It’s been little noted in the coverage of the Braves’ flurry of contract extensions, but it would be fascinating to know just how much of a role John Hart played.
I had forgotten until the past couple days that the Braves in November hired the former Rangers and Indians GM as a special advisor. If you’ll recall, Hart was among the pioneers in signing young stars to extensions before they hit free agency. At Cleveland in the 1990s, he locked up a core that included Jim Thome, Kenny Lofton, Albert Belle and Manny Ramirez. It worked out pretty well. In Hart’s 10 years with the Tribe, they won six division titles and two pennants.
Who knows what sort of input Hart has here? We surely don’t know, and probably never will. But I doubt a special advisor would be instrumental in pushing such a franchise-shaping series of moves as the Braves’ brass has made. The more likely scenario is that the Braves hired Hart because they knew they’d be embarking on the lock-up-the-kids strategy and wanted someone on speed dial who’d done it successfully. Not only that, but Hart extended the Cleveland core as that team was about to move into a new ballpark, as the Braves of course will do in three years. Tomahawk Take did a thorough look at all this, so cap tip to them.
Apparently, JS and Hart are big buds. Of course, Hart has already had a hand in shaping recent Braves history, as he was on the other end of two of JS’s most infamous trades: He was the Indians GM in the Justice/Grissom for Lofton/Embree deal, and he was a special advisor to Texas when JS shipped them half the farm system for Teixeira.