Blue Jays restructure baseball operations department


Toronto Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro. (Marta Iwanek/CP)

TORONTO – Years of grooming in the successful Boston Red Sox scouting department offered “an added benefit,” but not the tipping point in the naming of Steve Sanders as the Toronto Blue Jays’ new amateur scouting director.

The Northwestern University graduate’s hiring was announced Thursday, along with a promotion for Joe Sheehan from director of analytics to assistant GM, and a switch from pro scouting director to special assistant to the general manager for Perry Minasian.

Sanders emerged from an initial list of 50 names after the Blue Jays considered possible candidates both in and out of the industry. Sanders had served as the Red Sox’s assistant director, amateur scouting since the beginning of 2015, and takes over from Brian Parker, who was fired in August after four solid drafts.

“What we were looking for were a couple of things,” general manager Ross Atkins said in an interview. “One, would be somebody who would align with our values; and secondarily, someone who would complement Tony LaCava (the assistant GM Sanders will report to) very well, and then ultimately overarching was the best person for the job description.”

Sanders interned in the baseball operations department of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2009 and ’10 before joining the Red Sox in the same role in 2011. The next year he was hired full time as an assistant, amateur and international scouting and in 2014, was promoted to co-ordinator, amateur and international scouting.

He joins fellow Red Sox alumnus Mike Murov, hired as director of baseball operations in January, and Ben Cherington, named vice-president baseball operations earlier this month.

Sheehan has taken on more responsibility since new president and CEO Mark Shapiro took over last November, and the promotion is his second in less than 12 months.

“He’ll oversee our analytics department, oversee our professional scouting department,” said Atkins. “He’ll be more involved in every process we have across baseball operations than he was as an analyst. Now instead of contributing to, whether it is a hiring process or decision-making for our 25-man roster, he’ll be helping us lead some of that process. Really, what it’s come down to is he’s demonstrated a great deal of leadership, and taking on responsibility we didn’t ask him to take on.”

The Blue Jays are likely to hire someone to cover for Minasian’s old role as pro scouting director, although changes are expected in the way the department operates.

The Blue Jays want their pro scouting information “funnelling into Joe because of his expertise with not only information, but his expertise working with and collaborating with multiple departments and integrating a lot of subjective and objective information.”

Minasian, who played a key role in identifying Jason Grilli as a trade target, will have a wider scope of responsibilities now.

“We want him touching every acquisition level more frequently from an evaluative standpoint,” said Atkins. “He’s exceptional at understanding the industry, knowing every single player that comes in and out of major league baseball, has a great feel for amateur, has some feel for international, certainly understands minor-league baseball and has a great feel for the talent available. We felt like getting him out more and evaluating more that we could better gather information.”

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