It’s been a rough season in Toronto, to say the least. After acquiring multiple All-Stars in the offseason, the Blue Jays have reminded us (once again) that World Series aren’t won in the winter. In fact, at 66-76, the Blue Jays sit comfortably in last place in the AL East.
As a native New Yorker, I’m used to seeing people fired after their team underperforms like the Jays have this year. Former Yankees owner George Steinbrenner certainly “let a few people go over the years.” So does this mean it’s time for Toronto’s general manager, Alex Anthopoulos, to start updating his resume?
Probably not. According to Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com, Anthopoulos “appears to have the full backing of president Paul Beeston along with the Rogers Communications ownership group, and that’s unlikely to change for at least the foreseeable future.” Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports agrees, writing that Toronto’s GM “won’t pay for the disastrous 2013 with his job.”
But of course, that doesn’t address the question I asked in the headline. I’m not a Blue Jays fan or beat writer, so I don’t care too much whether or not Anthopoulos stays with the club; I’m much more interested in if he deserves to. Answering that question will require a little bit more work than just a simple Google search.
The Case Against Anthopoulos: Despite being one of the most highly-regarded executives in baseball over the past couple of years, Anthopoulos hasn’t really produced tangible results for the Blue Jays.
He was promoted to general manager following the 2009 season, which saw the Blue Jays finish fourth in the AL East at 75-87. Toronto’s records in the seasons since he took over: 85-77, 81-81, 73-89, and now 66-76 with 20 games left to play. In other words, after some mild improvement in his first year, the Blue Jays have steadily regressed under their current GM.
In some ways, Anthopoulos has also damaged the long-term future of the team. During the last offseason, he traded away promising young players such as Travis d’Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard, Adeiny Hechavarria, Jake Marisnick, and Henderson Alvarez. In return, Toronto got R.A. Dickey (4.29 ERA this year), Josh Johnson (pitching at below replacement level), Jose Reyes (who’s missed about half the season with injuries), Mark Buehrle (the only decent player of the bunch), and that’s pretty much it. Even if those guys bounce back next year, that infamous trade might ironically be lopsided after all…in Miami’s favor.
Other lowlights include trading Mike Napoli, signing Melky Cabrera, and giving away Roy Halladay in 2010 for what turned out to be a pretty underwhelming haul.
The Case for Anthopoulos: While the results so far under Anthopoulos have been disappointing, he’s still done plenty of things right.
We’ll start with the Vernon Wells trade, which made Anthopoulos a folk hero among baseball nerds prior to the 2011 season. By shipping Wells to the Angels, Anthopoulos saved the Blue Jays $86 million over four years. The trade would’ve been even better for Toronto if it had held onto Napoli, but alas…this happened.
Still, Anthopoulos continued to make smart moves after the Wells trade. It took some incredible guts and foresight for him to extend Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion after their respective breakout seasons, and those contracts now look like bargains for Toronto. Toronto’s acquisition of Colby Rasmus at the 2011 trade deadline helped the Cardinals win the 2011 World Series, but it also gave Toronto a player who’s still just 27 years old and has a 4.0 WAR in 2013.
In addition, we have to consider what Anthopoulos hasn’t done: namely, burden the Blue Jays with a bunch of expensive, long-term deals for useless players. The signing of Cabrera this offseason is probably Anthopoulos’ biggest free-agent mistake, yet it will cost Toronto only $16 million over two years.
Conclusion: It seems to me that Anthopoulos has been doing all the right things, but has caught some bad luck. The Blue Jays have enough talent on their roster to turn things around in 2014, and their GM should have a chance to take some of the credit if it happens.