Is Toronto Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos a Magician?
Upon the conclusion of the 2009 season, J.P. Ricciardi was relieved of his duties with the Toronto Blue Jays. Acting president Paul Beeston promoted Alex Anthopoulos to become Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations and General Manager for the Toronto Blue Jays.
I was expecting Anthopoulos to be an interim general manager as the team searches for a veteran general manager. Upon given a chance, he quickly got to work, shuffling the deck and bringing in Dana Brown as a special assistant and hiring many area scouts.
He has been the general manger for nearly three years now, and he has brought the Blue Jays closer to being a contender since 2006. However, this team is not filled with aging veterans, but rather, young talent with a pipeline of younger talent and prospects in the minor league system. This article will look into five major trades that Anthopoulos has pulled off.
Trade No. 5:
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Philadelphia Phillies receive: RHP Roy Halladay and cash
Toronto Blue Jays receive: RHP Kyle Drabek, C Travis d’Arnaud and OF Anthony Gose (via 1B/3B Brett Wallace via OF Michael Taylor)
The minute Anthopoulos became the general manager, the first order of business he had to care of was trading away the best pitcher in baseball, Roy Halladay. Halladay, the classy person that he is, informed the team that he would not re-sign upon the conclusion of the 2010 season and would not mind being traded to help the Blue Jays in their rebuilding process.
On December 15 2009, Anthopoulos pulled the trigger that landed the Blue Jays Drabek, d’Arnaud and Taylor for Halladay. It was clear that Anthopoulos was not interested in Taylor, as the next day, he was shipped to Oakland for Brett Wallace, a 3B/1B that was originally drafted by the Blue Jays in 2005 from high school. The most impressing part of this trade is that it ended on July 29, 2010.
Upon hearing that the Houston Astros were trading Roy Oswalt to the Philadelphia Phillies for prospects, Anthopoulos quickly jumped on the opportunity to acquire Anthony Gose, the prospect he was originally interested in, sending Wallace to the Astros to play first base. At the end, Anthopoulos ended up acquiring the prospects he wanted for Halladay, though it took some extra trading.
Trade No. 4
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Colorado Rockies receive: Cash
Toronto Blue Jays receive: C Miguel Olivo
Apparently, the Rockies valued $500,000 more than a draft pick. On the eve of free agency, Anthopoulos acquired the catcher (a type B free agent), declined his contract option for 2011 and offered him arbitration. Olivo declined arbitration and became a free agent, and the Blue Jays had themselves another draft pick.
The Blue Jays received their reward this past June, when they drafted Dwight Smith Jr. with the 53rd pick. Smith was ranked 34th in Jonathan Mayo’s top 50 draft prospects. Here, we see Anthopoulos thinking outside the box and using his aggressiveness to acquire younger talent.
Trade No. 3
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Atlanta Braves receive: SS Alex Gonzalez, LHP Tim Collins and SS Tyler Pastornicky
Toronto Blue Jays receive: LHP Jo-Jo Reyes and SS Yunel Escobar
When I read the text message reading the above trade, I almost fell off my chair in the lab I was working at. Anthopoulos is a believer in the theory of “selling high, buying low,” and this was an example of that. At the time, Yunel Escobar was having a down year, but the Braves were interested in acquiring a veteran shortstop in Gonzalez, who was having a career year. It was known that at the time, Bobby Cox was not too keen of Escobar’s style of play and his "flash."
Many at the time were not keen of the deal, but I constantly reminded them that Escobar was having one bad year after posting an OPS of .837, .766 and .812 in 2007, 2008 and 2009, respectively. His OBP in those three years were .385, .366 and .377. Here we are in 2011, and Escobar is having another great year, playing flawless defense and has matured to a new level.
Trade No. 2
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Chicago White Sox receive: RHP Jason Frasor and RHP Zach Stewart
St. Louis Cardinals receive: RHP Edwin Jackson, LHP Marc Rzepczynski, RHP Octavio Dotel, OF Corey Patterson and three players to be named later or cash
Toronto Blue Jays receive: OF Colby Rasmus, RHP P.J. Walters, LHP Trever Miller, LHP Brian Tallet and IF/OF Mark Teahen
I am still trying to understand how the Cardinals gave up Colby Rasmus without receiving a top prospect from the Blue Jays. Here, Anthopoulos acted as a facilitator to acquire (or should I say steal) Rasmus, a player the Blue Jays have been eying for a while. The Cardinals talked to the White Sox about a possibility of acquiring Edwin Jackson for their young centerfielder. The White Sox already have Alex Rios in centerfield, and that’s when I assume Anthopoulos decided to jump in and facilitate the trade.
The act of facilitating itself deserves an award, but when you steal a player like Rasmus to fill the Cardinals short term needs, you deserve a gold medal. Again, what allow this to occur is the strained relationship between Tony La Russa and the young centerfielder.
Trade No. 1
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Toronto Blue Jays receive: OF/1B Juan Rivera and RHP Frank Francisco (via C/1B Mike Napoli)
Let’s rewind five years, when Wells had established himself as one of the youngest and best centerfielders in the league. Many were worried he would walk, and the Blue Jays announce they have re-signed Vernon Wells to a seven-year, $128 million deal.
Was he overpaid? I would say slightly. If Vernon had hit the open market, he would’ve easily made $20 million in salary. If you do not believe me, take a look at what players were making during the time (I’ll help you; take a look at Alfonso Soriano and Barry Zito). Hence, what I’m saying is that the deal was earned by Vernon and was not a mistake by the Blue Jays.
Fast-forward to the eve of my birthday (January 21, 2010). Vernon was traded to the Angels for Napoli and Rivera. I would not have minded if the Blue Jays received a lock of Jered Weaver’s hair in return in this deal.
To this day, I have no idea how Anthopoulos convinced Tony Reagins to take Wells’ contract. What puzzles me even more is that the Angels would refuse to give Crawford an average of $18 million, but end up taking a struggling veteran outfielder that is overpaid. I guess we have to thank Crawford and the Red Sox for getting married earlier this offseason. Before the deal, when I would build a potential Blue Jays lineup, I always had Wells in there as it was considered an unmovable contract.
What we have learned here is that Anthopoulos has a plan in building his team here in Toronto. He loves players with five-tool potentials, such as Brett Lawrie and Colby Rasmus. We know he is a firm believer in “sell-high, buy-low,” and that’s why I believe there is a better chance Eric Thames gets traded before Aaron Hill.
But most importantly, we know he is one of most dedicated general managers in the league and studies his surroundings well. The Blue Jays would have never had Anthony Gose if it were not for him knowing of the Phillies-Astros deal. Furthermore, he pounces on situations where unease is present within a clubhouse due to player-manager rifts, and he is willing to give such players a fresh start. I would not be surprised to see him pursue Gordon Beckham or even Hanley Ramirez.
I am just waiting for the next star to fall out of favour with his respective team. Last year was Escobar, this year has been Rasmus and next year will be…