While a lot of the imprint that Alex Anthopoulos left behind has moved on from Toronto, the former GM left a few parting gifts that will keep giving for quite some time.
We’ve watched the identify of the Toronto Blue Jays change quite a bit over the last few years, especially with the departure of franchise faces like Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and Josh Donaldson. After adding both Troy Tulowitzki and Russell Martin to the list this offseason, that generation of the Blue Jays is more or less history.
There are a few holdover players from the playoff runs during the 2015-16 seasons like Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Kevin Pillar, Justin Smoak, and Devon Travis, but the identity of the team has drastically changed in the last couple of years. Slowly but surely, the roster has transformed from former GM Alex Anthopoulos’ creation, into one that that Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins can start to call their own.
There are a couple of pretty significant pieces of Anthopoulos’ work that remain in the minor league system though, and they’ll keep his imprint with the franchise for a very long time.
The most significant on the list would be Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who was signed as an international free agent back on July 2, 2015, before Anthopoulos had handed the reigns over to Ross Atkins, and before he left for Los Angeles to work with the Dodgers. Unfortunately Anthopoulos never got to see what might be his crown-jewel signing work at the big league level while in Toronto. He’ll get the opportunity to watch from a distance next year from Atlanta though, and can feel good about the potential generational talent he signed for the Blue Jays before he left town.
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Guerrero isn’t the only one that has a chance to make an impact in Toronto in 2019 either, or for many years for that matter. In the immediate future the Blue Jays still have players like Marcus Stroman and Kevin Pillar that were drafted under Anthopoulos’ watch as well, but I’m more curious about those that should be around for more than a couple more years, barring an extension for those two or any other veterans.
In 2019, we’re bound to see Sean Reid-Foley sooner or later, as he performed better than his numbers would show in his short MLB stint last year, and looks ready for the challenge of the highest level. He was drafted back in 2014 in the 2nd round, and was joined by guys like Max Pentecost, who may or may not make it to the big leagues someday.
Going further back, we could see guys from 2012 like Anthony Alford (3rd round pick), or Richard Urena (international signing) who will hopefully follow Ryan Borucki‘s footsteps from that class, or from 2013’s get we’ll probably get another look at Rowdy Tellez in 2019. Danny Jansen was also taken in ’13 as well, and he looks poised to hopefully be the homegrown catcher the Blue Jays have been waiting for. Anthopoulos missed on plenty of draft selections as well, just like nearly every team does in baseball, and some of the other solid picks have been used as trade bait over time too.
However, as long as Vlad Jr. is wearing a Blue Jay uniform then there will be a small tie to the Anthopoulos era in Toronto. For those that believe that Shapiro and Atkins want to jettison everyone from their predecessor’s time with the club, I’m sure we can all agree that even if that were true that the line would be drawn there. It’s also entirely possible or even likely that some or all of Jansen, Borucki, Reid-Foley, Alford, Tellez, or Urena become solid MLB contributors, and I hardly think the current front office would be petty enough to jettison them just because they weren’t drafted under their watch.
I sincerely doubt this is much of a consideration for the Blue Jays front office at all these days, especially now that they’ve moved on from veteran leaders like Martin and Tulowitzki. However, I do think it’s at least a little bit ironic that the next generation of this team is being built around someone Anthopoulos signed back in 2015.