Snitker to return in 2018, says Braves have chance to be ‘lot better’

After picking up the pieces as an interim manager in 2016 and shepherding so many prospects through their first big-league season in 2017, manager Brian Snitker hoped he’d get a chance to take the Braves through the next stage of their rebuild in 2018.

He’ll get his wish, after the Braves announced Thursday they exercised the option on his contract for next season.

“I’m excited,” Snitker, who’ll turn 62 this month, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday. “Where we’re at and everything, you get invested in this thing and you want a crack at it, want to keep working at it. I’m excited about having that opportunity, getting back with those young guys. They’re going to have however much time (in the majors) that they have under their belts, and they’re going to have a better idea of what they’re getting into now.”

The AJC reported Wednesday that the option would be picked up and why.

Still to be determined is the makeup of his coaching staff, after those discussions and decisions were pushed to the back burner because of Braves front-office turmoil in the past week. General manager John Coppolella was forced to resign Monday after the severity of alleged infractions uncovered by Major League Baseball in an ongoing investigation into the Braves’ dealings, primarily on the international free-agent market, but also the domestic draft.

“That’s just something that, with everything happening, got delayed a little bit from what you’d normally like to do,” said Snitker, himself a former third-base coach. “I talked to most of the guys, and I think they all get it. I mean there’s things that have gone on here that have preempted that part of it. We’ll just go from there. They all get it. I’ve been in that situation, and it’s not even fun. We’ll try and get it rectified as soon as we can.”

In Snitker’s first full season as manager in 2017, the Braves finished 72-90, struggling over the final 10 weeks after getting to the 90-game mark with a .500 record.

He was interim manager for most of the 2016 season after the firing of Fredi Gonzalez. Snitker guided the Braves to 50 wins in their final 97 games in that season, including 20 wins in the last 30.

“Brian is a life-long Brave who has earned the respect and admiration of our players, staff and front office,” Braves president of baseball operations John Hart said in a prepared statement Thursday. “He has devoted his last 42 years to this organization and has proven that he is dedicated to guiding the team through this transition period. We are excited to have him back in the dugout to lead our club next season.”

No one is more excited about it than Snitker, who believes the Braves could’ve finished .500 or better in 2017 if they’d cleaned up some areas and made fewer mistakes early on.

“I looked at last year and I said before, there were a handful of games that you could point to where we beat ourselves. That’s not good,” he said. “A couple of games were just little things. We weren’t that far away – you win a few of those games and all of a sudden maybe the end product is even better than what you’d hoped for.

“I think going into it we’ve got a jump on things, we’re more solidified in the lineup, so it’s a step forward I think. And it’s got a chance of being a lot better next year, too.”

It’s believed that potential staff changes could involve one or more from the trio of pitching coach Chuck Hernandez and longtime coaches and former Braves players Terry Pendleton and Eddie Perez.

Non-playoff teams are required to get permission from MLB before making major announcements during the postseason, which could delay the coaching-staff announcement until at least next week.

The Braves wanted to have their manager, and ideally the coaching staff, in place before next week’s annual organizational meetings at their minor league headquarters in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

That was particularly important given the current state of relative chaos in the front office.

Special assistant/international scouting supervisor Gordon Blakeley also was forced to resign Monday, and it’s believed that other officials are also being investigated by MLB. It could levy fines or other penalties, including possibly ruling one or more recent Braves international signees free agents if it’s determined they were signed with disregard for rules.

Hart is serving as interim GM while the Braves conduct a search to find Coppolella’s replacement. That search could be quick if their top target, Royals GM Dayton Moore, were to accept a Braves offer to return to the team where he began his career and rose to become an assistant GM before departing for Kansas City.