise.”

On the trade talks: “The New York Yankees made a run at Simmons last off-season so there was history and familiarity there with (Angels GM, and former Yankees assistant GM) Billy Eppler. Billy called me the first week of the off-season and asked about Simmons. I told him we would listen on anybody, but weren’t looking to trade Simmons.

“We spoke on and off for three weeks, sometimes on the phone and sometimes on text, where each party made offers that were ultimately declined by the other party. Billy and I met Tuesday night, one-on-one for over two hours, and got the ball to the one-yard line. The delays after Tuesday night on both side were more about ownership, etc.”

On the deal’s near-term impact: “We feel there is an argument to be made that we may be better in 2016 with Erick Aybar because he’s one of the best hitting shortstops in baseball with a career .276 batting average. We finished 30th in baseball in runs in 2015 and 29th in 2014, so we need to find ways to improve our offense. Erick is a good step in that direction, but we need more. We also feel that both Sean Newcomb and Chris Ellis have a chance to impact our club at the Major League level in 2016, so they should also help us have a better season with a potential huge payoff in future years.”

On the relative importance of infield defense: “Infield defense is very important and Andrelton may be the best of all time. It’s hard to quantify not only the hits he turns into outs, but also the extra pitches, and the stress associated with those pitches, for our young arms. That being said, defense isn’t everything.

“The New York Mets reached the World Series this year and, with all due respect, they didn’t have an impact defensive shortstop. There is a value to defense, but sometimes you see such spectacular plays from some defensive masterminds that you forget about other deficiencies in their games.”

On the team’s shortstop future: “Aybar was a big part of this deal. We are going to get to know him and let him get to know us, and maybe we will end up signing him to an extension. If not, we feel like we have a lot of really good shortstops coming up in our farm system.

Daniel Castro did a nice job for us last year coming up to the major leagues and Johan Camargo has done some nice things in the Arizona Fall League. Obviously, we are really excited about Ozhaino Albies, but we also don’t want to put pressure on him to feel like he has to be ready for 2017. Albies will tell us when he’s ready and he won’t be rushed. However, whether it’s Albies or other shortstops in our organization, as a result of this trade there is now a tremendous opportunity with the Braves.”

On building for the future: “We’re a team that’s poised to get better in 2016. We’re unhappy with our performance in 2015. That said, Fredi Gonzalez did a great job – especially in the first half of the season – of doing more with less. At 42-42, we were a fun, overachieving team. It was a tough end to the season, but out of that adversity is some opportunity.

“We’re always looking for the most talent possible. We’re looking at the way John Schuerholz built the Royals and the Braves. We’re looking at the way John Hart built the Indians and the Rangers. They went with young, upside talent. They took long-range views. I think we’re on the same track. We don’t want to build a team that is going to win 85 games every year; we want to build a team that expects to be in the World Series every season.”

On tearing down to build up: “We did something like that last year. I think we’re at a point this year where we need to get back on track and get back to winning games. We can’t have another year where we lose 95 games. We need to get better, and as a group, that’s what we’re looking to do this year. We don’t want our young players or our fans to get used to losing.

“The Braves have been one of the best franchises in baseball. We’ve been a gold standard. Since John Schuerholz took over the Braves 1991, we have the second most wins in baseball, right behind the New York Yankees. We need to keep that gold standard going.

On constructing an offense: “If you look at the 2014 World Series, it pitted two teams, the Royals and the Giants, that made the most contact. I believe the Royals were last in their league in home runs. There are many ways to skin a cat. Whether you do it with power, on-base percentage… when I was with the Yankees, for seven years, we preached on-base percentage. Get on, work counts, get the starter out early. Now, you may not want the starter out early, because so many teams have such good bullpens.

“I think the more talent you can get, whether they’re guys who are big on-base or low on-base, big power or low power, if they’re good winning pieces they will help us score runs and win games.”

On the park factors and pitching: “They will be very similar in the new park to what they are at Turner Field right now. There are different wind patterns, but I don’t think they’re going to make much of an impact.

“I think you have to factor in your park when putting together a team. I think our new park is going to play fair, but maybe a little bit toward pitching. The Braves have been built on pitching and defense. Pretty much every trade we made this year, we tries to get back pitching. That’s the way John Schuerholz and Bobby Cox did it, and it worked really well for a long time.”

On not mandating managerial moves: “We try to give Fredi everything he would want in terms of game preparation. We have members of our analytics department devoted specifically to providing him with in-game strategy information and probabilities. But at the end of the day, Fredi is going to make the calls. He’s going to use his gut, for better or for worse. Fredi won 96 games for us in 2013. He’s been one of the winningest managers since taking over the Braves. We trust Fredi.”

On analytics and perception: “I think there might be a perception out there that we’re an old school organization, because we don’t tell Fredi who to play or where to hit them, or who to pitch. That doesn’t mean we’re not on the cutting edge of analytics. We’ve made a lot of hires, especially to help grow our analytics department, in the last few weeks.

“While we use a lot more analytics than people think, we’re still going to count on our scouts. We have really good baseball people working here, in scouting, player development and in our front office. We are all pulling the same way and dedicated toward getting back to the Braves Way. At the end of the day, this is about winning games and we feel we’re on the right track to do that. It was a painful year, last year, but we feel we’re going to keep getting better.

“We have a lot of work to do, so definitely expect additional trades and/or signings. The goal for us isn’t to get to 80 wins, or 85 wins, or 90 wins; the goal is to win a World Series, and I feel we move closer to that with every move we make.”

