Aug 10, 2011; Toronto, ON, Canada; Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos during batting practice before the game against the Oakland Athletics at the Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY SportsHave you ever seen any sports teams fan base have more love for their General Manager than Toronto Blue Jays fans have for Alex Anthopoulos? It might be amazing to people that aren’t Jays fans but it’s very understandable for anyone that follows the team.
It took AA a little over 3 years to build a team that needs everything to go wrong to not contend in the AL East. It took AA just one year to turn the Blue Jays farm system from one of the worst into one of the best. He’s kept and signed every member of the Blue Jays core for under market value. One of the most exciting parts of following any sports team is trades they make especially if your GM knows what he’s doing and AA certainly does. What’s not to love?
The thing is AA was a rookie GM so Blue Jays fans had no idea what we were getting when he was hired in October 2009. It wasn’t like he was an established GM who had proven he deserves our admiration. He obviously had to earn the love he now has.
Which brings me to my question, what was the first thing AA did as Blue Jays GM that made everyone in Toronto love him?
As a Jays fan when the thought first crosses your mind it’s easy to think the Vernon Wells trade was the first thing. But when you really think back the Vernon Wells trade had more of a “He’s done it again!” feeling to it. The love was already there but why?
I don’t think there’s really an answer for the question what was AA’s first move that started the love affair. It was probably a combination of things in his first year as GM.
Everyone seemed to like the prospects the Jays got for Roy Halladay but you really couldn’t judge AA off that because you don’t have to be a genius to get good prospects for the best starting pitcher in baseball.
In addition to trading Roy Halladay in his first offseason AA also traded Brandon League and some minor leaguer no one knew to the Seattle Mariners for reliever Brandon Morrow.
Blue Jays fans were so sick and tired of waiting for Brandon League to reach his potential so they could have traded him for anything and we would have been happy. For the most part we didn’t know what to think of AA wanting to make Brandon Morrow a starting pitcher. But hey if he can do it we’ll be laughing at the Mariners. When Morrow was awful he was really awful but when he was good he was really good including his unforgettable 17 strikeout 1 hitter. It was like wow AA must have really seen something from Morrow while he was a reliever for the Mariners to know he could be a starter.
At the 2010 trade deadline AA bought low again! This time on Yunel Escobar and to a lesser extent Jo-Jo Reyes from the Atlanta Braves in exchange for Alex Gonzalez, Tim Collins, and Tyler Pastornicky. Escobar was having a down season in 2010 but it still felt like a huge underpayment considering he was just 27 years old at the time and had just put up a 4.4 WAR season in 2009.
It wasn’t just AA’s first couple of trades that were impressive either.
At the start of the 2010 season AA gave the Blue Jays best hitter Adam Lind who we all thought was just coming into his prime an extremely “team friendly” 4 year 17.5 million dollar contract extension with 3 very “team friendly” contract options from 2014-2016 which seemed absolutely criminal at the time. Yes that’s right AA’s first in season genius move wasn’t a genius move at all. But it definitely helped AA look like a genius at the time.
He also locked up Ricky Romero to a “team friendly” contract during the 2010 season. That move was actually one of AA’s more questionable ones because it felt like the Jays were giving Ricky a contract sooner then they needed to since Ricky hadn’t really established himself yet. Ricky was just 25 at the time so if he got any better he was going to get expensive so it was hard to argue with the risk AA was taking.
In the same offseason that AA traded Doc and acquired Morrow he also signed John Buck to a 1 year deal. Buck had a career high 20 homeruns for the Jays and even made the all-star team! Unlike Morrow, Escobar, Lind and Ricky AA wasn’t expecting Buck to be a core player of the team, he just happened to have a good season but combined with those other moves AA was making one heck of a first impression.
It seems like common sense now but one of the things that made AA really look smart was not trading Jose Bautista during his 2010 breakout season. A lot of “experts” and fans felt that because Bautista was a lifelong bench player that he was going to just be a 1 year wonder. So the Blue Jays best decision would be to trade high on him at the trade deadline. If this offseason hasn’t taught you how much people overvalue prospects yet this will: people said that if the Phillies got “DESPERATE” they might be willing to give up Domonic Brown for Bautista. I have a friend that wanted to trade Bautista AND prospects for Colby Rasmus, and I still haven’t stopped laughing at him. Bautista ended up hitting 54 homeruns that season while putting up a 6.8 WAR.
The Blue Jays even won 85 games in 2010 which came as a huge surprise after having only won 75 games in 2009 and no longer having franchise player Roy Halladay.
AA’s done a lot to keep Blue Jays fans in love with him ever since. Then again he did a lot to get us to love him in the first place.