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Photo Credit: Keith Allison/Flickr - Wikimedia Commons

Alex Anthopoulos Will Be the Next GM Of the Atlanta Braves

Alex Anthopoulos. Remember that guy? Well, according to Joel Sherman, he’s got himself a new gig:

The confirmation comes on the heels of Sherman’s Sunday evening report for the New York Post that the Braves had made the former Jays’ GM the top choice to lead their organization… uh… after Royals’ GM Dayton Moore, who was refused permission to interview for the job by his club.

“Former Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos is the perceived front-runner to become the next general manager of the scandal-wrecked Braves, according to three sources,” Sherman wrote. He also told us that Atlanta’s president of baseball operations, John Hart (interestingly, Mark Shapiro’s former boss and predecessor as Cleveland’s GM), apparently favoured Anthopoulos over Jim Hendry, the former Cubs GM who has lately been serving as a special assistant to the Yankees’ Brian Cashman and was also on the shortlist.

Also interestingly, as MLBTR notes, Alex “turned down offers from the Twins and Diamondbacks last year when the two clubs were in the midst of their own GM searches. Family concerns were reportedly behind Anthopoulos’ decision to bow out of those searches, as he didn’t want to uproot his young children from the west coast so quickly.”

A little over a year ago, Anthopoulos commented on the Twins offer to Jeff Blair and Stephen Brunt, explaining:

“I’m not the type to want to jump around my family all the time,” Anthopoulos said, explaining that his kids just started school this week and have settled into life in Southern California. “Otherwise if we thought L.A. was going to be a place-holder or be in a holding pattern, we would have stayed in Toronto and just waited around for other opportunities. But that’s not what the plan was.”

Yet the Braves job, even with penalties possibly coming due to the international amateur free agent rules broken by since-fired GM John Coppolella, evidently was too good to pass up. And to that I say, good for him! He’ll have a whole lot of people in this country rooting for him, myself included.

I mean… I might not be rooting for him quite as hard as some of the people I’ve seen on Twitter out there whose memories apparently don’t extend beyond July 29th, 2015, *COUGH* but it’s much deserved, and undeniably nice to see him back in the game — and to see another Canadian at the helm of a big league club.

Next comes the speculation about which holdover members of the current Jays front office will join him, which is certainly a possibility — maybe even a strong one, as Robert Murray of Fan Rag suggests (adding that “Blue Jays people still rave about Anthopoulos”).

I could simply leave this post at that, but because I have a sickness when it comes to this stuff, I feel I also must suggest that perhaps this means we can finally rid ourselves of one of the earliest myths about Alex’s departure, and his eventual move to a lesser role in the Dodgers’ front office, which is that, since his move to L.A. was very clearly not about having final say on baseball decisions — which would have been the situation had he stayed in Toronto, too — there must have been something in particular about working for the dastardly Mark Shapiro that drove the golden boy out.

Here’s something I wrote when Alex first went to the Dodgers:

The critical point over which Anthopoulos left the Blue Jays, it has been stated many times, was autonomy. That doesn’t mean that money wasn’t an issue, or the Jays’ weak initial offer wasn’t an issue. But it also doesn’t mean, now that he’s taken a job where he doesn’t have anything resembling final say on baseball decisions, that — oho! — it must have been evil cartoon villain Mark Shapiro who is just so utterly repellent, or so willing to do Rogers’ cost-slashing bidding, that it drove the noble Alex off.

That’s not to suggest that they must have been over the moon at the prospect of working with each other, because obviously they weren’t. I’m just saying that it’s awfully problematic to get hung up on autonomy in the abstract, when it seems to me is that this was more about autonomy in this specific situation. Had he stayed on as GM, the Blue Jays, going forward, were going to carry Alex’s name. That roster would be the first and most important item on his resume. To hand final say over that to Shapiro? To anybody, really? That would understandably have been tough for a guy who had made the team for himself, with little oversight in terms of personnel decisions coming from Paul Beeston. Balking at the removal of his autonomy there makes sense.

But to mistake that for him only being willing to work in the industry with complete autonomy? I don’t think that was ever what we were talking about, nor would it have been realistic of him. But what that means, then, is that taking this job in Los Angeles as a subordinate doesn’t necessarily lend credence to this notion that it must have been something else — it must have been the dream-crushing Mark Shapiro, professional ruiner of all that is right and decent!

