Front Office

5 Unanswered Questions from the Alex Anthopoulos Era

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 26: Toronto Blue Jays general manager, Alex Anthopoulos, addresses the media at the Rogers Centre after the Blue Jays lost Game 6 of the American League Championship Series to Kansas City Royals last Friday. (Melissa Renwick/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Why? All these months later, that’s still the big question surrounding Alex Anthopoulos and his abrupt end as General Manager of the Toronto Blue Jays. Why did he walk away?

Anthopoulos has now taken a front office gig as VP of Baseball Operations with the Los Angeles Dodgers. As a free agent, he was certainly within his right to go elsewhere. However, many will continue to question why Anthopoulos left a team that was only two wins away from the World Series.

During his tenure as Blue Jays GM, Alex Anthopoulos was a very secretive man. He never revealed much and had a tendency to keep things very tight to the vest.



But if given the opportunity to have some long-wondered queries answered in a candid atmosphere, here are five questions I would love to ask Alex Anthopoulos.

 

Did the Jays Bid on Yu Darvish? And If So, How Much?

At the time of the Yu Darvish announcement, multiple sources within the baseball world had prematurely reported that the Blue Jays had won the rights to sign Yu Darvish. Despite being lauded as the the heavy favourites to land the Japanese phenom, the Blue Jays walked away empty-handed.

When the Texas Rangers were revealed as the highest bidders, it left many dumbfounded as to how and why the Blue Jays didn’t place a bid. We may never know if the Jays even made an offer for Yu Darvish, but it would be incredibly interesting to see if they did.

Not only that, but if Anthopoulos spearheaded a bid on Darvish, one can only imagine how close Toronto may have been to the Rangers’ eventual winning bid of $51.7 million dollars.

 

Were the Trades with the Marlins and Mets Spearheaded by Someone Else?

The winter of 2012 was one that transformed the Toronto Blue Jays into World Series favourites and re-invigorated a much-maligned fan base.

After the blockbuster trade with the Miami Marlins and subsequent deal for R.A. Dickey and free agent signings of Melky Cabrera and Maicer Izturis, the Jays were poised to do some serious damage in the AL East going into the 2013 season.

Here’s a little bit of context; prior to those transactions, the Blue Jays were the laughing stock of the league. With John Farrell exiting Toronto and heading to Boston for his “dream job”, the Blue Jays front office seemed to be in full-out damage control.



I can’t think of a better way to help fans forget about the John Farrell debacle than by making some splashy trades and overhauling the entire team.

Once those trades were completed, Alex Anthopoulos was lauded as a God and it galvanized his status as the “Ninja GM”. But now that I think about it, those trades weren’t indicative of a typical Alex Anthopoulos deal. Those were “win now” moves.

Years leading up to the winter of 2012, Anthopoulos’ M.O. was acquiring young talent, bringing in “change of scenery” guys and stockpiling young arms. His strategy all along may have been to build up the farm only to sell it off; but the timing of those blockbuster trades after the public relations disaster created by John Farrell were too coincidental.

In the Marlins blockbuster trade and the Dickey deal, the Blue Jays dealt a bevy of young talent in the form of starting pitchers and position players to bring in veteran players. I’ve always wondered if those moves were actually spearheaded by ownership or possibly even Paul Beeston as a means to save face for the Blue Jays organization.

Given how quickly the Miami Marlins were suddenly in “fire sale” mode and how fast the Jays moved on those players, one wonders if the Blue Jays’ front office may have experienced a bit of buyer’s remorse in those trades with the Marlins and the Mets.

 

Did Alex Go For It at the Trade Deadline Because He Knew He Wasn’t Coming Back?

While the 2015 trade deadline was as exciting as it’s ever been in Toronto, it was quite unorthodox. Considering their overall record and position in the standings, the incredible amount of activity leading up to July 31st may not have been warranted.

Typically, the kinds of moves that the Jays made were typical of a team that was in a playoff position or at least very close to a playoff spot. Prior to the unexpected deal for Troy Tulowitzki in the wee hours of the morning, the Jays were 50-51; 8 games back of the division lead and 3 games back of a Wild Card spot with five teams ahead of them in the race.

As we learned, that deficit wasn’t insurmountable, but to make those trades for Troy Tulowitzki, David Price, Ben Revere, Mark Lowe and LaTroy Hawkins panned out. It was an incredibly ballsy move by Alex Anthopoulos to go for it at the 2015 trade deadline, but ultimately it helped the Blue Jays secure their first playoff appearance in 22 years.

But what if it didn’t pan out? What if things went sideways for the Blue Jays after the trade deadline? Alex Anthopoulos and Paul Beeston were likely done at the end of 2015 anyway, so if things went bad, odds are Anthopoulos isn’t tabled a new offer by ownership, and Paul Beeston was already retiring at season’s end.

