Three Braves coaches might make sense as Astros manager candidates

Braves' third base coach Ron Washington (left) celebrates with Eddie Rosario after his home run. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Braves' third base coach Ron Washington (left) celebrates with Eddie Rosario after his home run. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – On Wednesday afternoon here at the Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia, Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos will hold media availability. He will be asked about his club’s priorities, free agency and more.

But on Tuesday at the general managers’ meetings, American League baseball operations officials stood in the courtyard addressing reporters as the offseason begins.

You could look around and find Braves ties.

Here are a few.

Could Dana Brown’s next manager be a Braves coach?

Dana Brown, the Astros’ general manager, is looking for his next manager after Dusty Baker retired.

It just so happens that Brown’s former employer – the Braves – have multiple coaches who could be future managers: Ron Washington, Walt Weiss and Eric Young Sr. (Brown and Young were teammates at New Brunswick High in New Jersey.)

Asked if any of them are candidates for the position, Brown said: “I don’t want to get into specifics and names, but I would just say that we’ve talked to a lot of people. Some of the people, I know well. And so we’ve gone through a lot of names, and a lot of the names, I know very well.”

Would any of those guys make good managers for clubs looking for a skipper in future cycles?

“Yeah,” Brown said. “I mean, I think Wash did a heck of a job when he was in Texas – multiple postseason appearances. I think EY is a guy that, he’s got a ton of energy, he would be a ballplayer’s manager and I think that his energy will work well in a clubhouse.”

Washington, the Braves third base and infield coach, managed the Rangers from 2007 to 2014. He won the American League pennant in back-to-back seasons in 2010 and 2011, but lost in the World Series both times. His charismatic personality and charm are revered in the game.

Weiss managed the Rockies for four seasons, from 2013 through 2016. He’s been Brian Snitker’s bench coach in Atlanta since 2017.

Young has never managed.

In terms of naming names, Brown only said these two things: Joe Espada, the Astros’ bench coach, is the only internal candidate for the position. Former Braves catcher David Ross, ousted from his Cubs job, is not a candidate.

Royals hire former Braves scouts

J.J. Picollo, the Royals’ executive vice president and general manager, first got to know Brian Bridges well in 2008. Piccolo, who used to work for the Braves, worked for Kansas City, while Bridges was a Braves scout.

Picollo’s Royals once tried to hire Bridges, who eventually rose to become Atlanta’s scouting director. But the Royals didn’t get permission to speak with Bridges at that time.

In September, Picollo finally hired Bridges, who is the Royals’ scouting director.

“We had been talking about kind of restructuring our scouting department,” Picollo said. “Wanted to promote some guys internally and wanted them to get more involved in scouting our own system and some international things that we need to cover, so we were able to promote some guys to make room for Bridgy. But it’s nice to have a different voice, somebody with different ideas. You want balance in all of your staffs. Our group had worked together for a long period of time, and to get somebody else from another organization, get some different ideas, I thought, was healthy for us.”

Bridges, whom Atlanta let go in 2019, spent the last few seasons as a national crosschecker for the Giants.

“I know his scouting acumen is excellent, he can really evaluate. But also just the way he’s able to utilize analytics and help make better decisions,” Picollo said of Bridges. “If there was one question I wanted (candidates) to answer through the interview process was, ‘Where are you with the R&D department, and how do you interact? And I think his years with San Francisco helped quite a bit. His fabric is what it is. I don’t think that’s going to change. But I think his ability to collaborate with (not only) the people we have, but all the resources we have, is going to allow him to be a better scouting director.”

But there’s more: The Royals also recently hired Billy Best, an area scout who used to scout the Carolinas for Atlanta. He’s doing something similar for Kansas City. Best is credited with helping find Spencer Strider, Jared Shuster and others.

The funny story here: A long time ago, Best – an assistant coach at East Carolina at the time – recruited Picollo out of high school. And then when Picollo eventually worked for the Braves, his boss, scouting director Roy Clark, asked him to recruit a guy named Billy Best to come work for Atlanta.

So Picollo went to Best’s house in Holly Springs, North Carolina, and talked to Best about becoming a Braves scout.

“I don’t think I’m the reason he came over, but he had a lot of people he knew with the Braves,” Picollo said. “And then once he got into that world – he is a really good scout. In hiring Bridgy, we had hopes that maybe we’d be able to add some people, and Billy was at, or very near, the top of the list to try to go get, and fortunately we were able to acquire him.”

Athletics general manager reflects on trades with Braves

The Braves and Athletics have made a couple big trades recently.

“I told Alex to lose my number,” A’s general manager David Forst joked.

Anthopoulos acquired first baseman Matt Olson in the spring of 2022, then catcher Sean Murphy that winter. Anthopoulos signed both to long-term extensions. They are key pieces in Atlanta’s core.

The A’s weren’t going to pay them. They are rebuilding. They wanted prospects.

The organization that traded away both players isn’t bitter.

“I mean, you can’t help but be happy for both guys,” Forst said. “Those are players we drafted, we identified, we developed, and (they) had major-league success with us. You have a long relationship with guys, so just because you trade them doesn’t mean you root against them. Happy for Oly the day he got there and got paid, happy for Murph to go through the playoff race this year and have the success he did.

“I think we’re human. You can root for players that you have to trade away.”

Of Murphy, Forst said: “I do remember seeing him very shortly after the draft and just being blown away that we got this guy in the third round. Like, you could just see it – the physicality, the swing, the throwing. Immediately, you see him in Arizona at our complex and wonder, ‘How the heck did this guy get to the third round?’”

On the impact of Olson’s leadership to a clubhouse, Forst said: “I think it’s huge. It’s hard, obviously, to quantify. And maybe, to some extent, you don’t know the impact until you don’t have that kind of guy around, necessarily. But yeah, Matt is not a vocal guy, but he is your sort of prototypical lead-by-example (player), and will outwork everybody, and cares more than everybody. He’s great to have around.”

In the Murphy deal, Atlanta traded away lefty Kyle Muller, who turned in a 7.60 ERA over 21 games – 13 of them starts – this year. He had a 1.961 WHIP. And he was the most MLB-ready prospect the Braves gave up in the deal.

“I think Kyle went through what a lot of young pitchers go through,” Forst said. “Sort of the high of winning opening night against Ohtani, and then the typical ups and downs, and obviously having to go to Triple A, and go back and forth. I don’t think his path is unusual for a young starting pitcher. I think the stuff is really good. Obviously, he looks like a big-league pitcher, there’s physical talent there. I think it’s gonna be a matter of whether he can put it together at the big-league level.”

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