That still seems about right to me. Granted, in February 2016, Shapiro told Steve Phillips of TSN that Alex had told him “you should have the person you want in here, and I’m just being forced on you, and that’s not fair to you or me,” which is a pretty damned simple and reasonable explanation for his departure, too. But it certainly hasn’t hurt Anthopoulos here that it’s Shapiro and Ross Atkins who have mostly worn the results of the far-from-perfect payroll and roster situations they inherited. And one wonders if he had been in Atkins place this whole time, and the Jays’ last two seasons had gone essentially the same way, and he didn’t have the shine of Dodgers’ great season on him, would the Braves have been quite so eager to call? I’m not sure they would have.

Which is to say: Alex is shrewd, man. He’s no dummy. The Braves have got themselves a good one. Look out, shitty NL East! White Flight Park is gonna be a-rockin’ real soon!

  • Ethan Kelly

    Man, I can’t wait for all the ‘screw shitpiro’ fuck boys to have a field day when Anothopoulos and Braves to turn it around thanks to that gold mine of a farm system presented to him and inevitably make comparisons to his success and the current regime.

  • AD

    Would things have been the same the last few years if AA was here? Maybe, but he always striked me as much more bold and proactive than shapkins. I think a few more trades would have been completed to try and improve the team

  • Brown Magic

    HOLY SHIT Alex Anthopoulos is the new GM of the Braves!!?! They’re going to be really good in 6 years. Kidding Braves aint no 2nd rate team you getting canned long before it gets that far. AL Executive of 2015 should get drastically better results in the NL East though. Good luck and trade Freddie Freeman to the Jays fam

  • drunk man walking

    “worn the results of the far-from-perfect payroll and roster situations they inherited”. What they inherited was substantial obligations for 2016 Tulo, Dickey, JD’s arb, Jose, and EE, Martin, but clearly JD, EE, and Jose looked like bargains, and Martin at 15, and Dickey at 12 were not horrible, and Tulo was similar to Reyes who he replaced. But more importantly, by the start of the 2018 off season that number was pared to 2, Martin and Tulo, as all of the others had expired. So what the less than ideal payroll and roster situation is that after 1 year, you are stuck with only 2 not great contract obligations and a clean slate to shape the team as you wish, with $170M or $50M extra to spend. Unfortunately you do not have Norris, Boyd and Hoffman and a few more lesser lights or Reyes for that matter. Somehow that does not seem worse than the utter chaos in Atlanta. The real difference though is that anyone is viewed as an improvement there, and almost any change will be an improvement. Shapiro looked to be inheriting a similar situation. Unfortunately for him that changed to great expectations of continued wonderfulness here where any change would be for the worse. AA’s greatest indignity to Shapiro was the playoff run, not the trades.

    • ErnieWhitt

      Agreed – this was my small quibble as well. I don’t know too many incoming front offices who don’t have any “problems” left over from the previous regime. As far as the Blue Jays were concerned, its not like AA left the team devastated. They made the playoffs and although they have some contract obligations, AA also left a couple gems untouched in terms of prospects, even though at the time much was made about all of the young players sent away. I think we probably would all agree that the only trade we would want to really undo from his tenure is the RA Dickey deal- and even then only to magically repossess Noah Syndergaard. Mots of the other deals (off the top of my head) really didn’t cost the Jays all that much.

      • ErnieWhitt

        I would also add that while I’m not anti-Shapiro in any way, he had a season in which choices were made to reshape the roster. He didn’t wear the poor results left by AA last season. It wasn’t Alex who moved on from Edwin to Morales. It wasn’t Alex who went to a value grab like Pearce instead of some other solution in LF. Shapiro could have walked away from Bautista and chose not to. I’m not saying those decisions and others like it were flat out mistakes – but they were Shapiro’s decisions, and I have a hard time seeing how having Tulo and Martin on the roster are some incredible handicap that couldn’t be overcome by shrewed management elsewhere.

        • Don’t forget, though, that they had to spend in areas where they might not have because of the lost depth. Would they have signed Happ, re-signed Estrada, or traded for Liriano had they still had Norris and Hoffman, et al.? Maybe, maybe not, but they would have certainly had different options there. And sure, Norris and Hoffman and the other young arms certainly wouldn’t have performed as well as the guys they went with (Happ and Estrada have just been so good, and Liriano was great in 2016), but it’s not just one or the other, it’s one or the other *plus a whole bunch money*.

          Happ, Estrada, Storen, and Chavez cost over $30M combined in 2016. You’re right, the team was far from devastated, but having to pay FA prices to fill in gaps because you traded cheap depth does end up having effects all the way down the chain. I don’t think we can look at it as simply as there only being Tulo and Martin on the books from AA and the rest of it is choices made by Shapiro. To try to remain competitive without a whole load of young, cheap talent is difficult, but that’s what Shapiro and Atkins have been essentially forced to do by the situation they inherited. There was a very high likelihood that at some point it was going to have to get ugly because of all that, and it’s hard to pin that all on the new guys, because it was a path that was started down well before they got here.

