Obviously the biggest news out of Blue Jay land this week has been Toronto’s admission that it’s willing to listen to trade offers for franchise player Roy Halladay.
That harsh possibility led to whispers that the Jays are entering a period of tight fiscal responsibility. In baseball, such a phase usually leads to clubs relying heavily on their farm systems to produce talented players at low costs.
At the very least, should Halladay leave, the Jays can take solace in the fact that they focused heavily on shoring up their pitching depth during this year’s draft. And, after examining the results of the 2009 draft, fans can realistically hope that the future of Toronto’s rotation will have a distinctly Canadian flair to it.
Toronto’s first four selections in the draft were pitchers. Of that group, the second and third picks — James Paxton (Ladner, B.C.) and Jake Eliopoulos (Newmarket) — are Canucks.
Jays’ assistant general manager Alex Anthopoulos, who was born and raised in Montreal, says while drafting the best player available is the No. 1 priority, selecting a Canadian is a supreme bonus.
“We believe that the best Canadian players should be playing for Canada’s team,” Anthopoulos said. “I think in some sense we also have a responsibility to the country, being Canada’s only team, to make sure that we monitor the Canadian market more thoroughly than anybody else.
“That’s not to say that we’re going to draft players just because of their passport,” he added. “But when there’s a player that’s out there who is Canadian and we like … we’re going to try to be diligent in getting him.”
The Jays led the majors by nabbing a total of eight Canadians out of the 42 that were selected in the 2009 draft. It ended a streak of five straight years during which the Milwaukee Brewers (who are helmed by Canadians Doug Melvin and Gord Ash) led the league in selecting Canadians.
“I think it’s something that we’ve talked about all the time,” Anthopoulos said of drafting homegrown talent.
“The Canadians that we did pick are players we believe in. They happen to be Canadian, which is an added bonus that we’re proud of.”
Alex Anthopoulos, 32, is a shining example of a rising Canadian baseball executive. Starting off as an intern in the Montreal Expos media relations department, he eventually worked his way up to co-ordinator of scouting operations with the club in 2002. The next year, he joined the Jays as a scouting co-ordinator, before becoming vice-president, baseball operations and assistant GM with Toronto in 2006.