Current Braves and former Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos joined MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand for a wide-ranging podcast chat. It’s a great listen in full for fans of either of those organizations or anyone interested in learning more about Anthopoulos’s path in the game.
Anthopoulos opened up on some key elements of his time in Toronto now that a few years have passed. He served as GM there from 2010 to 2015 before moving on to a stint with the Dodgers front office and then landing the GM gig in Atlanta last fall.
While the end to his perch atop the Jays’ baseball ops department was obviously bittersweet, particularly as it came right on the heels of a bitter ALCS loss, Anthopoulos also made abundantly clear that he feels no ill will at all toward current club president Mark Shapiro. Rather, he says, the fit just did not seem optimal and he elected not to sign a five-year offer to remain.
Anthopoulos answered a bevy of questions about some of the key deals swung during his tenure, going all the way back to the organization’s admitted good fortune of landing of pre-breakout stars in Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista. Of note, he acknowledged — as he was not really willing to do at the time — that Bautista might not have been extended in early 2011 had it not been for the earlier swap that took Vernon Wells’s extension off the books. (Anthopoulos also acknowledged feeling some unease after many big moves, including the Bautista extension and even the acquisition of Josh Donaldson.)
There’s plenty more historical examination in the chat, including the recruitment of Russell Martin. That deal went down when the Jays decided to offer an additional season and $8MM in guaranteed money, boosting the organization’s offer over the four-year, $74MM scenarios that other teams had dangled. Among other memorable moves, Anthopoulos explains the trade deadline double-play that landed Troy Tulowitzki (link) and David Price (link). That mid-season, go-for-it maneuver came about because the team (correctly) believed it had a rare chance at a big run if only it could shore up its run prevention.
Anthopoulos says he received interest from a number of clubs after deciding to leave the Jays, but his decision ultimately boiled down to one between the Astros and Dodgers. In the end, he cites his longstanding relationships with president of baseball ops Andrew Friedman and GM Farhan Zaidi as the primary decisions to choose the opportunity presented by the Dodgers.
Likewise, in moving on to Atlanta, Anthopoulos said he was convinced not only of the state of the organization’s resources but also that it’d be enjoyable to work under team chairman Terry McGuirk. The international signing scandal that opened the GM seat cost the organization some prospects, but Anthopoulos suggests that does not change the overall trajectory of the team, which he says is loaded with young talent.
The Braves certainly have not engaged in a ton of momentous dealmaking since Anthopoulos took over, but he did discuss the massive salary-swapping arrangement he worked out with the Dodgers. It helped, he acknowledged, that he had just been with the Los Angeles organization, as he knew its intentions and had plenty of trust with its leadership. While both sides explored other possibilities before pulling the trigger on the deal, Anthopoulos says it was the “only deal that was going to make sense” for the Braves involving Matt Kemp.
Moving Kemp to clear the way for the eventual call-up of Ronald Acuna was the “number one priority from a player standpoint,’ says Anthopoulos. Reallocating salary commitments to the 2018 season functioned to create ample “financial flexibility” for the organization moving forward. It seems the goal for the coming season is to develop and assess young players before deciding whether and how the organization “might need those dollars” it freed for the future.
At spring camp, Anthopoulos says, he’s focused on getting to know the young players who are vying to become parts of the organization’s future. Some, he acknowledges, may end up being traded. The spring offers a chance to gain new insight on the “human element,” Anthopoulos says, calling that one of the many elements he has gained additional appreciation for over his decades in the game.