ORLANDO, Fla. – Alex Anthopoulos often talked about finding himself as a GM during the 2015 season with the Toronto Blue Jays, and over the past two years with the Los Angeles Dodgers, he saw first-hand how Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi, two executives he deeply admires, operate.
How he leverages that knowledge now that he’s in charge of the Atlanta Braves, a hiring that will be announced Monday according to an industry source, will be fascinating to watch in the months ahead.
Armed with some talented young players, a deep farm system, one of the game’s top prospects in Ronald Acuna and a new stadium part of a larger revenue-generating residential and entertainment complex, Anthopoulos is going to have lots of assets with which to weave his bold creativity.
In Atlanta he’ll reconnect with close friend Perry Minasian, the former pro scouting director with the Blue Jays who left in September to become director, player personnel with the Braves. The coaching staff includes two men he’s very familiar with – hitting coach Kevin Seitzer and catching coach Sal Fasano.
And though he arrives to an organization facing harsh sanctions from Major League Baseball, which is investigating multiple violations of the rules governing international free agency and the draft after former GM John Coppolella’s resignation, Anthopoulos is no stranger to sorting through dysfunction.
When he took over as interim Blue Jays GM on the penultimate day of the 2009 season at age 32, the clubhouse was in the midst of a revolt against manager Cito Gaston, Roy Halladay wanted a trade to the Philadelphia Phillies and the farm system had precious little to offer.
Working through that mess, the Montreal native manipulated the free agency process for compensatory draft picks to amass a stable of picks, quickly rebuilt the farm system and, in 2015, had one of the finest years any GM has ever pulled off. In the off-season he stole Josh Donaldson from Oakland, signed Russell Martin as a free agent and lifted Marco Estrada from Milwaukee before landing Vladimir Guerrero Jr., as an international free agent and getting Troy Tulowitzki, David Price, Ben Revere, Mark Lowe and LaTroy Hawkins at the trade deadline.
That’s why on Oct. 26, 2015, while wrapping up what turned out to be his final season three days before his still stunning resignation, Anthopoulos said: “I’m starting to hit my stride a little bit, I’m starting to understand some things a little more. “I feel very confident we’re going to have a certain type of player here going forward.”
And that is?
“Team-oriented, selfless, hard-nosed, smart in terms of on-field play, talented, athletic, good defensively,” he said. “Those are things I would expect us to have. It doesn’t mean it’s always going to work out, but those are things that are going to be prioritized here, and those are the types of clubs you’re going to see here.”
That vision belongs to the Braves now.
Here are some news and notes from the Waldorf Astoria, site of the general managers meetings:
• Eric Wedge, the Blue Jays’ minor-league field co-ordinator, interviewed for the New York Yankees’ managerial vacancy last week, an interesting development whether or not he gets the job.
When he was hired in January 2016, he was seen as the heir apparent to manager John Gibbons, although a second straight trip to the post-season and subsequent extension through 2018 with a 2019 option, settled that talk. Bench coach DeMarlo Hale is thought to be next in line, at least on an interim basis, should a change come this year with Gibbons, although the external interest in Wedge adds a potential wrinkle to that.
“It’s something I knew I wanted to do again at some point in time,” Wedge, who hasn’t managed since 2013, told New York media, including Newsday’s Erik Boland. “I just wasn’t sure when that opportunity might show itself.”
• The Blue Jays have built a list of potential candidates for their vacant quality control coach position “and are now doing the work on background, references and understanding the right fit, internally, externally, all that,” says GM Ross Atkins.
“We’ll take a little bit of time, but it’s definitely on a list of priorities for us.”
The position opened up last week when Derek Shelton left to become Paul Molitor’s bench coach with the Minnesota Twins. Shelton worked with the front office, coaching staff and all players on a number of different fronts and the job is expected to remain along those lines.
“It will be somewhat similar for sure, but ultimately don’t believe in filling holes, it’s ultimately acquiring talent and job descriptions,” says Atkins. “With every individual, skillsets are different and job descriptions should be different. For the most part it will be somewhat similar in how they impact and influence.”