Frank Wren: Cobb County, Tim Hudson, Brian McCann & More
Outside Pitch Sports Network’s Andrew Vigliotti conducted an interview with Atlanta Braves General Manager Frank Wren. In the interview, Wren discusses the eventual move to Cobb County, the rotation with Tim Hudson out of the equation, the possible concerns of outfielder B.J. Upton and second baseman Dan Uggla moving forward, a Brian McCann update and more below.
Andrew Vigliotti: The recent news of the Atlanta Braves moving to Cobb County to begin 2017 was a shock to many, including myself. How will this move impact the Atlanta Braves in a positive light in the long term?
Frank Wren: I think it really centers for us the ability to move us closer to the majority of our fans base. Our fans have a destination that includes the baseball game but also allows them to come early and stay late. A lot more entertainment options for the fans. The final piece will allow us to be competitive for a long time. It gives us a couple ways to move the needle in revenue and to be competitive with the bigger markets in the division. It allows us to raise the attendance and gets us closer to our fan base. The fan base experience itself will raise revenue for the team and allow us to be competitive for a long time.
AV: Explain what Turner Field has meant to you as an executive of the Atlanta Braves and to the organization as a whole.
FW: I think Turner Field has served us well on a standpoint that it’s a nice park and it’s a perfect park for us strategically; a pitching-dominant organization. People come here and they look at the park being in great shape. But there are parts we couldn’t change: the location and parts around it. When we look at the necessary improvements it really wasn’t a great fit. It made a lot of sense to put the same amount of dollars we’d put into fixing to Turner Field into a new one.
AV: Is there a chance Brian McCann could return to the Braves? Also if he departs that means him and Tim Hudson are gone, two of the big leaders in the clubhouse for many years. Which players would fit the leadership role the best?
FW: First of all, we continue to have dialogue with McCann’s agent. Both Brian and his agent have been very good players. I can’t get into specifics, but we haven’t given up on re-signing him. He loves the organization and his roots are from here.
FW: That’s one of those things that players figure out. I can’t knight someone and make them a leader. Players will follow someone who they respect. I think we have a number of guys who have the characteristics and experience with the ability to lead. On the pitching staff, the Mike Minor’s of the world, Kris Medlen and Craig Kimbrel have been able to establish their success and have been around a while enough to garner respect.
FW: I think you said it well. We have two guys who were with us last year in Evan Gattis and Gerald Laird who, assuming Brian doesn’t return, will get the bulk of the playing time. How that will be determined will be in Spring Training and how things progress throughout the season. We love Bethancourt and how he continues to develop. He made great strides last year and if he can continue to develop, he’s just 22 years old and he could be our catcher for a long time. He has a special skillset.
AV: What were the underlying factors to Tim Hudson leaving Atlanta? Tim signed a two-year, $23 million contract with the San Francisco Giants.
FW: We had hoped Tim would come back, but we are a big believer in our good, young pitching coming up. We have six young pitchers who are homegrown. Not many organizations can say they have those resources at their disposal. We were aware as we went forward that we wanted these guys to be able to pitch. We we’re willing to offer a multi-year deal to Tim, but other clubs were more aggressive with the same amount of years. Tim was a great Brave. There is no animosity or hard feelings towards him in anyway. He had to do what was best for him and his family and we wish him all the success with the San Francisco Giants.
AV: On Hudson’s Injury?
FW: We were starting to play our best baseball when the injury occurred. Huddy’s injury was a turning point in the season. The biggest fear I had was missing guys at the top of the rotation.
FW: We’re open-minded to that but at the same time also excited about our young starters. I can’t get into specifics with players, but our young guys have enough experience that they are starting to become the new core of pitchers in our system. They know how to conduct themselves on the mound. In a perfect world we’d love to add a veteran starter, but if not we’re good.
AV: Are you concerned about the lack of production B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla showed last year?
FW: I think we have to be concerned but also encouraged by just looking at history. We’ve seen guys sign their first free agent contract trying to justify the deal. B.J. [Upton] is dedicated and working hard. He can come back.
FW: Dan [Uggla] got into a funk and a lot of it had to do with the vision problems. We tried to correct it with contacts in the middle of the season, but he had to have the surgery. If those guys are productive, I feel great about our club and have confidence a rebound season will happen.
AV: The Braves have one of the better farm systems in the majors. One of my favorite young players in the system is second baseman Tommy La Stella. Describe his attributes and if he has a future with the big league club?
FW: Tommy [La Stella] is an advanced hitter and has a really good understanding of the strike zone and has a good feel of putting the ball in play. He’s hit along the way and when you see a player like that put up those numbers with the plate discipline and hard contact, I think you know you’ve got someone who’s really advanced. He came into the season with elbow soreness and we had to be careful with him defensively, but when he got healthy he was able to start pushing that.
FW: I think he’s a player we can count on at the big league level. He’s an impressive hitter. I don’t know exactly when yet, but I think his skill set would be a welcome edition and compliment the lineup. We want some professional hitters who put up quality at bats. He would be a perfect fit.
AV- How confident are you in the organization’s ability of bringing a world championship to Atlanta after so many postseason disappointments?
FW: I think especially this past year we were poised to go further as we had the best record in baseball for most of the season. When you look at certain indicators about some things we had good records against good competition. We have a good team. The major hindrance was six of our 25 men on our roster were unavailable in the postseason because of injury. I’m not one to make injury excuses because every team goes through them, but those were some of our main guys. If we had them, I’d like to think we would have had a better finish. If you want to win it all you need to have a little luck with the injuries.
Outside Pitch Sports Network appreciates Frank Wren and the Atlanta Braves organization for allowing us to conduct the interview. Follow OPSN’s Andrew Vigliotti on Twitter for more updates @Andrew_Vig