Anthopoulos getting to know Jays
New Toronto GM reaching out to players and coaches
TORONTO -- A significant amount of Alex Anthopoulos' time over the past couple of weeks has been dedicated to a fact-finding mission. The new Blue Jays general manager has been reaching out to each of Toronto's players and coaches by phone.
By his estimation, Anthopoulos has made more than 30 calls -- with each conversation lasting at least a half hour. That is more than 15 hours spent discussing the direction the young GM wants to take the Blue Jays and, perhaps more importantly, gaining feedback in the process.
"I thought it was great," Anthopoulos said in a phone interview on Wednesday night. "I thought the players thought so as well. I had some players tell me, 'Wow, I've never done this before. I wish I could've done this years ago.' That felt really good."
It was also a way for Anthopoulos to try to get to the bottom of the late-season drama that consumed headlines in Toronto. With only a few games left on the schedule, reports leaked about a discontented clubhouse, stemming from issues that a group of players had with manager Cito Gaston.
Anthopoulos did not want to delve into the specifics of what he learned -- suffice it to say that it was clear that there are things in need of attention. With more information in hand, Anthopoulos plans on meeting with Blue Jays interim president and CEO Paul Beeston, along with team ownership and Gaston to address the matter.
"The conversations that I've had have certainly illustrated that there were definitely some issues," Anthopoulos said. "I had my own thoughts and opinions beforehand, but having made these phone calls, and having talked to every single coach and every single player, my perspective for certain things has changed. For other things, it just reinforced what I thought.
"I think a lot of what went on and what happened, I think it's happened many times before in the past, it just hasn't come out in the media. Obviously, it's not like everything was perfect. ... Now, its just being able to sit down and go through it all and try to assess a plan of attack."
Whether that could mean changes for the coaching staff, Anthopoulos would not say. Gaston, as well as all of his coaches, are under contract for the 2010 season. As things currently stand, Anthopoulos said they are all still in the plans for next year, but he noted that he is still in the midst of an in-depth evaluation process.
"I'm evaluating everything top to bottom," Anthopoulos said. "As I sit here today, everybody that is a part of this organization and certainly under contract, that hasn't changed. That being said, I'm going to sit down and continue to evaluate things. There's no question that I am going through everything."
At the end of the season, Gaston said he believed the complaints within the clubhouse were blown out of proportion by the media and added that he felt the anonymous quotes that spoke of a "mutiny" among the players came from someone outside of the organization. A few players shared that belief.
It was clear, though, that there were a variety of small issues that players wanted to bring up. Anthopoulos wants to make sure that everyone involved with the Blue Jays feels comfortable enough to come to him with such concerns. That was one message he relayed while calling the players and coaches.
"If it's something to do with what direction are we going in, what their role is going to be next year, what are our thoughts going forward," Anthopoulos said, "those are all things that I want them to be comfortable enough to pick up the phone and call me. I wanted to get their feedback.
"Some of the things I found out that I didn't know have been eye-opening in a lot of ways. That can only help me do my job better, knowing the information that I've gotten."
The 32-year-old Anthopoulos, who replaced J.P. Ricciardi as the general manager on Oct. 3, also spent time talking to catcher Rod Barajas and shortstops Marco Scutaro and John McDonald about their contract situations. All three are eligible for free agency and Anthopoulos said he plans on speaking with their agents in the near future.
That being said, the GM has a lot on his plate and he feels he has more important matters to address immediately, especially considering that the free-agent period does not begin until 15 days after the World Series ends.
Before talking contracts with his free agents, Anthopoulos wants to continue to strengthen his scouting department and he needs to sit down with ownership to talk about the payroll and general direction for 2010. Anthopoulos said he has even been phoning rival general managers to discuss potential trades.
Anthopoulos added that he felt things would be a lot clearer in time for the General Managers' Meetings on Nov. 9-11.
"I am gathering my facts, gathering my information," he said. "I do need to sit down with [Beeston] and with Tony [Viner, president and CEO of Rogers Media] and with ownership in respect to financial parameters, payroll, and things like that. There's not as big a rush as I think everyone feels.
"We do have a good two to three weeks here to basically map out a course, a direction. I'm really in the middle of that process right now."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.