TORONTO (AP) — Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos left the team on Thursday, the day he earned executive of the year honors from his peers and rejected an offer to remain in what might have been a diminished role under its new president.
The Blue Jays made the announcement just four days before former Cleveland Indians President Mark Shapiro takes over as Toronto president. Shapiro, a former general manager, replaces Paul Beeston, who is retiring after years of running the business side of the Blue Jays.
The Sporting News announced Anthopoulos was chosen executive of the year on Thursday. He acquired MVP candidate Josh Donaldson in the offseason and traded for David Price and Troy Tulowitzki before the deadline to help Toronto reach its first playoff spot since 1993.
"I don't know that I've had to make a harder decision in my life," Anthopoulos said. "I just didn't feel like this was a right fit for me going forward."
He declined to give a specific reason for the departure. He said it wasn't about money and that Rogers Communications, the team owner, was generous in its offer to him. However, Anthopoulos didn't sound pleased when he noted that Rogers announced it was a five-year offer.
Anthopoulos declined to say whether Shapiro might have wanted more of a say in baseball operations than Beeston, the outgoing president.
An official familiar with the matter told The Associated Press there was never any conversation with Anthopoulos regarding his role or decision making and he was repeatedly asked to stay with the team. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about it.
Anthopoulos, whose contract expires Sunday, spent six seasons with the Blue Jays. His departure comes less than a week after they were eliminated from the playoffs.
Fans reacted negatively on social media to the news that Anthopoulos, a Canadian, was leaving after Toronto's successful run to the playoffs. The Blue Jays broke TV viewing records in Canada, and fans talked baseball late into the season for the first time in years.
Shapiro, who has had several prominent roles in nearly 24 years with Cleveland, becomes Toronto's president and CEO on Monday. His hiring was announced in late August.
Chris Antonetti, who worked under Shapiro as Cleveland's general manager, said Shapiro was involved in baseball decisions after he became president of the Indians.
"He was involved in baseball operations, but he wasn't looking to be the primary leader of baseball operations," Antonetti told the AP. "Thankfully, and I'm very appreciative of the fact, he entrusted me to lead baseball operations.
"We tried to have a very collaborative working environment, so we talked every day all the time about issues in the organization. More often than not when we were faced with decisions, we would end up in the same place."
Beeston said in a statement that Anthopoulos "has reluctantly and regrettably decided that he is not going to return to the Toronto Blue Jays."
Edward Rogers, Chairman of the Blue Jays and part of the ownership group, said in a statement that Anthopoulos did a fine job during his tenure and turned down a five-year offer.
"We would have loved it if he stayed with the club. Like the fans, we too are disappointed he has chosen not to accept our five-year contract offer, but we wish him the very best," Rogers said. "Alex leaves behind an outstanding front office team and coaching staff that played a key role in shaping the team's great run this season. They will continue to operate in leadership roles next year as we look to build upon the team's success."
Anthopoulos said he found out he was named executive of the year just before he got on a conference call with media to talk about leaving the Blue Jays. He said he doesn't have another job offer.
The departure of Anthopoulos raises the question of whether manager John Gibbons will return. Gibbons was hired by the GM in 2012.