Jays fans have put up with a lot. Former GM J.P. Ricciardi made mistake after mistake, from Alex Rios, to Vernon Wells, to B.J. Ryan, to Frank Thomas. The motto seemed to be “buy high, sell low” in Toronto.

But fear no more. Forget Austin Jackson; forget Jason Heyward. You want a Rookie of the Year?

Cue Alex Anthopoulos.

Shortly after RHP Brandon Morrow’s 17-strikeout performance, I decided to take a look at AA’s offseason moves to see what he’s done in reinventing the Blue Birds. He took the reins on October 3, 2009, so let’s see some of the major moves he’s made:

Signed UTIL John McDonald to a two-year/$3M deal (11-25-09). Johnny Mac is a Gold Glover at every position. Great re-signing for a solid defensive replacement.

Signed SS Alex Gonzalez to a one-year/$2.75M deal w/ club option (11-26-09). Gonzalez was solid with the stick and the leather, and Anthopoulos turned it into a solid trade (see below).

Signed C John Buck to a one-year/$2M deal (12-16-09). Buck has been great behind the plate and made the All-Star team this year, well worth $2M. Anthopoulos didn’t move Buck in July, so while Buck (thumb) is on the DL, he’s hoping that he remains a Type B free agent.

Acquired RHP Kyle Drabek, C Travis d’Arnaud, and OF Michael Taylor from Phillies for RHP Roy Halladay and $6M (12-16-09), then sent Taylor to the A’s for 1B Brett Wallace. Dealing Doc had to be done, so we’ll skip that. Drabek threw a no-hitter in Double-A this year and aside from that has been pitching very well. D’Arnaud remains a highly-touted prospect who should be up in 2012 or so.

Acquired RHP Brandon Morrow from the M’s for RHP Brandon League and OF Johermyn Chavez (12-23-09). Morrow has the best strikeout rate of any starter this year and is pitching very well (at home at least) in his first full season as a starter.

Signed RHP Kevin Gregg to a one-year/$2.75M deal w/ two club options (2-5-10). AA decided that if Gregg could fix his atrocious home run rate from last season, Gregg’s value would return to normal. We’ll see what happens with Gregg this offseason.

Signed C Jose Molina to a one-year/$1M deal w/ a club option (2-19-10). Great FA signing at bargain money.

Signed SS Adeiny Hechavarria to a four-year/$10M deal (4-13-10). Hechavarria has a big league-ready glove and is hitting a little bit at Double-A. He’s seen as an infield version of Alfonso Soriano.

Acquired OF Fred Lewis from Giants for cash (4-15-10). Lewis sported a nice .262/.332/.414 line before getting injured, all at a cheap price. Jays get a replacement leadoff hitter to cover for Marco Scutaro.

Signed RHP Adonis Cardona to a $2.8M deal (7-13-10). Set a record for a Venezuelan amateur with the righty’s deal. Cardona is another high-ceiling talent and a top prospect.

Acquired SS Yunel Escobar and RHP Jo-Jo Reyes from Braves for SS Alex Gonzalez, RHP Tim Collins and RHP Tyler Pastornicky (7-14-10). AA bought low on the disgruntled Escobar, who has a truckload of potential.

Acquired OF Anthony Gose from Astros for 1B Brett Wallace (7-29-10). This one is probably the iffiest. Wallace has played some games for the Astros, but his value has dropped for years now because of added weight. Once a left infielder, he appears destined to be a first baseman or a DH. Gose, on the other hand, is drawing comparisons to Carl Crawford in Single-A ball.

Draft: The Jays signed all four of their top picks, finally getting RHP Deck McGuire to sign on the dotted line. ESPN’s Keith Law wrote that the Blue Jays had a “strong haul” in the draft.

Blue Jays fans couldn’t ask for more from AA’s first year. He’s aggressively made moves on international FAs and has made some solid, cheap MLB FA signings while picking up solid prospects in trades. His blueprint of high-ceiling, high-potential players appears to be working.

Especially when a team like the Jays can’t compete financially with the likes of the Red Sox and Yankees in the uber-competitive AL East, building a team through picks and prospects is the right way to go—just ask the Rays, who were terrible forever (literally) but have quickly become a very talented young team among the best in baseball.

It was surprising to see the Jays hang on to LHP Scott Downs, RHP Jason Frasor, Gregg and Buck at the trade deadline, but those players may bring draft pick compensation after the season because of stellar 2010 regular-season stats. 2011 looks like it’ll be the final rebuilding season for the Jays before making a serious run at the AL East—or the AL Wild Card at least—in 2012.

The youngsters we once knew—Morrow, Shaun Marcum, Aaron Hill, Adam Lind, Jose Bautista—are now veterans, preparing for one last year of seasoning before trying to guide their team to the playoffs.

For the first time in a long time, the future looks bright in Toronto.

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