Freedie Freeman? Check. Julio Teheran? Check. Craig Kimbrel? Check.
The Braves were doing everything that they had to do in order to keep their core group of players in tact over the long term. The next guy that they had to extend was shortstop Andrelton Simmons.
The Braves and Simmons agreed to a seven-year, $58 million extension back on Feb. 20. In a few of my previous posts, I explained that the Braves needed to act on signing as many of their young players as they could long term. I also added that after they signed Freddie Freeman to that eight-year, $135 million extension that the next guy they should target for an extension was Simmons, who had an historically good year defensively at a premium position. Entering his age 24 season, Simmons also has upside with the bat and could develop into one of the best all-around shortstops in the game for years to come.
While Braves General Manger Frank Wren deserves a lot of credit for finally expanding payroll and keeping his homegrown stars in place (as well as bringing in Ervin Santana after losing Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy to arm troubles this spring), there is another man that the organization hired not too much earlier than the Braves started handing out deals left and right.
The mastermind behind the Braves spending spree is a man who is exceptionally familiar with building organizations from within. He became the General Manager of the Cleveland Indians in September 1991 and led the team to six AL Central titles in seven years as well as two World Series appearances during his ten year tenure. He also has won two executive of the Year Awards, taking home the honor from Sporting News in the strike-shortened 1994 season as well as 1995. He then joined the Texas Rangers organization and served as their General Manager for four years. Although they never made the playoffs during his tenure, he remained in the Rangers organization as a senior advisor to General Manager Jon Daniels up until his contract expired at the end of last season.
The Atlanta Braves pounced on the opportunity to bring in a guy with this kind of knowledge and experience into their organization, and it looks like a fine decision early on. They brought in John Hart to be a senior advisor for baseball operations. Yes, this is the same John Hart that is the “resident GM” on MLB Network.
Hart has a history of developing and signing young players to long-term extensions. He did it with the Indians back when they had Albert Belle, Jim Thome, and Manny Ramirez back when the Indians had those high-octane offensive teams. He was also in the Rangers’ front office when the extended Elvis Andrus, Derek Holland and Matt Harrison in the not-to-distant past. He also has a scouting history, having served as a scout when he first joined the Indians’organization in 1989.
John Hart knows how to build an organization from the bottom-up. He now joins two more brilliant baseball men in GM Wren as well as team president John Schuerholz, who was the constructor of the Braves’ eleven consecutive NL East division titles from 1995-2005. He also spent twenty-two years in the Royals’ organization, including nine as their General Manager. Schuerholz led the Royals to their only World Series victory in 1985.
But the Braves system has been put in great hands. And while Frank Wren and John Schuerholz will receive most of the attention, people should not overlook the current and long-term impact that John Hart has made on the organization in such a short time.