A native of Montreal, QC who is fluently bilingual in English and French, Anthopoulos became interested in baseball in the early 1990s after seeing the Montréal Expos play at Olympic Stadium. After his father's passing, he realized that he wanted to do something that he loved for a living. He proceeded to call several Major League organizations, looking for a foot in the door. His chance came when he got a direct line to the Expos GM Jim Beattie's office in Florida. He offered to work for free doing something he loved, and he was given his chance. He worked in the media relations department with the Expos, and moved to their scouting department in 2001. In 2003, when the Expos' days in Montreal were numbered, he accepted a lower-paying job with Toronto in order to remain in Canada.
Anthopoulos came to the general manager's position with the Blue Jays with several years of experience in the world of baseball, starting with the Expos in 2000. He was hired by the former GM Ricciardi as a scouting coordinator for the Blue Jays in 2003, was promoted to assistant GM following the 2005 season, and was given the title of vice-president, baseball operations in January 2006. He also worked to help put together the Greek national team prior to the 2004 Olympics in Athens. He can speak some Greek and has joked on-air with local radio personalities about hosting a baseball show in Greek on the local multicultural channel, all of which are owned by the Rogers conglomerate who also own the Blue Jays.
Anthopoulos was largely praised when he took over the Blue Jays, as his policy of getting rid of some big contracts, particularly that of Vernon Wells and basing the team around star slugger Jose Bautista and a number of young players, many of which were acquired through some shrewd trades, was very popular with the fan base. The team played better than expected in 2011 and hopes were high when the team started 2012 well, staying in the division title chase over the first half in a bunched-up AL East. However things went sour in the second half, when Bautista was injured, as was young starter Brandon Morrow, and ace Ricky Romero seemingly could not buy a win. Things came to a head in mid-September when SS Yunel Escobar was suspended for three games for wearing eye-black on which a homophobic slur had been written. Sportswriters used the incident to criticize the Jays' entire approach to the game (they had by then sunk to last place, behind the Boston Red Sox, who were going through some well-publicized turmoil of their own), with Anthopoulos a particular target. Among the loudest critics were Bob McCown of Rogers Sportsnet, and former player Gregg Zaun, both of whom were working for media companies owned by Rogers Communication, the Jays' parent company. Zaun called him "a sabermetrician, a bean counter" and said that he was unable to assess the impact of his decisions on the atmosphere in the clubhouse, having never played the game.
Anthopoulos became quickly known for his willingness to pull a blockbuster trade in order to improve the Blue Jays, or at least change their roster thoroughly. On July 27, 2011, he pulled a pair of back-to-back trades, first acquiring P Edwin Jackson and 3B Mark Teahen from the Chicago White Sox in return for Ps Jason Frasor and Zach Stewart, then immediately flipping Jackson to the St. Louis Cardinals along with Marc Rzepczynski, Octavio Dotel and Corey Patterson to obtain OF Colby Rasmus, also landing Ps Brian Tallet, Trever Miller and P.J. Walters in the process. On July 20, 2012, he pulled a huge trade with the Houston Astros, involving 10 players. The Jays acquired Ps J.A. Happ, Brandon Lyon and David Carpenter while sending Francisco Cordero, Ben Francisco and five minor league prospects to Houston. Four months later, on November 13th, he made a 12-player trade with the Miami Marlins, getting a haul of veterans (SS Jose Reyes, Ps Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson, C John Buck and IF/OF Emilio Bonifacio) in return for mainly younger players (IFs Yunel Escobar and Adeiny Hechavarria, P Henderson Alvarez and C Jeff Mathis, and three more minor league prospects, Justin Nicolino, Anthony Desclafani and Jake Marisnick). The deal was so huge and controversial that it required thorough review by the Commissioner's office, which was only granted on November 19th. He then made more unexpected moves that off-season, first signing disgraced OF Melky Cabrera to a two-year free agent contract, and then plunging into the Jays' past to find their new manager, bringing back John Gibbons for the job. He was not done yet, however, as on December 16th, he pried Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey from the New York Mets, along with catchers Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas; in return, he sent the recently acquired John Buck to the Mets, as well as two top prospects, C Travis d'Arnaud and P Noah Syndergaard, as well as a minor league pitcher Wuilmer Becerra. One day later, he signed Dickey to a two-year extension worth $25 million, making the trade official. These deals indicated that Anthopoulos was not afraid to trade young players, to deal a lot of marginal talent in order to secure one player of real interest, like Rasmus, Happ or Dickey, or to take on salary in the case of the Miami and New York deals.
In spite of all the deals the Blue Jays still did not manage to reach the postseason in 2013 and 2014, although they did have a solid first half the second year before falling off the pace and finishing well behind the first-place Baltimore Orioles. More deals followed before the 2015 season, including the acquisition of 3B Josh Donaldson in a trade with the Oakland Athletics and the signing of free agent C Russell Martin. However, the season almost was lost in spring training because of two major injuries, one to OF Michael Saunders, who was counted on to start in left field, and the other to young starting pitcher Marcus Stroman. The Blue Jays sputtered as a result, but kept close to the New York Yankees, in part because Donaldson was playing at an MVP level and the team's other two sluggers, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion were both healthy. At the trading deadline, he decided to go all in, trading SS Jose Reyes to the Colorado Rockies for Troy Tulowitzki and a package of young pitchers to the Detroit Tigers for ace starter David Price. The team caught fire after the deal, and quickly made up ground on the Yankees, catching them at the end of August and finishing well in front of them to make the postseason for the first time since 1993. They then eliminated the Texas Rangers after falling behind, two games to none, in the Division Series before bowing to the Kansas City Royals in the ALCS. Anthopoulos was widely praised for his aggressive moves that turned a good but flawed team into a juggernaut, but it emerged shortly after the Jays' elimination that things were not right between him and new team President Mark Shapiro. His contract had come to an end, and the two were unable to agree on an extension, leading to Alex's departure from the team on October 29th.
|Toronto Blue Jays General Manager
- Gregory Strong: "No Regrets: Anthopoulos content with decision, expects to be working next month", The Canadian Press, December 22, 2015.