When the Twins fired GM Terry Ryan, there was concern that the club would do what it had always done: stick with what it knows, promote from within, and stay the course. When team owner Jim Pohlad talked about it, he assured fans that he had “gone through all the media guides and looked at titles and structures and the emerging trends of president of baseball operations or whatever.” This was not encouraging. Then Rob Antony was handed the reins at the trade deadline, and talked about as a viable candidate for the job, it was the last thing Twins fans wanted to hear.
Since then, Pohlad’s studying has apparently paid some dividends. Ken Rosenthal reported that the Twins were actually looking to hire a President of Baseball Operations (or whatever), who would then be responsible for reshaping the front office. And today, Jon Morosi reports that former Blue Jays GM Alex Anthoploulos is definitely being considered for the role:
Alex Anthopoulos is a confirmed candidate for #Twins president of baseball operations position, sources say. @MLB @MLBNetwork— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) September 6, 2016
Anthopoulos would be a stat-friendly choice who, despite only being 39, has previous experience as the showrunner of the Toronto Blue Jays from 2010-2015. Despite a background in economics, A.A. also has a deep respect for scouting, as Twins Daily’s Parker Hageman pointed out:
With Blue Jays Anthopoulos almost doubled the size of the team's scouting dept -from 28 to 54 scouts- emphasis on Int'l & draft scouting.— Parker Hageman (@ParkerHageman) September 6, 2016
Under his leadership, the Jays crafted money-saving long-term extensions with Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista. He made the deal with the A’s that brought reigning AL MVP Josh Donaldson to Toronto, and picked up Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes on the cheap from the Marlins in 2012. And the decision to bring in Marco Estrada for Adam Lind in 2015 was brilliant.
Not all of his deals worked out. R.A. Dickey was a disappointment after coming over for Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud. Troy Tulowitzki is a shadow of his former self. But Anthopoulos also built strong farm systems that bore fruit, drafting, signing, and developing pitchers like Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Roberto Osuna, Syndergaard, Kendall Graveman, Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd, and Jeff Hoffman since 2010. The Twins’ current ERA is 5.20, worst in the American League by more than half of a run. Their team ERA+ is 81.
Anthopoulos resigned after 2015 rather than work with new Jays president Mark Shapiro, who allegedly criticized the deadline deals A.A. made to bolster the AL East champion club, who ultimately lost in the ALCS, for the postseason. Since then, he’s been working for the Dodgers as Vice President of Baseball Operations under Andrew Friedman.
If the Twins did decide to go with Anthopoulos, it would be a major, but entirely welcome, schism from their past. He represents a drastic shift in their organizational culture, while still respecting some of the things (scouting) the club claims as a traditional strength. He also has what Terry Ryan and his team have lacked: a willingness to make big deals with a killer instinct and a recent track record of successful innovation. It’s exactly the kind of course correction that the worst team in baseball desperately needs.