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Blue Jays' front office turmoil leads packed day of MLB news

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Alex Anthopoulos won Executive of the Year, but he won't return as Toronto GM because the job isn't the same

Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

With a break in the World Series for a travel day, MLB teams were free to announce whatever business they had conducted from the days before.

And man, MLB teams were backed up with news.

On the White Sox' side, the club made the Jacob Turner waiver claim official (which brings the 40-man roster to 38). Also, the White Sox failed to field a Gold Glove finalist at any position this season, which seems fair. Carlos Sanchez was probably the best traditional candidate, but he was at least 300 innings short of the three selected second baseman (Ian Kinsler, Brian Dozier, Jose Altuve). Likewise, the AL has three strong catching candidates in Salvador Perez, Russell Martin and Jason Castro, and Castro has the same case as Flowers.

Elsewhere, the Rangers dismissed pitching coach Mike Maddux, the Nationals are hiring Bud Black to replace Matt Williams, Andy Green is the new Black in San Diego and Don Mattingly was hired by the Marlins, even though they later fired GM Dan Jennings.

But all that news paled in comparison to what came out of Toronto.

Shortly after Alex Anthopoulos was named Sporting News Executive of the Year for powering up the Blue Jays at the deadline and snapping a 22-year postseason drought, he announced that he wasn't returning to his post as general manager.

Given that Anthopoulos is young (38), well-compensated (he was offered a five-year extension as a last-ditch effort) and well-located (he's Canadian), the news came as a surprise to those who had no reason to pay particularly close attention.

For those who were watching, the writing was on the wall not long after Rogers Communications, which owns the Blue Jays, hired Mark Shapiro to become their new president of baseball operations back in late August. The Toronto Star's Richard Griffin, for instance, wrote this earlier in the week:

Could it be Rogers may have to backtrack on promises made to Shapiro regarding his Putin-like influence on player personnel decisions? Or maybe he’ll do it on his own. Before he went into seclusion on anything Blue Jays, Shapiro reportedly told a national media type how excited he was to be getting back into player moves after years of allowing Cleveland GM Chris Antonetti trade autonomy.

If Shapiro has been promised he is going to be a Theo Epstein (Cubs), Dave Dombrowski (Red Sox) or Andrew Friedman (Dodgers) type president/CEO, with a far higher profile then his GM, that will not work with the Jays. Maybe last Dec. 9 that could have been the plan, but the landscape changed.

And the last straw was supposedly a meeting between Anthopoulos and his new boss. The initial reason was countered with "consider the source," as it came from a reporter doesn't normally break baseball news:

But Star columnist Bruce Arthur corroborated it in his reaction:

And that’s where it broke. In a face-to-face meeting with the senior members of the Jays’ front office, Shapiro said he strongly disagreed with some of the deadline choices that sent prospects out. The initial contract offer to Anthopoulos, according to an official who was briefed on the talks, was a two-year deal, with the second year an option.

It was an insult. By the time Rogers tried to give Anthopoulos a five-year contract, it was already too late.

Clouding the reports is that there seems to be a bit of a rivalry between the two leading outlets on this story, as the other, SportsNet.ca, is owned by Rogers Communication. There was some sniping on Twitter between the two outlets, and you can see it in the headlines.

  • SportsNet.ca: Alex Anthopoulos leaving Blue Jays after rejecting extension
  • Toronto Star: To say Alex Anthopoulos rejected an extension from Blue Jays is ridiculous

Regardless, it's a fascinating story with tentacles reaching to Chicago. For one, Ed Rogers gets no benefit of the doubt from the Toronto media not employed by Rogers for the way he botched the search for the new club president to replace the not-yet-outgoing Paul Beeston. Rogers started by calling Kenny Williams on his office phone, then asking Jerry Reinsdorf for permission, not knowing that Reinsdorf and Beeston are close friends. It's harmonious that the conclusion is equally discordant.

And while Rogers might have a special gift for bungling a front-office reorganization, I can see this story happening elsewhere. The Blue Jays were merely following the chart popularized by the Cubs and Dodgers -- make a president of baseball operations out of a prominent GM, name a GM under him, but the president is the one who is seen as calling the shots. (The White Sox can be included since Rick Hahn still works under Williams, although Hahn has a stronger identity independent of his boss than Jed Hoyer and Farhan Zaidi do with theirs.)

It might work when the club president hires the GM, but it's awkward when a president is shoehorned in between ownership and an existing GM -- especially when the new president is making baseball decisions. The Boston Red Sox avoided this when they hired Dave Dombrowski because incumbent GM Ben Cherington politely stepped out, but Cherington wasn't riding high like Anthopoulos was.

With so many young GMs in the game, it's hard to imagine front offices getting less crowded, because most of these 30somethings will still probably want to work for 20 or 30 more years, the way Dombrowski and Andy MacPhail are still going strong in their 60s. But title bloat can only go so far, and I wouldn't be surprised if you see more executives rejecting what they feel is a mislabeling, even if it doesn't end as spectacularly as it did in Toronto.

I had wondered about that in August when USA Today reporter Bob Nightengale said that the White Sox would find a new president to slot between Hahn and Jerry Reinsdorf if Williams left. But Nightengale's speculation about Williams' future with the Blue Jays (and Mariners as a hedge) didn't materialize, so maybe he's off on this as well.

Either way, I wonder if Anthopoulos would still be with the Blue Jays in an alternative universe where Williams took Beeston's place instead of Shapiro. If Williams sat down with Anthopoulous to discuss his trading away prospects to bring a dormant stadium to life with a prolonged postseason push, I can only envision it ending with an uncomfortably long hug.