Last October, when JP Ricciardi and the Jays went their separate ways, Alex Anthopolous was promoted from within house. It was a baptism by fire soon after that for Anthopolous, who had a whole slough of roster issues and organizational matters to deal with.

First and foremost, he had to deal with Roy Halladay and his eventual departure on December 16th, 2009. Anthopolous would trade Halladay in an eventual nine player trade that would see key Phillies prospects Kyle Drabek, Michael Taylor, and Travis D’Arnaud sent to the Blue Jays. Taylor would then be dealt to the Oakland Athletics for then-third baseman Brett Wallace.

Looking back on that trade, you could easily argue that the Jays came away as landslide winners. Not only did they receive young, controllable contracts, but they also got the best young talent out of the deal.

In hindsight, the Phillies may of been better off keeping Cliff Lee and not trading away guys like Drabek, Taylor, and D’Arnaud. The difference this year between Lee and Halladay has been minimal at best, so when evaluating the deal, you look at the prospects changing sides. After looking at the stats at you can easily see who won that part of the deal.

Anthopolous’ next move was to deal with the crop of Jays free agents that season that included shortstop John McDonald, first baseman Kevin Millar, catcher Rod Barajas, and shortstop Marco Scutaro.

Making the smart decision, Alex opted to only keep McDonald and elect for the draft pick compensation from the likes of Barajas and Scutaro. He would go on to draft Aaron Sanchez, Noah Syndergaard, Asher Wojciechowski and Marcus Knecht with the sandwich picks. 

All these prospects are having good starts to their MLB careers. 

The next move in the offseason came with replacing those lost players via free agency. What was needed was a backup bat off the bench (Millar), a starting catcher (Barajas) and a starting shortstop (Scutaro) to replace what left.

With that in mind, Anthopolous signed Joey Gathright, John Buck, and Alex Gonzalez to one-year deals with the club. Gathright was released after spring training to make room for back-up infielder Mike McCoy and Buck and Gonzalez would go on to have All-Star caliber first halves with the team. He also added veteran catcher Jose Molina to the roster, a most in retrospect that may of been one of his better signings to date.

Anthopolous’ legacy was growing as we speak.

As the offseason progressed, the Jays began to make deals and their current team began to unfold. The most notable deal was the Halladay deal, but a deal that fell under the radar somewhat was the trading of Brandon League and Johermyn Chavez for Brandon Morrow.

Morrow a converted closer, is just realizing his potential as a starter, and has began to dominate opponents, just recently pitching a one-hit, 17-strikeout complete game against the Tampa Bay Rays. League leads the major league in relief wins with eight and Chavez is lighting up the High Desert League in the Mariners farm system. Simply, this was a deal that both sides you can say won with.

A more recent trade saw the Jays trade Alex Gonzalez, Tyler Pastornicky, and Tiny Tim Collins to the Atlanta Braves for shortstop Yunel Escobar and Jo-Jo Reyes. Escobar, who was suffering through a terrible start with the Braves, was dealt with hopes the Braves could improve their production from the shortstop position for the short-term. 

Escobar took this as an insult and has raised his batting average nearly 60 points coming into the nights action, from a .238 batting average with the Braves, to a .298 batting average with the Jays.

As the year moved on, the Jays began to show the powerful lineup they possessed. Leading the entire league in many team power categories, Anthopolous believed that the team needed to still get more athletic and younger, so he went out and acquired lead-off hitter Fred Lewis, and traded Gonzalez for the younger, more controllable contract of Yunel Escobar.

Going into the draft, Alex Anthopolous went into the draft with something previous GM’s would’ve loved to have—spending money. By all accounts, this past draft for Anthopolous was a very good showing for the Jays.In the long run, it may turn out to be one of the better drafts in recent memory for the Jays.

Having already signed 27 of 56 drafted players, and signed international prospect talents like Adeiny Hechavarria, Adonis Cardona, and Gabriel Canas, the Jays have essentially signed half of their drafted players, something many organizations only wish to accomplish.

After the trade deadline passed with no movement among some of the Jays best trading assets, it was becoming more clear that Anthopolous would rather keep the sandwich picks rather than trade players just for the sake of making trades.

As the Jays begin the dog days of August, and the eventual conclusion to the 2010 season, major question marks remain unanswered heading into the 2011 season. 

Is Jose Bautista a realistic option to re-sign? 

What Happens to the Three Headed Monster in the bullpen with Scott Downs, Jason Frasor, and Kevin Gregg (all of whom are potential free agents)?

How do the Jays replace the void left by the trading of eventual first baseman Brett Wallace, and the potential loss of current first baseman Lyle Overbay?

Who will be Cito Gaston’s successor? 

Going into the offseason, the Jays will be losing roughly $20 million dollars in potential free agents, leaving them with a team payroll of roughly $41 million, a far cry from the Yankees starting rotation that costs upwards of $65 million. 

With prospects Kyle Drabek, JP Arencibia, and potentially Zach Stewart nearing regular major league duty, the Jays could be primed for a breakout year, if Anthopolous can somehow work his magic. 

The very low team payroll heading into the offseason, leaves Anthopolous with a wide range of possibilities to explore. 

I expect Jose Bautista to be re-signed, and 2/3 of the bullpen trio to come back, and Brian Butterfield to be hired as the new manager, but after that, it’s anyone’s guess how this team will turn out.

This offseason Anthopolous will be armed with a loaded farm system, money to spend, and a new organizational outlook heading into the 2011 season.

Now is the time for President Paul Beeston and Jays management to increase payroll and give this team a fighting chance to compete in the so called “Division of Death” in Baseball.

The ball has been grounded into Anthopolous’ glove, only time will tell if he can cleanly make the throw to first base, or throw the ball into the stands like Chuck Knoblauch. If he can bring in the right pieces to add to the current Jays roster, next season could be the start of potentially the rebirth of the Toronto Blue Jays in Major League Baseball.

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