John Hart can’t be sure how many more wins to expect from the Braves in 2016, but the team’s president of baseball operations is certain the Braves will improve.
General manager John Coppolella is confident, too, after he and Hart made a series of trades – several of them unpopular – in the past year to restock the farm system or rid the Braves of bad contracts inherited from the previous general manager.
The immediate impact was a 95-loss season that did end on a high note – a sweep of the Cardinals, nine wins in the last 14 games – but only after a 15-48 skid that was the worst stretches of Braves baseball in more than a quarter century.
“At the end of it, I think we all feel that we’re in a much better position sitting here than we were at this time last year, in spite of the fact that we had 90-plus losses,” Hart said Monday, seated in manager Fredi Gonzalez’s office at Turner Field along with Gonzalez and Coppolella. “We’re in a much better position. We have a level of financial flexibility. We have absolutely grown our farm system between the trades that we made and the draft, and international.
“You don’t just snap your fingers and have it work. It wasn’t without pain, I’ll say that. We certainly feel for – I do – our fans, to have to go through that six- to seven-week period that we did. It was tough for all of us in here as a group. But we kept our eye on the mark, and we think we’re positioned much better to go forward than we were a year ago – we know we are; there’s no ‘we think we are.’ We know we are.”
The Braves will likely increase their payroll some in 2016, but the bigger jump will come in 2017 when they move into a new Cobb County Ballpark. They won’t give specific figures now and Hart said they haven’t set a firm payroll for 2016, but it’s believed the Braves will have about $25 million to $30 million to spend this winter on 2016 salary additions.
Rebuilding a bullpen that crumbled in 2015 is their main priority this winter, but Hart said the Braves would also look to boost the offense, though they won’t decide how best to go about that until organizational meetings next week in Orlando.
“We know that there’s some limitations that we have offensively, as we sit here today,” Hart said. “But we think we can make progress offensively. We can make significant improvements within our pitching. We’re going to have pitchers who are a year older and a year better. And we’re going to, I think, have a bullpen that’s going to have a lot of depth.
“How does that translate? Does that translate to another 15 wins, 20 wins? Maybe. Then you look up and you might have a trade deadline that might be totally different, if we’re sitting there at .500 and five games out. We might be in a completely different situation as we go forward. We’ll not have the financial limitations that we’ve had.
“I don’t think we’re Pollyana, where we look up and we’re going to immediately be a 100-win club. No, that’s not going to happen in ’16. We feel we’re going to be significantly better going into 2016 than we were going into 2015.”
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