Anthopoulos details team's thinking leading to big trades

Blue Jays GM sits down for Q&A with

Anthopoulos details team's thinking leading to big trades

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays, who will face the Rangers in the American League Division Series, no longer own the dubious distinction of being the team with the longest postseason drought in Major League Baseball, but as one can imagine from a 22-year absence, the journey to contention wasn't easy.

Toronto thought it had the right pieces in place prior to the 2013 season when Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos pulled off blockbuster trades for Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson and R.A. Dickey. That didn't work out as planned and a second-chance to make amends in 2014 wasn't much better.

Game Date Result
Gm 1 Oct. 8 TEX 5, TOR 3
Gm 2 Oct. 9 TEX 6, TOR 4
Gm 3 Oct. 11 TOR 5, TEX 1
Gm 4 Oct. 12 TOR 8, TEX 4
Gm 5 Oct. 14 TOR 6, TEX 3

Anthopoulos wasn't deterred, and instead of completely changing his strategy he went all in again for 2015 by signing Russell Martin, trading for Josh Donaldson and later acquiring Troy Tulowitzki, David Price, Ben Revere and Mark Lowe. It was a remarkable overhaul of the roster and one that has the Blue Jays in contention for a World Series. Game 1 of the ALDS is scheduled for Thursday at 3:30 p.m. or 4 p.m. ET (FS1/Sportsnet).

The following is an excerpt of a lengthy question-and-answer session with the architect who put everything together. You've had to put up with a lot of criticism over the last few years when things didn't work out. Same situation with John Gibbons, and he described feeling a sense of relief after you clinched. How did you feel in that moment?

Anthopoulos: You work so hard to try to get to that point. I would say gratification. But, look, that's part of sports. You're in these jobs, that just comes with it. That's not a surprise no matter where you're at. You fight so hard, and especially the last two months, it's been a tight race.

Those New York games have been huge, a lot of big plays. From that standpoint, it's been great. It's been really rewarding. Not to sound arrogant about it, I think it's a big achievement, I really do. I don't normally say that, but I feel that way strongly. Especially with who we went up against. I thought those teams were all great and it's very rewarding. When you made the moves at the Deadline, you had 60 games left and you needed to play .650 baseball to get to 90 wins. They've played basically .750 since. Could you have envisioned this?

Get ready for the playoffs with Blue Jays postseason gear

Anthopoulos: We didn't even look that far. We just said, 'Look, we're a game or two out of a Wild Card.' We felt like we had a really good team that had underachieved to that point, our one-run games, all of our analytic guys, we felt like that was going to turn and we knew were playing New York a lot, we were playing the Twins, we were playing the Rangers, we were playing the Orioles.

So, our last two months we were playing really good teams that we were going to chase so we thought we had a shot. I can't tell you if we didn't play New York as many times, maybe things wouldn't have been the same, but we felt like that was a lot of games remaining because of who we faced. You referenced analytics as a reason for acquiring Marco Estrada, you previously said the same thing about Justin Smoak, but you come from a scouting background. How do you balance the scouting side with the analytics side?

Anthopoulos: We just blend them. Any decision we make, we incorporate the analytics side. We also incorporate the scouting side. We watch film and get the makeup and the background. There are times we may see something scouting wise, something in a report and see the analytics side of it and see if it lines up. So, you blend it all the time. There are times when the scouting report doesn't make sense and times when the analytics side doesn't make sense. There's no one way to do it, you're not always going to be right. We use everything, all the time, every decision, even for the Draft. Do you find that one deal leads to another big deal? When you made the Marlins deal, then you went out and got Dickey. Same thing with Tulowitzki and then Price?

Anthopoulos: I think when we got Tulowitzki, Price wasn't available yet. We debated Tulowitzki a lot, not the player, just the acquisition cost, and we knew we wanted to get a starter. ... The order wasn't the most exciting: You'd rather get the starter done. I remember afterwards I got off the call and just thought about things and then finally I think I sent out an email to the group to say, 'Guys, still want to go forward with this deal, and we'll get a starter one way or the other.' The Revere trade was announced minutes before the Deadline. How did that deal come together and how close was it to not getting done?

Anthopoulos: It was crazy. It was all over the map. We were looking for a left fielder. We kept that very quiet. It was easy to state the obvious that we needed a starter. It's not necessarily good for people to know what you're looking for, to know what you need. It was on and off again. Things got done around 3 p.m. We had been talking about Dalton [Pompey] and keeping the prospect capital that we had, maybe give Dalton an opportunity. We wanted to get better defensively.

It came down to the fact that we were two months away and people could get hurt, we still needed depth. This was a proven player. I think he fit us better than any other club just because we had so much power. Normally you don't have that kind of profile in left field: singles hitter, speed. Most teams need to put a little more thump in left. He's a strong left-handed bat, contact, speed, singles, high energy, great teammate. All that stuff was big. We were very specific about who we were going after.

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for Read his blog, North of the Border, follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.