The narrative, which rings true, though may not be, holds that Royals GM Dayton Moore would come to the Braves if guaranteed total control over the franchise. That can’t happen as long as John Hart remains president of baseball operations. Hart plans on staying, unless longtime friend John Schuerholz is able to force him out, opening positions for Moore, his former protege, and paving the way for his son Jonathan to assume a more prominent role. Or so the story goes.
Forget that JS hired Wren and promoted “Coppy.” Or that Hart mentored the now-disgraced Squeaky Voiced Teen. They haven’t won two pennants and one championship. Dayton Moore has. But does that mean he’s the best man for the job?
I’m skeptical. Moore’s Achilles heel was (and is) bad contracts. He signed Jose Guillen for three years at $36 million, for which he accumulated a -2.3 WAR. He re-signed 32-year-old Alex Gordon to a 4-year, $68 million deal with an option for a fifth year that includes a $4 mil buyout. Gordon has hit .213 in the two years since and his defensive value has regressed, which could’ve easily been forecast due to his advancing age.
The Royals still owe Ian Kennedy, who will be 33 on Opening Day, $47 million over the next three years. Kennedy had a 5.38 ERA in 2017.
And while Moore rebuilt the Royals farm system from the ground up, producing the talent that sent KC to the postseason for the first time in 29 years, the team is about to enter another rebuilding phase with few marketable assets and a system once again bereft of prospects. It’s quite conceivable that, by the end of this decade, the Royals will have but two winning seasons since 2006, the year Moore was hired.
Hart has the opportunity to leave the Braves in (potentially) much better hands. Washington GM Mike Rizzo, one of the top 3 GMs in the game, IMO, has already called Hart to recommend his top assistant, Doug Harris, for the Braves opening. Hart worked with Harris in Texas and offered effusive praise in a 2015 Washington Post profile:
“He’d be a very strong candidate if you look at the next wave of general manager candidates,” Hart said then. “This guy has such tremendous character and [a] great family. He brings a field background and scouting background into everything. He understands the whole analytics and creative pieces. But he also has really good feel for players and the game.”
Oddly enough, it’s another Rizzo deputy, former Marlins GM Dan Jennings, who’s been mentioned as a possible Braves candidate. Based on his tenure with the Fish, Jennings, 57, would be a wholly uninspiring choice.
I’d rather take my chances on Harris. He’d bring an outsider’s perspective the Braves need and an impeccable resume. And at this point, I’d rather see Hart take a second crack at mapping the Braves’ future than give JS a third opportunity to fail.