Despite the fact that Alex Anthopoulos has been gone for a few years now, some Blue Jays fans are still bothered by seeing his work in Atlanta, especially his signing of Josh Donaldson yesterday.
We had a few exciting years of baseball in Toronto, didn’t we? I understand that for some fans it’s not easy to let go of an era that include recent franchise favourites like Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson, and Edwin Encarnacion among others, but that’s the cyclical nature of baseball in the big leagues unfortunately.
Some of us are excited about the next generation of this franchise, especially with the likes of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Danny Jansen, and many more on the cusp of the big leagues, and hopefully MLB stardom. With the number three ranked minor league system in baseball, there is a lot to be optimistic about even if the rebuild is likely going to take a couple of years at least.
However, there’s another section of the fanbase that understandably longs for the past, as is the case with any professional sports franchise. There’s always the thought from some folks of “the last guy we had did it better”, regardless of what may be taking place. In most cases there might even be some truth to certain elements of that statement, even if the overall work from the new leadership has been mostly positive as well.
That’s exactly how things will be with Alex Anthopoulos for some fans, at least until this new front office group can guide the team back to the playoffs. Anthopoulos was the GM at the helm in 2015 when the Blue Jays broke their more than two decade long postseason drought, and many of us remember him for being the guy who went for it and traded for David Price and Troy Tulowitzki, among others.
It’s easy to think about Anthopoulos and his bold moves in his final season and wonder how he would have guided this team through 2016-18. However, make no mistake, the Blue Jays were getting older and the run was going to end eventually, even if it could have been prolonged a little better with some different decisions over the last few years. We’ll never know that for sure, but I understand why some fans get caught up in thinking that way, as it happens to me too on occasion.
It’s also understandable that some fans lament the loss of Josh Donaldson, especially after seeing him re-unite with Anthopoulos in Atlanta. I completely understand that as well, and there’s an argument that Atkins and Mark Shapiro may have mishandled the Donaldson situation earlier this year, but that hardly matters now.
The reality is, the third base job is going to be Vladimir Guerrero Jr’s at some point early in 2019. Even if he can’t handle it in the long term, there are several talented infielders coming up in the system that project to be big league assets and potential third baseman. In addition to Guerrero Jr., the short term has options like Brandon Drury, Richard Urena, Yangervis Solarte (if he’s still around), or even Russell Martin. In the long term there are the likes of Cavan Biggio, Kevin Smith, or Jordan Groshans, among others.
Donaldson was and potentially is still an MVP calibre player, but that doesn’t mean he necessarily made sense in Toronto for the long term. The Blue Jays also could have probably paid him the 23 million he’ll get from Atlanta next season as well, but you can’t blame ownership for being reluctant after the return on investment they received in 2018 for his last contract in Toronto. As much as the way things resolved wasn’t ideal and I hate to admit it, a split between the two parties ultimately makes the most sense.
However, for Anthopoulos and the Braves he’s the right kind of risk to take for an emerging young club who arrived in the playoffs a year or two earlier than anyone expected. While it’s tough for Blue Jays fans to think about the idea of AA and Donaldson teaming up to qualify for the NL postseason next season, that shouldn’t be linked to anything that’s going on in Toronto other than wishing some former Blue Jays well elsewhere. The two are separate, and that’s okay.
For that same reason, I hope that those fans that grow frustrated watching the Braves thrive in the NL East can be happy for Anthopoulos, and not lament his loss in Toronto. Atlanta had an extremely talented minor league system that included Ronald Acuna, Ozzie Albies, and many more when he took the job, so he’s been set up well. He’s also been smart with the majority of his moves though too, which also factors into Atlanta’s success.
However, the more I watch what Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro are building in Toronto, the more I like it. It may take a few years before the Blue Jays are ready to truly challenge for the playoffs again, but they should be very good in a few years when their young talent gets some MLB experience. It may not be ideal to watch old friends thrive in another market, but in this case I hope we can all just be happy for Donaldson and Anthopoulos and wish them well in Atlanta.
At least they’re not in the AL East.