We hoped you liked reading John Coppolella on Trading Andrelton Simmons by David Laurila!

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David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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James
Guest
James

This would give me zero confidence as a Braves fan. Pointing out Batting Average and saying the team might be better with Ayabar at SS than last year is laughable.

Keith
Guest
Keith

I was just about to say “LOL” to him citing average as a legit offensive plus.

BengieStacks
Guest
BengieStacks

This is every bit as much about PR as anything else. Braves fans are pissed about the trade and the majority of them don’t understand baseball the way you do. I don’t know whether this FO is competent or not but I thinks it’s safe to assume he doesn’t believe a word of what was said in that answer.

dirtbag
Guest
dirtbag

These are not notes from a general press conference, or a chat with the AJC beat writer.

This is an exclusive interview with a FG writer. If he’s competent, he has to know that 99% of FG readers are going to mock this comment.

BengieStacks
Guest
BengieStacks

If he’s competent, he doesn’t care. His job is to increase the Braves chances of winning and to make money for his bosses. The opinion of fangraphs readers has no influence over either of those objectives. What does matter is public perception and because of that nothing he says publicly should be taken at face value, fangraphs or not.

TKDC
Guest
TKDC

Yes. I wouldn’t take this comment to likely mean that Coppy thinks batting average is an important stat or that Aybar is actually better than Simmons, but part of being a professional that deals with different groups is understanding the group you are currently talking to, and communicating in a way that is effective in that instance. This doesn’t matter much, really, in the grand scheme of things, but the “he’s talking to fans” excuse is not valid.

BengieStacks
Guest
BengieStacks

TKDC,

Who is he talking to then? Ownership? Himself? He’s clearly not catering to a saber crowd with these answers. If it’s not attempted PR then it stands to reason he believes what he said. I find that pretty hard to believe.

BengieStacks
Guest
BengieStacks

If Copp changes his answer based on his audience his credibility comes into question. It’d be nice to get well reasoned answers, and as a knowledgeable community we deserve that, unfortunately that’s unrealistic. As a professional Copp needs to remain consistent whether it’s fangraphs or bleached report.

TKDC
Guest
TKDC

I was pretty much agreeing with you. He could have just said Aybar has been a more productive hitter in his career than Simmons. That is true. He could also add that they think he’ll bounce back from a subpar 2014.

TKDC
Guest
TKDC

*2015

The Ghost of Phil Niekro
Guest
The Ghost of Phil Niekro

I don’t know whether all of these quotes were given in an exclusive interview w Fangraphs. How can you be so certain that’s true? While I don’t know whether I’ve heard these quotes verbatim, before, I do know that I’ve heard very similar quotes from Coppy reported in other places. It seems just as likely that these quotes came from a press conference w multiple media outlets. Even if they were given in an “exclusive Fangraphs interview”, they were definitely repetitions of things he’s said in previous interviews. I don’t think you can put too much weight on what was said here.

Roger
Guest
Roger

Exclusive interview or not, what is it doing here if we’re not supposed to take it seriously because it’s just a spew of random front-office PR bullshit? If FanGraphs is going to run it, it ought to be meant seriously and have something analytically discussable about it, or else we’re all just getting taken for a ride.

BengieStacks
Guest
BengieStacks

TK,

I misinterpreted your response at first glance. Apologies for that. Speaking on Aybars career would absolutely be more accurate but that’s not the purpose of any of these interviews. If he is confident in 2016 Aybar in one interview he’s gotta be in another. The only way to make the most recent version of Aybar appealing is to cite BA.

jdbolick
Member

Except that his answer is the only way to explain why he would make this trade in the first place.

L. Ron Hoyabembe
Guest
L. Ron Hoyabembe

Batting average obviously doesn’t tell the whole story, but it’s still a useful stat. Having a good batting average has never been a bad thing.

Snowman
Guest
Snowman

Andrelton has the exact same SLG as Aybar, with a higher OBP. So he’s hitting for more isolated power and getting on base more, even with the lower BA. That’s enough right there to discount any BA argument on the value of the two, before you even get into the truly massive defensive difference.

Bpdelia
Guest
Bpdelia

Come on. Batting average IS still a useful stat. Is it the best? No. But it’s certainly not useless. Also he can’t say “yeah. Aybar is a big step down but look at the other guys!!”
The deal was obviously centered around the arms.

Time will tell whether the braves can develop those arms into future value but let’s all recall the ” Lol!! Myers will out WAR the entire return the Royals got next year alone! Lol we’re so much smarter than them ”

I know knee jerk reactions of intellectual superiority are the norm on the internet but maybe by looking back occasionally we can gain just a tad of humility.

blue fountain
Guest
blue fountain

I agree time will tell, but that was a bad trade for the Royals. You are really stretching the opposition with that hyperbole about Myers.

The actual issues were the price Moore paid for Shields and Davis, and going in a year too early without also lining up a 2B and RF, not that Myers was the next incarnation of Trout or Harper. Since you mention WAR, here are a couple unflattering comparisons when one considers the salary and years of control differences:

2013 Wil Myers: 2.3 WAR; Wade Davis: 1.4 WAR
2015 Jake Odorizzi: 2.9 WAR; Wade Davis: 2.0 WAR

pft
Guest
pft

You may not have liked how he defended his position, but Aybar has been a superior offensive player to Simmons for most of his career, and as he said, the Braves biggest need is offense. Obviously, he is betting on a bounce back year for Aybar. Simmons is no longer the bargain he once was, and saving on payroll in the next few years will allow future offensive upgrades