ORLANDO, Fla. -- Two years after rejecting a lucrative five-year contract that would have extended his successful tenure as the Blue Jays' general manager, Alex Anthopoulos has accepted the challenge of guiding the Braves past recent problems and toward what could be a very bright future.
Braves CEO and chairman Terry McGuirk appeared both excited and relieved during a Monday afternoon news conference at SunTrust Park. As he introduced Anthopoulos as the team's new executive vice president and general manager, he also seemed to distance himself from the frustration created by an ongoing MLB investigation that necessitated this change.
"I can't say enough about what I feel about where I feel the organization is going," Anthopoulos said. "I view this as one of the premier jobs in all of sports with the young talent that we have here. There are some dynamic young players. There's no question that we certainly expect big things moving forward."
Anthopoulos was given a four-year deal that runs through the end the of 2021 season. The 40-year-old Montreal native was scheduled to fly to Orlando late Monday night to attend MLB's annual General Managers Meetings.
With arguably baseball's best farm system and the significant revenue opportunities SunTrust Park and its surrounding mixed-use development could provide, the Braves certainly have reason to be excited about what the future could provide.
But the club's long-term future will be influenced by the severity of the penalties issued at the conclusion of the ongoing investigation into infractions committed within the domestic Draft and within the international market. Former general manager John Coppolella was forced to resign on Oct. 2, and president of baseball operations John Hart had to relinquish his involvement in baseball operations as he was moved to a senior advisor's role on Monday.
With Hart in his new role, Anthopoulos will run the baseball ops department and report directly to McGuirk.
"The past few months have been the toughest in the storied history of the Atlanta Braves franchise," McGuirk said. "Frankly, the Braves have not lived up to our standard that the fans expect of us and what we expect of ourselves. On behalf of the entire Braves family, I want to apologize to the fans and our partners. We've let you down, and we will work to regain your trust, which actually begins today with this announcement."
As the Braves began their search, they targeted Royals senior VP and general manager Dayton Moore, who is recognized as a strong leader who could restore internal morale and regain external trust with fans, executives, agents and players. But because Kansas City's ownership never provided permission to speak to Moore, McGuirk began focusing on Anthopoulos, who made a strong impression on Bobby Cox and others when he came to Atlanta for an interview on Oct. 30, between Games 5 and 6 of the World Series.
When Anthopoulos returned to Los Angeles the next day and continued his duties as the Dodgers' vice president of player development, he told his wife about the connection he'd made with McGuirk and spoke glowingly about the chance to work in Atlanta.
"I told my wife, 'This is as good a job as I'm ever going to be able to find. I'd love to get it,'" Anthopoulos said. "That two-week wait, I was on pins and needles a little bit. I tried to play it cool, but it was tough. It was tough. I was still trying to do my work in L.A. and can't say enough about them being able to support me, but I can't say enough about the upside here and what we're ultimately going to be."
While serving as the Blue Jays' general manager from 2009-15, Anthopoulos never shied away from the opportunity to make a significant trade, some of which improved the team's strength in the Draft or on the international market. He ended his tenure in Toronto shortly after his autonomy was threatened by the arrival of CEO and team president Mark Shapiro.
Before beginning the interview process, the Braves made it clear Anthopoulos would have full autonomy with the baseball operations department.
"I didn't have any aspirations or desire to leave L.A.," Anthopoulos said. "I was thrilled. My family had moved there and so on, but I was blown away spending the night with these guys, and like I had said, I think I was open-minded going into it. And my wife had even told me, 'I've never seen you so excited.' It had been a while. So that's when I knew it was the right fit."