Former Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos didn’t think a return to Toronto would be the right fit. He has found what he thinks will be a better match with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The National League West division champions announced Tuesday that Anthopoulos has been hired as the team’s vice-president of baseball operations. He joins a loaded front office that includes president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, senior VP of baseball operations Josh Byrnes — both former GMs — and current GM Farhan Zaidi.
"It’s really exciting for me because I do think it’s a great fit," Anthopoulos said on a conference call. "And I do think I’m going to improve myself just being with them day in and day out."
After building a Blue Jays team that made its first playoff appearance in 22 years and came within two wins of a World Series appearance, Anthopoulos surprised many fans and baseball observers last October by declining a contract offer to return.
Team president Paul Beeston retired a few days later and was replaced by former Indians executive Mark Shapiro. Anthopoulos was eventually succeeded by Ross Atkins, who spent several years in Cleveland with Shapiro.
Over the last two months, Anthopoulos said he had good conversations with a number of clubs and a few media opportunities as well. He added some teams felt like he might only be there for a short period if a GM opportunity came up elsewhere, but Anthopoulos noted Tuesday that he did not approach this process with a short-term mindset.
When the opportunity to work for the Dodgers presented itself, he talked it over with his family and decided it would be the right move.
"My focus is not at all on any other positions, any other jobs," he said. "I would be thrilled if this is where I spend the next 20 years of my career."
Anthopoulos will assist in all aspects of baseball operations with the Dodgers. He’ll be working in the team office daily with Zaidi — a native of Sudbury, Ont., — and Friedman to try to improve the club.
"I think the role will evolve a little bit but I think just with my past experiences, I can help them both out with anything that they might need," Anthopoulos said.
The 38-year-old Montreal native joins a perennial contender in the big-spending Dodgers, who have won three straight division titles. Los Angeles had a 92-70 record last season and fell to the New York Mets in the National League Division Series.
"Really the people that work here were the main draw," Anthopoulos said. "There were a few organizations that I spoke to that I respected as well and I think it would have been a great environment and a great dynamic. But the ability to work with Andrew and Farhan and Josh and everybody that’s here, I think, one, it’s an opportunity for me to be in a great environment."
"I think I’m also going to learn from those guys as well and that’s one thing that you don’t stop in this game," he added. "If you can surround yourself with people that are really smart and really accomplished, I’m going to be able to get better. I think from my experiences and what I’ve been through, I expect to be able to help out as well.
"So that’s really what it came down to more than anything else. I really believe in the guys that are here and I think it’s going to be a great environment for me to be in."
Anthopoulos plans to move his family to California this summer.
"We are thrilled to be bringing Alex on board," Friedman said in a release. "Farhan, Josh and myself all have long-standing relationships with him and believe his experience and perspective will be a tremendous asset to our organization."
The Blue Jays posted average results during most of Anthopoulos’s tenure until a series of trade-deadline moves last summer helped send the team on a second-half surge. The Blue Jays won the East Division crown and beat Texas in the American League Division Series before falling to Kansas City in the ALCS.
Anthopoulos, who spent 12 years with Toronto, first joined the club as a scouting co-ordinator. He was an assistant general manager before taking on the GM role in 2009.
He was named Major League Baseball executive of the year by the Sporting News on the same day he announced that he wouldn’t be returning to the Blue Jays. In Los Angeles, he’ll be reunited with Ismael Cruz, who served as his former special assistant and director of Latin American operations before joining the Dodgers last November.
Anthopoulos spent his first few years in the sport (2000-’03) in lower-level positions with the Montreal Expos.