I would ask Alex Anthopoulos if he went for it at the trade deadline not because he thought their run differential would eventually right the ship, but if he made all those trades for a somewhat selfish reason; so he could at least go out with a bang.



After all, Alex Anthopoulos spent all those years acquiring talent and trying to build up the farm system. With his impending exit on the horizon, perhaps he wanted to do some gun-slinging on his way out the door.

 

Were The Jays Going to Make an Offer to David Price?

In early December, Jon Morosi of Fox Sports reported Alex Anthopoulos was in the process of tabling an offer to would-be free agent pitcher David Price. It got the Blue Jays’ fan base lamenting the notion that any chance of bringing back Price walked out the door along with Anthopoulos.

In hindsight, it’s easy to say the Jays would have had a decent shot at re-signing David Price under the guidance of Alex Anthopoulos. After all, AA was the very same man that gave up the farm at the 2015 trade deadline to bring in David Price in the first place.

It seems a little short-sighted to give up all those players for Price and not at least make a solid attempt to keep him beyond season’s end. Otherwise, that’s one very expensive rental (in the way of salary and prospect capital).

If Alex Anthopoulos was still the General Manager of the Blue Jays, it would be interesting to learn whether he was considering re-signing David Price and furthermore, if the club was going to make a competitive offer to retain Price’s services.

 

Why Did Anthopoulos Ultimately Leave Toronto?

As the months have passed, the picture is beginning to come much more clear as to why Alex Anthopoulos didn’t re-sign as GM of the Blue Jays.

Many pointed towards the arrival of Mark Shapiro and his apparent reported “scolding” of Alex Anthopoulos and an apparent lack of autonomy from the Jays’ GM chair. The phrase that Anthopoulos uttered time and time again during his exit press conference was that Toronto was no longer the “right fit”.

This was an organization that had just made the playoffs for the first time in 22 years. They were two wins away from going to the World Series. The Blue Jays had a healthy payroll and the future looked bright for the club going into 2016. It was at that time that Alex Anthopoulos decided to pull the parachute.

Perhaps Alex felt like he took this organization as far as he could take it, and it was time to move onto the next conquest. After all, the team accomplished what nobody had done 22 years prior. And although a World Series trophy would’ve been a nice parting gift, that magical 2015 season by the Blue Jays was also a tremendous accomplishment.

But the more I think about it, the more I believe that Alex walked because he saw how Paul Beeston was treated during the process of attempting to find a new team president. Alex saw the distress his mentor experienced, and it was at that point Anthopoulos decided the Blue Jays were no longer the organization for him.

If Alex Anthopoulos remains true to his secretive character, we may never know the true reason for his departure as GM of the Blue Jays. The organization has since moved on and continued to function without him. Although, some fans are still longing for the return of their beloved “AA”.

Ian has been writing about the Toronto Blue Jays since 2007. He enjoyed the tail-end of the Roy Halladay era and vividly remembers the Alex Rodriguez “mine” incident. He’ll also retell the story of Game 5 of the ALDS to his kids for the next 20 years.


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5 Comments

  1. Derek

    May 6, 2016 - 2:44 pm

    I wonder if AA would ever consider coming back to the organization in the future – much like Beeston, Gaston and Gibbons did. As the saying goes, “never say never” but as long as Shapiro and/or Rogers is running the ship my feeling is that AA will never consider it. Could it be that the lack of the “right fit” was more directed at Rogers than Shapiro?

    If the Jays win under the Shapiro leadership then AA will be quickly forgotten. If Jays don’t win, then AA will always be considered a folk hero with fans always wishing for his return.

  2. Bruce Strang

    May 6, 2016 - 6:04 pm

    Good post, Ian. Reminds me of the first line from that Trudeau (Pere) biography…”He haunts us still…”
    AA’s reticence in answering questions like yours is both maddening and admirable. Maddening since enquiring minds want to know and admirable since he seemingly doesn’t want to burn bridges (or air dirty laundry).
    Should the Jays win it all this season, we should remember who had a big hand in building this team.

  3. […] for Alex  –  Ian Hunter rings in the Return of Anthopoulos with five questions from his tenure that have been left unanswered. I’m especially interested in the question regarding Yu Darvish. I not-so-fondly remember the […]

  4. Toronto - Baseball Prospectus

    May 8, 2016 - 6:50 am

    […] World Series – which, quite frankly, is a dream of mine. (As a follow-up, Ian Hunter posed five lingering questions about the Alex Anthopoulos era that he, and others, would love to have […]

  5. Tom Signore

    May 8, 2016 - 12:10 pm

    Alex Anthopolis was the worst GM I ever worked for. The front office in Toronto was filled with a bunch a charlatans who filled jobs with their friends. Their lying to employees knew no ends. With Shapiro there, baseball matters will get straightened out because he is a good baseball man and a straight shooter. The morals and character of the major and minor league staff only cared about themselves and would lie or stab in the back to get ahead. There was not one ounce of loyalty there and it lacked too many non- base baseball people.

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