Should Braves consider Gonzalez as Cox’s replacement?

Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes that the Braves should look to bring back Marlins’ manager Fredi Gonzalez when Bobby Cox steps down at the end of the season. Gonzalez was Atlanta’s third base coach for four years prior to his first season with the Marlins in 2007.

Back to Gonzalez. It shouldn’t take much convincing for him to come back to Atlanta. In his four seasons as Marlins manager, the team’s payroll has ranked 29th, 30th, 30th and 26th (this season). Yet, Florida is over .500 for the third straight season, is coming off a second-place finish and in 2008 he was voting The Sporting News Manager of the Year in the National League for an 84-74 finish despite the majors’ smallest payroll.

The Marlins have little fan support. They have a kooky owner, Jeffrey Loria, who actually balked at bringing Gonzalez back this season. Loria denied an ESPN report in October that he was exploring hiring Bobby Valentine to manage. But given that the report came from the nation’s best baseball reporter, Buster Olney, I know who I’m siding with.

The problem, as Schultz notes in his article, is that Gonzalez’s contract runs through 2011. That doesn’t mean he’s untouchable until then, but it does make things a little more difficult from the Braves’ perspective. Plus, the Marlins and the Braves play in the same division, so I wonder how that would work. (Although Bruce Bochy went from San Diego to San Francisco in the same type of scenario and the Giants and Padres play in the same division.)

That said, Brave fans have to at least like the thought of Gonzalez winding up in Hotlanta. Cox will go down as one of the most respected skippers in all of baseball and the Braves would be wise to hire someone with experience to fill his shoes. Gonzalez has done an admirable job in Florida and might be able to give Atlanta the shot in the arm that it needs.

Of course, it’s only May. Who knows what will happen over the course of the next four and a half months leading up to Cox’s retirement.

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