Alex Anthopoulos and the Jays Burned Some Bridges? Not Likely.

This is a post that is hard to write, because I don’t personally believe it to be a major issue going forward. However, in listening to radio talk shows, in reading posts made by opposing team blogs, and in reading comments made by fans, it seems that a lot of people believe Alex Anthopoulos and the Jays may have stepped into bad area, one that has put the star GM in a place no GM wants to be in: the outside looking in.

What am I talking about here?

The perfect example of what I’m talking about can be read about at Halos Heaven, as only one example of many that illustrates how things may have changed for Alex Anthopoulos and the Blue Jays. Written by Rev Halofan, here is the link and title:

Mike Napoli a Ranger in Blue Jay Backstabbing

It focuses on the fact that many LAA fans are angry that the Jays handed the Angels some financial handcuffs by trading them Vernon Wells, and also the Mike Napoli “flip” that I’ll get into soon. The funny thing is that most of their fans comment in that post that they’d love to hire Alex Anthopoulos to be their GM and that he places most of the blame on his front office, not on Alex’s shoulders. Still, others are more critical of Alex than this post.

As everyone knows by now, the Jays acquired Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera in return for Vernon Wells and some cash from the Angels. Assistant Rangers GM Thad Levin later admitted on MLB Radio that Alex Anthopoulos and the Jays must have heard about their interest in Mike Napoli during the winter meetings, because he called the Rangers soon after putting the finishing touches on the Wells deal and got a deal done very quickly for Frank Francisco. Like a wolf in the henhouse, Anthopoulos saw a desperate team, a couple of opportunities, and made both of those opprtunities become realities.

What a professional!

A Smart “Flip” for the Long Term?

Was the Napoli “flip” a calculated and smart on paper move by Alex Anthopoulos? Obviously. A smart move overall? People are not so sure. It’s one thing to look at this deal and say that it all adds up to a plus for the Jays today. They got rid of a heavy contract, got a closer, freed up some room to add others within their budget, and will likely reap the benefits of a few picks when Frank Francisco – who was acquired in return for Napoli – leaves.

But, it’s another thing to look at all of the other GMs in MLB and wonder who they feel about the Jays flipping Napoli to the very team the Angels did not want to trade him to. Will other GMs now be more careful when dealing with Alex Anthopoulos and the Jays? It seems that this could be likely in many cases due to this deal.

Now, having said that, it could simply mean that opposing GMs will demand more in return from Alex, or that they’ll want some assurances that his intentions are not to flip a player they trade him to their division rivals. But, to me, that’s not likely to be a request often made or often replied to. How can you “demand” to know what a team will do with a certain player once he’s dealt? You can’t.

Tread Carefully around the Jays?

If people who blieve the Jays stepped on some toes by “flipping” Napoli are right, that leaves teams with only one option: tread carefully when dealing with Anthopoulos and the Jays. Up to now, the Jays had not stepped on toes in this manner. The Roy Halladay deal, the Shaun Marcum deal, and the Yunel Escobar deal all had clear lines of trades that did not cross into divisional issues.

The Napoli deal however, does exactly that. Can the Angels trust Alex and the Jays to not do this in the future if they do cross paths in a deal again? Probably not. Should the Jays be forced to voice what their intentions are each time they trade? Definitely not. But, has it been the norm that teams do not “flip” a player to a division rival of the team they initially traded with – particularly this soon after the first deal was conducted – I would say that this has been the case. I can’t find a good example of an occurance where a GM dealt a player so soon after acquiring him to a team that is the divisional rival of the initial trade. If you have an example, please let me know in the comments.

Trust

Trust is something that is earned, and once it’s lost it is incredibly hard to regain. Have the Jays and Alex Anthopoulos lost some of the trust they had earned by keeping things so quiet and professional in their previous trade talks? It could very well be, but nobody can say for certain. All I know for certain at this point is that the sentiment being talked about in many circles of MLB is that the Jays did something that may not be a clear cut violation of how to act when dealing with other clubs, but did violate an organization’s wishes in terms of where that player winds up, something that may not have needed to be said during trade discussions.

Believe me, the GM inner circle of MLB is a very small brethren and word gets around pretty quickly. There are definitely some GMs who won’t care in the least that this happened. They’ll understand that business is business and that it was the right of the Jays to conduct matters in this fashion. However, there will also likely be a few that will, at the very least, be hesitant to deal impact players to the Jays now that this flip has occured.

Hypothetical Scenario

Imagine the White Sox or Detroit Tigers are in a heated race for the division lead in the AL Central and that the Jays have a player they really covet, someone like Jose Bautista – just for a hypothetical example. The Jays are demanding someone, amongst many others, that one of these teams knows is sought after by the Minnesota Twins and the Jays are adament that this player be included. Their options then become to either ask for more “benefits” in return for the players they are sending so that they mitigate against this very risk, something that makes a deal less likely to occur, or to forgo the deal altogether in order to make 100% sure that it won’t happen.

The scenario just given is a simplification of what could happen, but it applies to each and every team in MLB. Although all teams are supposed to look at the bottom line of a trade and ask themselves whether it makes their team better, without giving thought to the impact the players they trade away will have on other teams, we all know that in the majority of cases this isn’t the way business is conducted. Few teams can do what the Marlins did this off season and trade an impact player to a divisional rival when they traded Dan Uggla to the Braves. The same will likely hold true for most organizations if they view a “flip” to be just as bad as dealing a player directly to their rivals.

Final Impact : Any Impact on Future Deals?

Like I said at the beginning of this post, I doubt that in the majority of cases other teams will be influenced by the latest “flip” conducted by Alex Anthopoulos and the Jays. Could there be a few GMs that tread lightly around him now? Sure, that could be. But knowing how Alex operated and how professional and respectful a communicator he has been in everything he does, I can’t see him not being able to smooth over any rough edges that may result from this deal. If there’s a match in terms of a deal to be made, it’s likely that he’ll find a way to get it done.

So, although everyone who looks at this deal and goes “wow, this is new” is correct in the fact that the Angels can’t be pleased about the flip aspect of the deal, they also inflate how “angry” the Angels likely are or should be since business is business. They got the player they want, go rid of the headaches they didn’t want, and now have to try to win. It’s as simple as that. What happens to the players they trade away is simply out of their jurisdiction. Hopefully, other GMs in MLB will see it that way, and I believe the majority will. For the sake of the Jays organization, I hope I’m right!

Alex Anthopoulos has earned the respect, and hopefully the trust, of many MLB executives very quickly as he has taken the Jays on and revamped their operations and roster. If something as minor as flipping a player just acquired gets in the way of that, I just wouldn’t understand it at all. If a deal makes sense for your organization, make the deal. Making that evaluation is the key part of the deal, not what happens to players you’ve dealt. I would agree that the Angels may be the one team that treads more carefully in future dealings with Anthopolous and the Jays, but would doubt that many more would do the same.

At least that’s my take on it!

- MG

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Tags: Alex Anthopoulos Frank Francisco Mike Napoli Vernon Wells

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