Gaston to retire after 2010, then consult
Jays announce Cito's agreement, several coaching changes
TORONTO -- After weeks of deliberation, Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos is confident that he has assembled a coaching staff that can finally put to rest any additional talk of the clubhouse discord that came to light at the end of this past season.
Front and center in a wave of changes to Toronto's field staff on Friday is the future of manager Cito Gaston, who was the focus of the year-end controversy. Gaston has elected to retire from managing after the 2010 season, signing a four-year consulting agreement that begins the following year with the organization.
"He had even talked about it a little bit last year -- that 2010 might be his last year with us," Anthopoulos said during a conference call. "He didn't know that he wanted to continue. Really, at this time, reviewing everything, this was the right move for the organization going forward. This was carefully thought out. Everyone had a chance to state their opinions."
The 65-year-old Gaston, who guided the Blue Jays to consecutive World Series titles in 1992-93 in his first tour as the club's manager, has become an iconic figure in Toronto. He boasts a franchise-high 828 wins as manager, and Anthopoulos believes Gaston can remain an asset to the organization after he steps away from his managerial duties.
"He's really a career Blue Jay -- that won't change," Anthopoulos said. "I'm excited to have him as part of this baseball-operations team. Going forward, in 2011 and beyond, he's going to be another great baseball mind and voice. We're going to use him many ways. There's a lot he brings to the table. I think everybody understands his place in this organization."
Gaston's coaching staff will have a slightly different look for 2010.
The most notable changes are the losses of pitching coach Brad Arnsberg and hitting coach Gene Tenace. Arnsberg has accepted the pitching-coach position with the Houston Astros after five years filling the role for the Blue Jays. Tenace, who joined Toronto's staff when Gaston came aboard in June 2008, has decided to retire.
Bruce Walton -- a bullpen coach for the Jays for the past seven seasons and a part of the organization for more than a decade -- has been named the new pitching coach for Toronto. Dwayne Murphy, who also joined the Jays when Gaston returned as manager in '08, takes over as the hitting coach after serving as the first-base coach for the club.
After two years as Toronto's bench coach, Brian Butterfield will shift back to third-base coach duties -- a role he filled previously with the Jays from 2002-07. Nick Leyva, who was named the new third-base coach when Gaston arrived, will replace Butterfield as the manager's right-hand man on the bench. Omar Malava, who has coached within the Jays system since 1990, has been named the new first-base coach.
It is believed that there was some division among the coaches after the Blue Jays retained only a portion of the staff after the club dismissed former manager John Gibbons midway through the 2008 season. After conducting one-on-one discussions with each of the team's players and coaches, Anthopoulos believes this new alignment will serve the club better.
"With the layout that we have," Anthopoulos said, "it's really in every sense of the word, 'What is the strongest staff for us?' There's no question -- chemistry, relationships -- that's absolutely part of it. I think any time you build a team, whether it's in an office or on the field, you look at how all these pieces are going to fit together. Who's going to work well together? How's the communication going to be? That's certainly part of it."
During the Jays' final series of the regular season, reports leaked about players having a variety of issues with the way Gaston operated as manager. Gaston expressed disbelief over the reports, and Anthopoulos maintains that the situation was blown out of proportion by the media. The GM -- hired to replace J.P. Ricciardi at the end of the season -- feels the players can work well with Gaston.
Anthopoulos arrived at that conclusion after talking to the players and also following discussions with team president and CEO Paul Beeston. During that final series in Baltimore, Beeston held meetings with a group of players who had voiced some complaints about Gaston. In the end, all parties have insisted that the issues were minor.
Anthopoulos noted that the changes to the coaching staff were aimed at helping the situation.
"When I was able to sit down and talk with everybody and get their feedback," Anthopoulos said, "it was made clear to me that, in my opinion, a lot of this was slightly overblown and these things could be addressed and could be rectified in a certain way. This was certainly part of it."
Anthopoulos said Arnsberg's decision to leave -- despite being under contract with the Jays for 2010 -- had everything to do with his close friendship with newly hired Astros manager Brad Mills, combined with the fact that Toronto's former pitching coach is from Texas. It was simply an opportunity Arnsberg did not want to pass up.
"I am elated and excited to join the Astros family," Arnsberg said in a press release. "I want to give a special thanks to the Toronto Blue Jays for everything they have done for me over the last five years and for understanding that I am closing one chapter of my life and opening another."
Anthopoulos also noted that moving Butterfield off the bench was in no way a demotion, but a way to strengthen Toronto's staff. Butterfield is widely considered one of the best third-base coaches and infield instructors in baseball. Moving him back to third base will give Butterfield more time to dedicate to working with infielders on their defense.
It is also a way to reunite Gaston and Leyva, who have a long working history.
"From a selfish standpoint, you'd love to be able to clone him," said Anthopoulos, referring to Butterfield. "I can recall when we did move him to the bench-coach role several years ago, there was a major apprehension and concern on our end that he wouldn't have enough time to devote to infielders and to really utilize his strength as a great defensive mind and whiz as a coach.
"When we looked at it, and we looked at the relationship that Nick has with Cito ... this was the way to strengthen our team."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.