The Atlanta Braves are, as the fan base well knows, in the midst of a rebuild that has overhauled the roster to an alarming and simultaneously exciting degree. Braves GM John Coppolella has been in the center of that rebuilding effort, along with President of Baseball Operations John Hart, and the now 37-year-old agreed to an interview with MLB.com’s Mark Bowman this week.
For proper context, reading the full interview is (always) the best way to go, but one particular portion of the transcript was particularly noteworthy and it centered on MLB’s free agent market. Coppolella was asked about the "most surprising development" of the offseason, and while he answered initially about the decision to trade both Shelby Miller and Andrelton Simmons, the latter part of his answer dealt with the free agent market as a whole.
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.
In short, John Coppolella doesn’t seem particularly enthralled with the prospect of spending big-time money on a free agent in the near future.
That, of course, is an overgeneralization, as Coppolella did not specifically rule out that possibility. Still, much of the fan base has been focused on the team’s (very) low current payroll and the always exciting possibility of adding a monster name or two for the 2017 season and beyond.
The word "hyperinflation" used by Coppolella is quite revealing in that it likely describes his attitude about what kind of value can be extracted in the current market. The Braves have been incredibly diligent in adding young arms to the farm system in an effort to avoid the comical starting pitching market (take a gander at the contracts handed out this winter for evidence), but even when it comes to position players, the market is brutal in that the sheer length of contracts for top-flight free agents almost always drowns out any potential growth and value.
A quick look at the 2016 roster, as it currently stands, lends itself to thoughts of "what could be" if the Braves suddenly turned around and shelled out a few nine-figure contracts in free agency. However, the man in charge (or at least one of them) doesn’t appear to be on board with that thinking and when considering the term "rebuild" at its face, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to plunge into the abyss for the quick fix that would accompany that type of move.