Saturday, October 31, 2015

Off to a bad start in Toronto

It's quite the mess the Blue Jays are making of their offseason already.

You know the story of their 2015, at least in outline: The Jays, who hadn't as much as made the playoffs since their back-to-back World Series titles in 1992-93, won the AL East title, then bounced back from a 0-2 deficit to beat Texas in the division series before finally falling to Kansas City in the ALCS.

General manager Alex Anthopoulos largely built that roster. He'd held the job since 2009, reporting to team president Paul Beeston but essentially in charge of the baseball operations -- a setup akin to that in Minnesota, where Terry Ryan is under president Dave St. Peter in the organizational flow chart but in practice has the final say about the on-field product. St. Peter deals with the revenue, Ryan with the players.

But that was about to change in Toronto. Beeston was retiring, and the team ownership -- Rogers Communications -- had hired Mark Shapiro, former GM and at the time team president in Cleveland, to succeed Beeston. Shapiro was reportedly telling people around the game how happy he was to get to make baseball decisions again. Anthropoulos (and manager John Gibbons) were on the final years of their contracts. The stage was set for Shapiro to do whatever he wanted -- this offseason. For this season, Beeston was still the president and Anthropoulos was still the general manager.

Anthropoulos made a series of aggressive deadline trades this summer, sacrificing prospects to bring in Troy Tulowitzki, David Price and Ben Revere. Shaprio reportedly chewed him out afterwards for those trades. The Jays won the division title. Ownership offered Anthropoulos a five-year contract. He said no thanks and walked out the door.

Now ... Ed Rogers, the Jays chairman (essentially their Jim Pohlad) says Anthropoulos's role would have been unchanged. The only difference would be that he would be reporting to Shapiro rather than Beeston. If, as reported earlier, Shapiro was vocally displeased with the win-now trades, that may be a meaningless distinction. All Anthropoulos will say is that the job was no longer a "fit".

Shapiro takes over Monday as team president. He'll have no honeymoon; his reputation in Toronto is preset as the guy who chased out the general manager (a native Canadian, no less) who built the first Jays contender in more than two decades. And whoever makes the baseball decisions henceforth has to deal with the reality that two pieces of their postseason rotation -- Price and Marco Estrada -- are free agents this winter. Shapiro should be inheriting a good situation, but he's inheriting an unnecessary mess.

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