          • ErnieWhitt

            I totally agree that the AA’s 2015 choices limited the options available to Shapiro in 2016 and beyond. Its definitely true that in paying for Happ et al., they didn’t have that money to spend elsewhere. I just don’t look around MLB and see too many teams that don’t have the same issue. Obviously Houston exists – but if a theoretical GM were to assume control of just about every other franchise in baseball they would have 1 or 2 moves that if they could dial the clock back they would stop their predecessor from making – not because they were the wrong move at the time, but because in hindsight they would prefer to make a different move down the line.

            I think ultimately I don’t agree that Shapiro and Atkins have been “forced” to try to remain competitive without young, cheap players. AA certainly dealt away some you players who could have been useful, but its not like he dealt young players who would have replaced the guys who got old or are now getting there (Bautista, EE, Martin etc.). Adding Tulo to the mix has definitely added to the greyness of the roster, but he replaced a guy who was equally old.

            Underneath it all I think I see Shapiro and Atkins having had more agency in their time with the Jays. You said that they’ve had to try to remain competitive without a barrage of young players, but I guess my point is that they don’t *have* to try to win and rebuild at the same time. The rebuild is tricky because they’ve been winning – which is the another legacy they were left with. If they wanted flexibility they could have easily dealt Donaldson last season, avoided Pearce and Morales and started fresh. That would have been incredibly unpopular – but still an option. So that is what I was thinking – that yes, the deals AA made set the Jays on a path that wasn’t the choice of the new FO. I just think that instead of making the tough choice to correct what they saw as an error in roster construction, the chose to make it worse by staying the course, signing more old guys like Morales and Pearce and trying to win and rebuild at the same time.

            That said – it may just work and if it does it might just be because of another legacy they inherited from AA: Vladito.

          • The Original Mark

            I’d argue that when you leave the next regime with potentially 2 elite starters and a closer in their pre-arb years, one of the top 5 players in the game in his arbitration years, and the top position player prospect in baseball, you owe them nothing else. That’s way better than most new regimes inherit.

          • Torontoguy

            There are 2 issues with trading prospects
            1) As you mentioned, having cheap players to fill minor positions is extremely important and allows you to spend elsewhere. The value of WAR/$ of pre-arbitration players is almost always great and for free agents almost always awful. It is actually near impossible to win now without a group of talented pre-arbitration players. So you look at the Marlins trade which most Jays fan view as neutral but the Jays ended up gaining a few WAR over a few years but spending an extra what, hundreds of millions of dollars to get it?
            2) The issue almost everyone misses with trading prospects is that it doesn’t really matter much how they turn out, it matters much more what the value was at the time you traded them. So even if Hoffman and Norris never do anything, the Jays had an elite prospect and a very good prospect and for that price they are now left with one unmovable contract. That is terrible asset management. For example, if the Jays traded Vladdy for Adrian Gonzalez and Gonzalez has a 0.1 WAR year and Vladdy doesn’t make it to the majors, was it a good trade because the Jays got more value? According to the general thinking of baseball fans, it is, but in reality it is awful . The Jays under Alex gave up a tremendous number of prospects and apart from the amazing Donaldson trade, didn’t really get anything valuable long-term back. The Jays could have used Norris and Hoffman to fill places in their rotation OR they could have traded them for valuable assets. This, to my understanding, is what upset Shapiro so much when he came on. Not that Alex was trading prospects, but that he was trading prospects while getting only very short-term value back. Shapiro rightly saw the cost of these moves and that cost is this team we have now.

          • drunk man walking

            Toronto guy, you are both right and wrong. The flaw in your argument is the assumption that all wins provide equal value to the club. When a team makes the playoffs it provides a massive infusion of cash into the organization. the playoff run has brought an extra 2 million or more fans into the building, buying tickets and beer. The reason that the payroll is $170 is that there is revenue available because of the attendance and viewership. This is sports business 101 stuff researched, and written about. The value of wins to a franchise fluctuates, and the cost is fairly stable. The return for a win is up to 4 times its cost around getting into the playoffs (90 wins), and below low 80’s wins does not return to the club what it cost them to buy. The assumption that the only thing to consider in purchasing a win is the cost of the win and the likelihood of getting that win is not correct.

