Sometimes I get a sneaking suspicion that Alex Anthopolous isn't the kind of boss who would run extensive background checks on his employees.
Not to suggest the Blue Jays' General Manager is in the wrong, as his method of turning one team's disgruntled trash into Canadian treasure has blessed baseball's final frontier north of the border with an unlikely, but promising core assembled through some of the league's shrewdest displays of bargain hunting.
To announce his arrival, Anthopolous took longtime ace Roy Halladay and made him a member of the Philadelphia Phillies startling collection of superstar hurlers in exchange for top prospects Travis D'Arnaud, a catcher, and Kyle Drabek, the son of former Cy Young winner Doug and a pitcher with ace-like potential on his own.
Before the pieces of his blockbuster deal were finalized, however, he had turned the third piece, outfielder Michael Taylor, into Oakland A's first baseman Brett Wallace and flipped Wallace to the Houston Astros for the speedy, defensive whiz minor league project Anthony Gose.
In the summer of 2010, the second-chance GM flipped his team's shortstop, Alex Gonzalez to the Atlanta Braves, who had run out of patience with their youngster at short, Yunel Escobar. In turn, Escobar rewarded his new boss's faith in him by upping his numbers to the tune of .275/.340/.356 upon arriving and then carried his improved production into the 2011 season, posting a line of .290/.369/.413 before getting hurt in September.
This offseason AA took what some considered to be another gamble by rewarding the breakout superstar of 2010, third baseman/outfielder Jose Bautista, with a long term contract after his 54 home run season. All Bautista has done since then is become arguably the American League's best hitter, batting over .300 with an on-base percentage above .400 and a .611 slugging percentage to match his 42 homers in 2011.
Not done yet, the progressive-minded GM somehow managed to find a partner in Los Angeles willing to pay for Vernon Wells's government-bailout-sized contract just in time to watch the bottom start falling out on the overpriced outfielder's career.
And then he gave the Milwaukee Brewers the kind of starting pitcher they craved (Shaun Marcum) in exchange for a power hitting Canadian star-in-the-making, third baseman Brett Lawrie, to pair up in the lineup with Bautista.
As July 31st approached in the 2011 season nobody expected the Jays front office to be an active player in the deadline deal market—considering their cozy spot at a distant 4th place behind the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays in baseball's crown jewel division, the American League East.
But that's exactly what Anthopolous was, first acquiring Edwin Jackson from the White Sox and then exploiting the St. Louis Cardinals' need for starting pitching, along with manager Tony La Russa's ongoing frustrations with Colby Rasmus, to acquire the five-tool center fielder.
In late August the Jays found a contender in a bit of a crisis, as the NL West leading Arizona Diamondbacks had just lost their shortstop for the rest of the year to an injury, so the team generously sent a chunk of its middle infield, shortstop John McDonald and second baseman Aaron Hill, to the desert in exchange for D'Backs second baseman Kelly Johnson.
Now Anthopolous has the option to let Johnson walk at the end of the season and pick up a compensatory draft pick in exchange for his one month of service to the franchise, or he could simply improve the Hill's old stomping grounds, both offensively and with the glove, by banking on a return to form and re-signing KJ on the cheap.
With top prospect D'Arnaud on the fast track to the majors, Anthopolous might have one more potential trick up his sleeve, as the catching position is already held down by promising rookie J.P. Arencibia.
If one of these two backstops can be taught the ropes at first base, though, all of a sudden the smoke-and-mirrors power swing of Adam Lind will be expendable, and the Jays will again have the green light to go on the trade hunt, this time maybe for a starting pitcher who can help staff ace Ricky Romero the weight of the rotation.
In the era of Billy Beane and Theo Epstein it's getting better every day to be a Jays fan, knowing the next big creative genius is making brilliant baseball moves in their own backyard.