On Frank Wren

With the collapse of the Furcal-to-Atlanta deal, Frank Wren has been getting a lot of criticism. I’m not sure it’s warranted, but I think now is a good time to pass along a few thoughts related to the Braves GM.

  • I heard Frank Wren on the the radio this morning (790 The Zone podcast), and he’s not happy about the Furcal situation. He stated a few important points that I want to pass along.
    • Furcal’s agent left a voice mail asking for a “term sheet” and stated “we’re good.” Wren emphasized that “we’re good” was a direct quote, and that in a business where face-to-face meetings are rare this constitutes a done deal.
    • He stated that he had talked to Furcal about moving to second base, and Furcal indicated that he was fine with the move.
    • Furcal’s agent did come back with further demands, but the terms were ones that the agent knew the Braves would reject, including a no-trade clause.
  • Frank Wren is a good interview. He is nothing like his predecessor in this area. He responds in detail to questions, giving more than the minimum. He’s emotional, but conveys rational thoughts even when expressing emotions. John Schuerholz always sounded to me like he had other things to do and was annoyed by questions.
  • I’m not sure you can say that Wren has performed differently from Schuerholz. My impression is that the Braves front office is a brain trust that still includes Schuerholz. When Wren was an assistant GM, he probably had a lot more power than most GMs. As a GM, I think that he has a little less power relative to other GMs. That doesn’t mean that Wren isn’t the leader, but I think the transition from Schuerholz to Wren hasn’t changed much about the organization. I recall that Schuerholz had considerable trouble working with agents.
  • Recently, I referred to Frank Wren as a stat-head. The stat-head designation was meant to be humorous, and I did not mean for it to be taken seriously. Since that post, I have seen several references to Wren being stat-savvy, and I think my post is partially responsible. I want to clear this up. I am sure that the Braves use statistical methods to help evaluate talent just as all ballclubs do. There is no organization that eschews quantitative analysis; however, some are more partial to stats than others. The information I have about Wren is that he is not a stat-focused decision-maker. From speaking with several sources regarding Wren, my impression is that Wren is somewhat hostile to quantitative analysis. Just because Wren used some DIPSish reasoning to defend a pitcher doesn’t mean that type of analysis is driving the organization. My guess is that ocular scouting played a larger role in evaluating Javier Vazquez than quantitative analysis.

6 Responses “On Frank Wren”

  1. Kyle S says:

    JC, you make a good point on Schuerholtz’s difficulty dealing with agents. It’s hard to think that this hasn’t poisoned the well for Wren now that the Braves are finally in the market for free agents. By my figuring, the last major free agent the Braves signed off the open market (excluding players for whom they traded and extended [like Tim Hudson] or simply re-signed [like John Smoltz when he talked about going to the Yankees]) was either Andres Galarraga in the 1997 offseason or, if you’re willing to stretch the definition of “major free agent”, Brian Jordan in the 1998 offseason. The only ones since then have been the Vinny Castillas and Paul Byrds of the world. A lot has changed since then.

  2. JC says:

    Good observation.  It’s hard to believe that the Braves haven’t been able to attract more free agents. The Braves have been a winning organization with a popular players manager. You’d think they might have been able to have an advantage on the free-agent market.

  3. Pablo says:

    I think it is a bit premature to assume that FA’s dislike the Braves brass just because we have not done a major FA acquisition in about a decade.  I can’t think of any major FA that we had even attempted to lure prior to this year due to our payroll contraction/stagnation that has taken place in recent times.  Maybe Kyle Farnsworth, but again, a stretch to call him major. 

    I think all we are seeing this year is a failure on the Braves part to make best offer to the few players that we have bid on.  With Burnett, we were bidding against the Yankees, so unless we were really ready to overextend ourselves (and even then), we were going to lose out and did. 

    With Furcal, it seems as if we offered a similar deal, but were asking him to change positions and cities.  If I have a job that I like in a city that I am comfortable in, why would I move to do something different for the same/similar amount of money? 

    Peavy was simply trade negotiations where we couldn’t agree on terms.  Bottom line, I think the sample size is too small to jump to any sort of conclusions.  Yes, it sucks that we couldn’t land a few of our FA targets, but neither could Oakland or Tornto, and I don’t hear people saying FA’s dislike those GM’s.

  4. Randy says:

    Really good post.  Just using your sources to give insight without manufacturing negative emotion is good (fair).  As an aside I think in this current state the Braves are in with budget limits and thin major league ready pitching I will be curious to see how Wren operates.   Personally I find it fascinating to watch teams who have clear hurdles (relative to other big market teams) and find ways to win.  I’m looking forward to see Wren’s next step especially since Christmas is practically here.  By the way, I’ve been following your blog for a short time and find it very insightful….rare for a sports blog.

  5. ChuckO says:

    I don’t think that Wren’s policy toward the media serves him well. Schuerholz was notoriously close-mouthed about possible deals, or deals in progress. Wren tends to be open about them. The fans seem to appreciate that, but is that really the best way to conduct the club’s business? I don’t have access to the knowledge sufficient to judge Wren’s effectiveness in the GM position, but my gut reaction is pretty negative. So far he impresses me as the guy you want to invite over if you’re having a poker game because you know you’ll win all of his money.

  6. Marc Schneider says:

    What has Wren done that would negatively affect negotiations?  I doubt that Furcal’s agent was so upset at publicity about the deal that he decided to have Furcal sign with the Dodgers.  It’s interesting that everyone is putting the onus on the agents for the Furcal situation, but what about Furcal himself?  What I think happened is that he was ready to sign with the Braves, changed his mind about leaving LA and playing second, and told his agent to get him out of it any way he could.  I suspect the agent took the hit for Furcal, who was able to play innocent and say I don’t know what happened.