          • Torontoguy

            @drunk man walking. I agree not all wins are equal but there’s also a couple of downsides with this way of thinking. First, the Jays won 93 games. The Yankees came in second with 87. There were a lot of ways to get extra wins without sacrificing so much of the future or getting a more long-term piece back. Second, is that you still have to think long-term. If the Jays had been built better with a consistent vision, instead of the team going all in pretty much every year, they would very likely have been in a better place to compete last year, this year, next year, etc…So, yes, getting to the playoffs causes a big spike in revenue but that spike doesn’t have to happen in any given year. A team built like the Jays were built ’83-’94 would gain a lot more revenue than this team will.

          • drunk man walking

            Toronto guy. The trades were made at mid season when the Jays were a .500 team. So reasoning over a full season doesn’t really work. They had to play like a 100 win team to make the playoffs. As I see it Price was brought in to upgrade the teams 5th starter position (actually 6th since Stroman was already on the DL), because that is who he replaced. He started 11 games, and the Jays won 9 of them. Now we all know the perils of assigning wins to pitchers, but I will argue till the cows come home that if some combination of Boyd, Norris, Doubront, Redmond, and Scott Cropland who were the other depth pieces who started for the Jays that season had started those games, there is a very good chance that we lose 9 of those games and are not in the playoffs. Without Price this doesn’t work. The big thing about this type of pitcher rental is that it is not about counting WAR, it is about who they replace, which is always the 5th starter, and that is a huge swing in win probability if the quality of the 5th starter is as from that list at that time.

      • drunk man walking

        Obviously anyone would want a redo on the Dickey for Thor swap, but if you look back at the parade of pitchers who went down after ’13, pitchers who looked to be solid who turned to DL candidates, Morrow, Hutch, Romero, Johnson, Happ etc etc I cannot imagine where we would have been without the 30-34 starts of 6 innings that both Dickey and Beuhrle paraded out there year after year. One thing about Thole and Dickey is that they showed up every 5th day, whether we wanted them to or not.

        • El Cabeza

          in 2013 and 2014 the Jays didn’t make the postseason with all Dickey’s 6 inning starts, so what difference would it make if him and his caddie weren’t there?

          They Jays did make it to the ALCS in both 2015 and 2016 and Dickey was left off the postseason roster (for the most part). Don’t you think they’d be better off with Noah Syndergaard in the rotation during those years? He posted 3.1WAR over 150 innings in 2015 and 6.4 WAR over 183 innings in 2016.

          Are you ready to revise your revisionist history now?

          • drunk man walking

            My first sentence was …”Obviously anyone would want a redo on the Dickey for Thor swap”….are you suggesting I revise that statement. I was merely commenting on the terrible luck with health the Jays had WRT pitchers in those years. Sort of like this year for the Jays….and Mets…

          • Tomcat34

            So your saying with your hindsight glasses it was wrong to do the trade. What I’m saying is I was glad we were picking up a Cy Young that looked like he had figured everything out for himself. The clue at the time was that most pitchers coming off a Cy Young year would be looking for a contract paying 20 Mil at the time and Dickey was only looking for 10 Mil average. He knew then that he wasn’t going to look like Cy again but he still ate lots of innings and was good to have around even with his caddie. If you can get another pair of those glasses I would be interested.

        • ErnieWhitt

          I’m not saying Dickey was overly bad – just that Thor is truly the one young player lost in trade that I would care much to have back. Dickey provided a service that was valuable even if it wasn’t what we hoped for when AA dealt youth for a Cy Young winner.

        • Tomcat34

          Alex traded away 20 to 30 prospects and the only prospect that hurts is Thor. That’s pretty good. I’m not suggesting that Alex knew that they weren’t going pan out . He understands that you have to give something to get something. It’s just that Alex’s idea that prospects don’t always make it, so it can be worth it to trade a few shiny maybe’s for the sure thing really seems to have merit and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him do it again in Atlanta

  • Player to Be Named Later

    May the great debate be settled once and for all, when we kick the shit out of the Braves in the 2021 World Series!

    Happy for Alex. Wish him the best. But I’m a loyal soldier: ergo, Team Shapiro! (… until the next guy, at which point it I’ll be firmly committed to “Team That Guy!!”)

  • sons

    I don’t think he left over Shapiro entirely – more like Shapiro + Rogers. He really may have been sick of Roger’s crap. And when people complain about him emptying the farm (that he stocked in the first place) they never seem to consider what pressures he may have had from Rogers. Rogers had no idea how popular their own team was until AA showed them. Blemishes and all, he had the biggest balls of any GM that’s been here.