Blue Jays: Anthopoulos’ gamble on himself pays off

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 14: General manager Alex Anthopoulos and manager John Gibbons of the Toronto Blue Jays celebrate the 6-3 win against the Texas Rangers as Ben Revere
TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 14: General manager Alex Anthopoulos and manager John Gibbons of the Toronto Blue Jays celebrate the 6-3 win against the Texas Rangers as Ben Revere /

Just two years ago, the Blue Jays offered Alex Anthopoulos a contract extension to stay on as the GM, but he turned it down as Mark Shapiro took over as the President, and the circumstances changed. His gamble paid off, as he’s been announced as the new GM of the Atlanta Braves.

One of the more divisive figures in recent Blue Jays’ history has been Alex Anthopoulos, the former General Manager who was instrumental in putting together the 2015-16 playoff teams in Toronto. “AA” took over in 2019, and left after the 2015 season, taking a job with the Los Angeles Dodgers as the VP of Baseball Operations.

There are varying reports, but it always appeared that Anthopoulos didn’t like the way things were going to change for his job in Toronto, the lack of power he would wield, or maybe even that he didn’t get the job himself. Whatever the reason, the young baseball mind was off to L.A., and new president, Mark Shapiro, brought in his own guy in Ross Atkins to take over the GM’s chair.

As I said above, Anthopoulos is one of the more polarizing figures for the Blue Jays, as many fans celebrated his efforts to break the more than two decades long playoff drought, while other fans lament the loss of so many prospects that were traded away during the big moves in 2013 and in 2015. Whether you liked the moves or not, it’s hard to argue against the value that the rejuvenation of the fan base brought to Toronto baseball, which is a big reason why I was always a fan of Anthopoulos’ work. In my mind, he waited until “the time was right”, and went for it, coming one step away from qualifying for the World Series.

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When things changed in Toronto, he decided that he didn’t feel comfortable staying in his current job, a bold move for a young GM, and even more bold because of the fact that he’s a Canadian himself, born in Montreal. He believed in his resume enough to have faith that he’d stay employed, which ended with a pretty sweet gig in Los Angeles, and that eventually the right opportunity would present itself.

That day has come in Atlanta, and now that things have played out for him, even I’ll admit that I like how he played his cards.

He’s joined an organization with a ton of minor league talent, a great deal of payroll to work with, and essentially a near blank canvas for him to work with, which is every artist’s dream. There won’t be any immediate pressure to win in Atlanta, though that’ll come soon enough, and he should have the tools at his disposal for a successful rebuild. He didn’t walk into a mess that needs fixing, quite the contrary, he’s inheriting a pretty enviable position.

As one of the many Blue Jays’ fans who are thankful for Anthopoulos’ work in Toronto, I’m happy for him that the gamble has seemingly worked out, at least for now. It was a gutsy call to leave a 10 million dollar pay cheque on the table, and one of just 30 GM jobs in all of baseball, but he didn’t care for what was on in the table for him in Toronto, and decided he was personally better off waiting for what he wanted, even if there was no guarantee it would come.

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Well it came, and he’ll start the new job right away with the Braves, joining the rest of the GM’s in arguably the busiest portion of their calendar. I’m sure he’ll be grinning ear to ear as he gets back to work.